Ideas for farmers from IDEO.org

IDEO.org is the non-prHCD-field-guide-2015-coverofit arm of the design and innovation company IDEO. It applies the concepts of human-centred design to poverty alleviation. Juhudi Kilimo first worked with IDEO.org in 2012, on a project that used rapid prototyping to find out how technical information could best be shared with rural smallholder farmers.

During the project, a team from IDEO.org visited some Juhudi farmers, building and testing prototypes of different agricultural training techniques, including instructional videos featuring peers (members of the farming community) and a call centre. The videos were found to be more effective than the call centre, as farmers trusted the expertise and experience of their peers, and also learnt more effectively in a peer-to-peer setting. The rapid prototyping exercise is featured in the latest edition of the Field Guide to Human-Centered Design, published in April 2015 by IDEO.org.

Building on the initial human-centred design project, we have developed a library of training videos for our farmer clients, following the principles and best practices identified in the prototyping exercise. The engagement with IDEO.org was a good example of a field research partnership that generated practical and actionable insights for Juhudi Kilimo, and we are proud of being mentioned in the new Field Guide.

A few weeks ago, we met up with IDEO.org again, this time to gather information about the farming and irrigation practices of one of our farmer clients. Together with our Thika Branch BDO Milly Muhuro, we visited the farm of Ms. Teresia Katunge, a Juhudi client who has taken a loan to purchase irrigation equipment for horticultural farming.

The IDEO team – John Collery, Natalia Sourdis and Barry Lachapelle – asked Ms. Katunge about her agricultural practices, decision-making processes, and irrigation needs. They also tested a prototype low-cost sensor device that can be used to gather data about soil quality and weather conditions.

The visit was brief but sparked many questions about how timely and accurate information and data could help farmers conserve limited or costly resources like water and fertilizer, while making crop production and irrigation practices more efficient. The Juhudi Labs team is keen to continue working with IDEO.org to find practical, human-centred solutions to such challenges facing smallholder farmers.

Photos courtesy of Natalia Sourdis, IDEO.org

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Juhudi Labs Clean Energy Program featured in new publication

EuropeanDialogueCoverIn September 2014 Juhudi Kilimo was shortlisted for the 5th European Microfinance Award. The 10 semi-finalists have now been featured in the latest issue of a European Microfinance Platform publication, which is on the topic “Microfinance and the Environment”.

Our submission was about the Juhudi Labs Clean Energy Program, which uses microloans to increase the reach and uptake of environmentally friendly energy products, such as clean cookstoves, solar lamps and biogas digesters.

While Juhudi Kilimo’s core business is financing dairy cows, chickens, greenhouses, and other income-generating agricultural assets, we see loans for small and medium renewable energy assets as an additional means to alleviate the time and energy poverty that afflict most of our farmer clients.

Launched at the beginning of 2014, by March of the same year the Juhudi Labs Clean Energy Program had reached 425 rural households and had reduced their biomass consumption by at least 50%. Over the subsequent year, the Clean Energy Program went on to finance hundreds of renewable energy assets, bringing the total number of households reached so far to 2,300.

The Juhudi Labs Clean Energy Program is a joint effort between Juhudi Kilimo and Micro Energy Credits.

To read the full “Microfinance and the Envionment” report in Issue No. 7 of European Dialogue, click here.

Behavioural approaches to farmer learning

What do we need to take us from intention to action? We all have good intentions. We all want to exercise more or learn something new, for example, but when the moment to take action arrives, we often defer the decision. Rural farmers are no different; typically there is a gap between the farming knowledge they might gain from training and extension services, and what they put into practice on their farms.

Following an introduction to a team from the design lab ideas42, we became interested in how behavioural factors may influence the way farmers put learning into practice – the decisions they make, and the actions they take. After several conversations about Juhudi’s farmer training programs and the uptake of new concepts and practices by our farmers, ideas42 team members Dana Guichon and Matt Darling arrived in Kenya for a week-long learning visit with us.

Dana and Matt first spent some time learning about Juhudi’s operations and business at our Head Office in Nairobi. Then they set off, in the company of our intrepid Extension Officer Samwel Tobiko, to the Kericho area to spend three days attending our farmer training sessions and visiting a farmer group meeting. Dana and Matt asked millions of questions, both to Juhudi staff and to our farmers. They wanted to learn as much as they could about the social, behavioural, and psychological factors at play in a rural smallholder farmer’s daily decision-making process.

