Digital information on every phone

by Jan Pusdrowski

The USSD system of the Kenya National Farmers' Federation, KENAFF, is growing and growing. There are now 160.000 farmers registered in the system. How exactly has the system developed in the last 3 months and what new challenges does it pose? You can read about it here:

KENAFF‘s USSD system *501# went live in September 2020 and saw a moderate increase in its user numbers at the beginning. However, these numbers threatened to stagnate between December and February and KENAFF feared the system would not take off. The association decided to launch a campaign to promote the system on different channels: The Rapid Results Campaign was born. The campaign used a combination of newspaper, radio and physical events to promote the system.

Tägliche Registrierungen März bis Mai
Tägliche Registrierungen März bis Mai

KENAFF launched the Rapid Results Campaign (RRC) with federal funding by BMZ in February 2020. The RRC provided an exponential and strong increase in registrations, as the federation’s own networks within KENAFF were now served (word-of-mouth) and KENAFF set targets for its own leaders in the counties. The first graph clearly shows the powerful effects a broad and active base of people can have. For example, on 23.03.2021, 6,818 farmers registered in the system on one day. Even one month later, values of over 1,000 in one day are not uncommon. Before the RRC, the system grew relatively slowly, with about 50 new registrations per day (about 1,500 per month); after the RRC, KENAFF raised this base to about 740. This corresponds to 22,000 farmers per month.

Neuregistrierungen vor und nach RRC
Neuregistrierungen vor und nach RRC
Neuregistrierungen vor und nach RRC
Neuregistrierungen vor und nach RRC

The development of SMS delivery and the associated costs is also remarkable. Before the Rapid Results Campaign, KENAFF had 100,000 SMS available per month, which were purchased at 0.8 Kenya Shillings each. In the meantime, the number of users has multiplied and the demand for new SMS is consequently and constantly increasing. To manage the costs, KENAFF initially capped the SMS units per month at 400,000. Then it entered into talks with the platform operator to renegotiate the SMS costs. KENAFF can now buy SMS for 0.5 Kenya Shillings – a saving of 37%! Should the association even buy more than 1,000,000 SMS from the provider in one purchase, an amount of 0.4 KES is possible.

Due to this development, it is now up to KENAFF to find a sustainable and long-term financing for the system in 2021. Here, KENAFF is closely supported by the AHA. It is conceivable to use this system for targeted marketing, i.e. customers could use KENAFF to target their advertising for a product to farmers in a certain district. In this way, KENAFF could earn a margin through the SMS costs incurred. Likewise, KENAFF could gain new partners who participate financially in the system through the large number of registered users. This year, KENAFF can cover the SMS and maintenance costs of the system through the EU/IFAD project FO4ACP.

KENAFF has set itself the goal of registering 500,000 farmers in the system by the end of the year, in order to be able to provide them with information on the following topics: Covid-19, weather, market data and technical farming issues.

More about KENAFF’s USSD system can be found here:

The Author

Jan Pusdrowski

Programme Manager international

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