DaktariPap: Boosting food security in Africa through mobile connectivity

Despite progress, Africa continues to struggle with food insecurity and famine. Millions of people in the Horn of Africa are for instance facing certain death due to chronic food shortages due to failed crops. Other regions are facing similar problems. Various African organisations have taken these challenges by the horns, writes East Africa Ambassador Daniel Muraga. One of the innovations he stumbled upon is DaktariPap, a mobile phone application that connects small-holder farmers to vet graduates, agronomists, and other key service providers that can help smallholder farmers boost their crops and livestock’s health.

 In terms of Africa’s economy agriculture has always been key. Poor farming methods, rain-fed irrigation, a lack of farm inputs, and poor access to farming capital and insurance are however crippling farmers, particularly small farmers who are starting out. This is where innovations like DaktariPap come in.

“DaktariPap Solutions was launched in 2017 as a mobile technology platform that links farmers and agro-dealers to certified and reliable vets, crop specialists, agronomists, insurance service providers, depending on what problem they are facing,” says DaktariPap founder Samuel Munguti, who also serves as the CEO of Farmers Pride. “The aim is to prevent crop and livestock health challenges, which lead to huge losses.”

Helping farmers and unemployed vets

The motivation behind DaktariPap is the fact that according to the Food and Agricultural Organisation, Africa’s small holder farmers on average lose 30% of their livestock and 40% of their crops per year due to diseases, pests and poor agricultural practices. The annual costs of this are estimated at $7billion in terms of agricultural income losses.

“In the meantime, there are over 10,000 vet graduates and another over 20,000 qualified agronomists in Kenya alone of which the majority is unemployed,” says Munguti. “Only a few offer private clinical and extension services to local farmers.”

The power of mobile phones

The reason why DaktariPap is a mobile application has to do with high cell phone penetration in the region. Official statistics show that Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania and Ethiopia together are home to 250 million people. The bulk of them carries mobile phones and are using these devices for business purposes including banking, buying and selling. “That is why we chose to use mobile phone technology to improve animal and crop health among farmers, by connecting them to key service providers whilst giving them access to weather updates and best practices information,” he says.

DaktariPap’s aim is to sign up five million Kenyan farmers and 100,000 service providers in the next five years, and 20 million farmers and 300,000 service providers across East Africa in the next decade. Munguti: “If rural smallholder farmers are linked to credible vet professionals and agronomists timely and conveniently through their mobile phones, the results could be magical.”

Africa's agritech investment potential

The DaktariPap founder notes that Africa’s agritech industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, one that is growing rapidly. “As the region’s population continues to grow, farmers will need better and more efficient technology solutions to deal with different issues,” he says. “There is, therefore, a growing need for the private sector to invest in these innovations, to help revolutionise the sector. Raising funds remains a key challenge for agritech start-ups.”

Besides private investment, Munguti says that governments have a role to play, too, for instance in terms of subsidies and waivers exclusive to innovative businesses. “Partnerships to help innovative businesses scale their ventures’ impact across the region is key too,” Munguti says. “Governments could also consider offering key interventions and services such as emergency vaccinations, subsidies on inputs distribution, and extension services.”

About the author: Daniel Muraga from Nairobi, Kenya, is Afrinection's East Africa Ambassador. He is an experienced writer and avid social media buff with a passion for Africa, entrepreneurship, IT innovation, and driving the continent forward. 

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