Jamila Abass

Ashoka Fellow
Nairobi, Kenya
Fellow Since 2013

Citation

This profile was prepared when Jamila Abass was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2013.
The New Idea
Jamila has created an accessible, easy-to-use tool that enables farmers to acquire information about the current prices of different crops in specific markets throughout Kenya. She is also working to bolster their bargaining power and business planning abilities. Using their mobile phones, farmers can send simple inquiries and gain access to real-time price information for specific crops in the regions in which they live. Government data of this sort is theoretically available. However, the wholesale commodities prices are contained in an Excel file that must be downloaded from the National Farmers Information Service. Not only is this inaccessible to most rural farmers, the data currently available online is out of date. Jamila’s query-based model of real-time data access builds on Ashoka Fellow Adrian Mukhebi’s Kenya Agricultural Commodities Exchange innovations in capturing and sharing accurate wholesale commodities prices but goes one step further to make the information instantaneously available to individual farmers nationwide.

In addition to sharing price information, the platform is the first virtual marketplace for small-scale farmers in Kenya because individuals who use the system to check prices are also logging their available offers on the platform. The M-Farm system provides farmers a group-selling service to connect with other farmers from their area to jointly market crops in greater volume, thereby helping them access large-scale local and international markets. Since farmers often need to have large quantities of produce available in a short timeframe to meet the needs of exporters and large-scale retailers, this tool is helping thousands of farmers gain access to these opportunities. In the same way, M-Farm farmers are also connected to suppliers—with collective buying power, which enables them to get significant discounts on farming inputs such as seeds and fertilizer. M-Farm manages all this through a nationwide network of agents modeled after the ubiquitous mobile airtime and money transfer agents across the country.

Through these efforts, Jamila is rewiring and networking today’s small, scattered, and underperforming subsistence farmers in Kenya. Clusters of farmers, wholesale buyers, and agricultural input dealers are seeing the immediate benefits of this greater access and interaction. But a more profound change is occurring. By incentivizing entrepreneurial activity and collective action, M-Farm is helping to usher in a wave of commercial farming led by smallholder farmers. Through the exchange of ideas, more transparent competition, active knowledge exchange, and aggregation, Jamila is helping to create the groundwork for vast new opportunities in commercial agriculture in East Africa.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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