The information-gathering and learning visit was followed by a debrief with the Juhudi Labs team, back in Nairobi. We went through the observations they made during the field visit and identified three potential areas for further investigation, all related to how farmers access, absorb, put into practice, and share the farming and business-related information Juhudi makes available to them.

Under the Juhudi Labs Field Research Program, we will now work with the ideas42 team to narrow our scope of investigation, looking more closely at a particular learning challenge that farmers face and applying approaches from behavioural science to better understand and solve it. Here we go, from intention to action!

The ideas42 and Juhudi teams with a farmer group in Brooke, near Kericho

The ideas42 and Juhudi teams with a farmer group in Brooke, near Kericho

About ideas42

ideas42 is a non-profit design lab and consulting firm that uses insights from behavioural science to create innovative solutions to complex social problems. We aim to achieve impact at scale by applying the latest research on human behaviour to policy, program and product design. Our work involves educating decision makers and leaders about the power of behavioural science and how to apply it; improving existing products, policies, and programs; and inventing new products that draw on behavioural insights. We apply our expertise to a range of domains including consumer finance, education, economic opportunity, energy consumption and environmental conservation, healthcare, criminal justice, and agriculture.

Thank you, Kiva lenders!

On behalf of Juhudi Kilimo, we would like thank all the Kiva lenders who generously supported the fundraising campaigns of our three early-stage startup partners, F3 Life, Futurepump, and Ojay Greene. All three startups were successfully funded on the Kiva.org platform, generating a combined total of USD 100,000 in flexible debt capital for the three companies. Congratulations to each of them!

Juhudi Labs had a great time working with the three companies and helping them with the fundraising effort. Here we are on the day of filming one of the fundraising campaign videos.

Fabrice, Kulsoom and Elvin on the Kiva fundraising campaign trail in Njabini, Aberdares

Fabrice, Kulsoom and Elvin on the Kiva fundraising campaign trail in Njabini, Aberdares

Labs partners fundraising on Kiva

Juhudi Labs is supporting the Kiva fundraising efforts of three exciting agriculture startups – F3 Life, Futurepump, and Ojay Greene – all alumnae of the Village Capital Innovations for Agriculture accelerator programme.

These loans are part of our effort to find new ways of improving the lives of our rural smallholder farmer clients.

The loans are experimental with additional risk but seek to provide the rural smallholder farmers of Kenya with valuable technology and information, such as renewable energy products, access to market prices, and soil and water conservation practices.

By helping these three companies raise funds on Kiva, you are enhancing the greater ecosystem of agriculture support services in Kenya.

Here are the companies and their Kiva profiles. Show your support by making a loan!

F3 Life

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Futurepump

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Ojay Greene

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IBAN launch in Berlin

Juhudi Kilimo was recently invited to the launch event for the new Inclusive Business Action Network (IBAN), an organization created by the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).

The new network aims to connect businesses, investors and institutions working on social enterprise and inclusive business. The platform will provide information, training and opportunities to connect with partners.

As Juhudi Kilimo, we were asked to speak about our past and ongoing efforts to measure the social impact of our financial products and services on our clients.

Over the years we have invested in technologies, such as SMS data collection platforms, smartphones, tablets and cloud-based data management systems, in an effort to improve the speed, accuracy and richness of the data we are able to gather from our farmers and staff in the field.

We see measuring and understanding our impact on the lives of our rural farmer clients as one of the key indicators of our success, both as a business and an agent for social change in Kenya.

Learn more about the launch here. View our presentation here. Read the report here.

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Inclusive Business Action Network launch in Berlin 18.11.2014

Futurepump and Ojay Greene win Innovations for Agriculture 2014

On Saturday 1 November 2014, Village Capital and Juhudi Kilimo announced that Futurepump and Ojay Greene have received a venture capital investment of USD $100,000 as the two top-ranked startups in the VilCap Kenya: Innovations for Agriculture 2014 program.

Seven businesses participated in the VilCap Kenya: Innovations for Agriculture program. These early-stage companies are solving some of the biggest problems facing smallholder farmers in Kenya through business solutions, with long-term benefits for farmers and local communities.

Futurepump has created the Sunflower, a low-cost, high-efficiency piston irrigation pump for smallholder farmers.

