Esoko, East Africa
When I was young, my father gave me a small piece of land. I continued to buy land and increase my yield. I grow maize, beans and pigeon peas. We have had this farm since 1987, and today I am chairman of my farmers’ group.
Esoko came to visit my farmers’ group and educated us about how and when we can plant seeds, how to prevent disease in our animals and how to bring our crops to the market. Before we had challenges because when we wanted to sell our harvest, the brokers came and told us the price for our maize rather than let us set the price. They would say the price was 20 shillings per kilo when in the market it was 50.
Esoko confirmed that we could get 50 shillings per kilo, so that’s when all of us farmers started to combine our efforts. We would get our food together, take the pickup truck to the market and sell our products. We could come back with money and let Esoko know their pricing was very clear. They helped us divert the brokers, and now all 25 farmers in my group use Esoko.
Before Esoko, we planted anything. We didn’t know the type of maize we were planting, but now we know. The land here is very complicated. You see green, but it is very dry area. Esoko has helped us. Now I know how to plan. I have added papaya, mangos and avocados to my farm. My yields have changed. It all depends on how you prepare the land. Esoko gave us information on what we could do to cultivate the land. It is good because they are helping us to improve.
Before this country had a lot of famine, but today we don’t. Esoko is helping us produce good yields, so we can help others. Today, I have enough maize that I can give my neighbor a sack.
Esoko’s services are very affordable. We pay about 20 shillings each month for the SMS messages, and we get about three messages a week. Sometimes even two a day. It is good to use the phone because they are fast. That helps because the weather is fast. We can be smart.
We used to work with the Minister of Agriculture, but they can’t go into the field and meet with every farmer. And other companies would try to help but they just wanted you to buy their products. We want someone who tells you the truth. Esoko has been the most promising.
When I sell our products, I put the money back into my land. I have sent all five of my children to university, so now I can focus on other projects, like creating a system to keep water here since it is a problem. Life is good now. We stay here but we don’t stay for free. We still work too much. From morning till very late, we work. We don’t eat a lot, but we are doing well.
Today, I don’t go anywhere without educating people about farming. I am not educated, but I can expand their knowledge with what I’ve learned. I look at farming as a hobby; teaching is my job now, I like to say. I have gone to Nairobi University to tell them how to harvest maize. When you have someone from the field, they understand very well. You can see the learners. And that is why I want to do better.
James, 62, has been operating his farm in rural Kenya for the last 30 years and became a customer of Acumen investee, Esoko, in 2013.