Sugarcane farmers are set to see their production improvements following the launch of the MIWA BORA APP by the Sugar Directorate as part of efforts to revive Kenya’s sugar industry.
With the current ratio of extension officers to farmers at 1:3,760, way below the recommended 1:400, the MIWA BORA APP has been developed to bridge this gap by providing farmers with the ability to access approved and localized information conveniently from the KALRO Sugar Research Institute through their mobile handsets.
“The Government continues to invest significantly in digital infrastructure as a business enabler. Through apps such as Miwa Bora, stakeholders are able to connect digitally by bringing Agricultural services closer to them. Many farmers can now access accurate information about growing their crops at their convenience,” Director General at the Agriculture and Food Authority, Mr Kello Harsama, said during the launch.
“Through the application, farmers will be able to lodge requests to extension officers in real-time, giving stakeholders the assurance that the Miller and the Sugar Directorate have received a request and will offer consistent and prompt support in the response to farmers’ requests,” he added.
The Sugar Directorate has invested over Kshs 1 million to develop the app as part of the Directorate’s efforts to implement strategic initiatives aimed at addressing challenges facing the sugar industry. The app was developed in line with findings from the 2020 Sugar Industry Stakeholders Task Force Report which recommends practical strategies to revitalize the industry.
The mobile application will enable the transfer of farming technical know-how and trends including uptodate content on sugar cane varieties, agronomic packages, value addition opportunities in the sugar industry, as well as market information, technology, and innovation.
It will also provide customized support solutions to ensure farmers receive localized content based on their region-specific sugarcane varieties.
“This newly developed mobile app will relinquish the manual process of information management, streamline stakeholder service management and solve complex issues in a prompt and professional manner – all of which is in line with the Government’s digital transformation agenda,” Harsama added.
Kenya’s sugar industry contributes 15% to Agricultural GDP and 2.75% of National GDP. Additionally, the industry contributes to food security, employment creation by providing direct and indirect employment to 500,000 workers , regional development and improved livelihoods for more than eight million Kenyans.
The industry relies on approximately 270,000 small-scale sugarcane farmers spread across 14 counties including Bungoma, Busia, Kwale, Trans Nzoia, Uasin Gishu, Siaya, Kisii, Kisumu, Homabay, Migori, Kakamega, Kericho, Nandi and Narok.
A survey carried out by the Sugar Directorate revealed that sugarcane farmers receive inadequate extension services due to inadequate personnel, unfavorable methods of delivering extension services, and poor knowledge of Good Agricultural Practices (GAPS) for sugarcane production among the extension officers. 29% of farmers who were interviewed said they were not visited by extension officers while 53% said they were visited once.
“ The industry, has in the past, faced several challenges such as high cost of production, high debt portfolio for the state-owned mills, cane shortage, declining yields, low-value addition initiatives, inadequate research and extension, ageing equipment, reduced incomes to farmers and a weak regulatory framework. Some of these challenges, such as the high cost of production, persist to date. I however wish to reiterate the Government’s commitment to their mitigation,” said Sugar Directorate Director, Willis Audi.