Ojay Greene sources fruits and vegetables directly from smallholder farmers and sells them to high-end markets, principally supermarkets and hotels, in Kenya.

The Village Capital program, in partnership with Juhudi Kilimo, Invested Development, the Lundin Foundation, and Stitching DOEN, gave mentorship and business development to these entrepreneurs during three intensive workshops over three months. At the end of the program, the entrepreneurs ranked each other, and the two highest-ranked companies received USD $50,000 each in funding. With the investment capital received, Futurepump and Ojay Greene will further develop their businesses to meet the needs of smallholder farmers across Kenya and empower them with sustainable agricultural solutions.

The announcement of the two top ventures was made after the VilCap Kenya: Innovations for Agriculture 2014 Venture Forum, where the entrepreneurs pitched their business plans to a group of angel investors, venture capitalists, potential partners, and customers. Last month as part of the workshops held to empower the startups, the participants had the opportunity to test the market by presenting their products and services during a Customer Forum organized in Thika.

The 5 other ventures featured in the programme are:

Develatech sells low-cost cook stoves (The Jiko Chap Chap) that reduce harmful CO2 and particulate emissions by 87%, boils water in half the time of three stone fire competitors and uses up to 180% less wood.

Edge Group is a cloud-based, offline and self-service Management Information System that enables middle and lower level farmer organizations to manage memberships, inventory and payments at 1/10 the cost.

F3 Life provides commercial credit to smallholder farmers in Kenya and, to our knowledge, is the only commercial credit provider in East Africa or elsewhere to build natural resource management into loan terms.

MobiCrop is an online micro-investment crowdfunding platform that facilitates investments into farming ventures.

Wakala Africa has developed an innovative, drought resistant line of vegetable seeds and is building a local brand that will inspire as much trust and confidence as imported seed varieties.

Meet Echo Mobile, the first Juhudi Labs partner company

Communicating with customers in a timely, cost-effective way is crucial for any business. Because we maintain long-term relationships with our clients, communication is a top priority for Juhudi Kilimo. Our loan officers often travel long distances to reach rural farms, and information gathered from our farmer clients can get lost, if it is not captured quickly and correctly.

Farmer Jackline gets a text message from Juhudi Kilimo

Smallholder farmer Jackline gets a text message from Juhudi Kilimo

In 2010 Juhudi decided to improve its client communication and data collection using text messaging, a mode of communication that is well established and very popular amongst our rural clientele. To do this, we chose to support the development and deployment of Echo Mobile, a then early-stage platform for messaging and data collection via SMS.

We began by using Echo Mobile for informational question-and-answer campaigns with our farmers. We also started conducting SMS surveys to gather data about our farmers and their needs. Juhudi paid for sending text messages, but farmers could respond free of charge. Farmers also self-registered for the service and were able to communicate with us in their own language. The feedback and practical experience we gained from working with Echo Mobile have been used to make changes and improvements to the solution.

Echo Mobile has proven very popular, both amongst Juhudi staff and our clients. For our staff, it provides a fast and far-reaching channel for sharing news and information with current and prospective clients, as well as a tool for collecting client feedback and other data. The benefits of using Echo Mobile outweigh its costs, reducing the amount of money spent on logistics and customer acquisition, and increasing the speed with which data from the field becomes available for analysis and decision-making.

For farmers, who can subscribe easily to the service by sending a keyword to Juhudi’s private shortcode, Echo Mobile is both a free source of information and a convenient customer service channel, helping them feel more connected to Juhudi Kilimo and improving their customer experience.

Jeremy on CNN iHub

Echo Mobile founder Jeremy Gordon at work in the iHub, Nairobi

Developed and tested to meet real business and customer needs, Echo Mobile has grown alongside Juhudi Kilimo and today is an independent company with over 30 organizational clients, using the platform to reach over 400,000 mobile respondents in sectors such as education, finance, healthcare, energy, and agriculture. Needless to say, we at Juhudi Kilimo and Juhudi Labs continue to be active users and enthusiatic fans of Echo Mobile.

To learn more about Echo Mobile, visit http://www.echomobile.org

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Juhudi_039Karibu! This blog is a place for news, opinions and insight about agriculture, innovation and the Juhudi Labs initiative of Juhudi Kilimo. Read more about us on our website. Subscribe to this blog to receive email updates, or check back soon to find out what we’re up to.