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Gray Matters Capital, US-based impact investor, has announced its funding of Nairobi (Kenya) based Farmers Pride, a one stop e-commerce platform that connects village level farmers to quality inputs, services, and information through women-owned DigiShops powered by technology, under its gender portfolio  (coLABS).

The funding of $220,000  aims to help Farmers Pride reach  the 500,000, mostly female, rural farmers to boost their income and productivity through increased access to quality inputs and services, insurance services, financial services, market linkages, and farming mechanization.

 Farmers Pride will support women agro-dealers through structured education and training programs. This will entail the funding amount being used for agro-dealer pipeline development and launch of 50 technology powered women and youth owned village level DigiShops.

The funding will also support DigiShop technology upgrade to support last mile SMS and voice powered delivery of farmer education and inputs, as well as roll out a robust farmer education program to reach additional 30,000 farmers by 2022 - the majority of these being women and youth.

Prior to this funding, Farmers Pride received a $70,000 grant from Kenya Markets Trust, $20,000 grant from the D-prize Global Distribution Challenge award,  $200,000 grant from Climate Information, and $45,000 grant from the World Bank Group to support farmer education and expand access to high-quality agricultural inputs.

The aim was to help Farmers Pride improve the agriculture value chain through transforming women shop manager to smart business owners.

“Farmers Pride’s competitive advantage and uniqueness lies in adopting an agro-dealer franchising concept and integrating that with the DigiShop technology to transform rural women-owned agro-dealer shops, support women farmers to increase their income and improve last mile delivery of agricultural solutions.

This creates prosperous futures for smallholder farmers while contributing to the elimination of youth unemployment, food insecurity, and malnutrition in Kenya and beyond, in Africa,” said Founder Samuel Munguti.

Munguti further explained how substandard operations and management of the agro-dealer stores have significantly affected the agricultural productivity.

“The majority of farmers across Kenya are serviced by village level agro-dealer stores. These stores face numerous challenges ranging from poor record keeping, lack of information, distribution, access to counterfeit products, capital and poor management where farmers end up purchasing poor quality products at exploitative prices with limited or no extension and education support,” he said.

The impact of Covid-19 made the challenges faced by these last mile stores and farming communities worse.

“Modernizing these stores through digitization of their operations, addressing and breaking last mile supply chain barriers, providing them with digital trading tools, and enabling them to offer improved extension services to their customers massively translates into enhanced awareness of inclusive agricultural practices and increased access to high-yielding inputs at affordable prices by the local farming communities,” he added.

Speaking about the funding, Sharda Vishwanathan, Pipeline Development Lead at Gray Matters Capital coLABS, said, “Due to the global pandemic, we had to go from being a sector-agnostic fund to focus on specific sectors that are leveraging technology to provide women and girls with solutions to weather the storm.

Agriculture, with a specific focus on improving value chains and productivity, emerged as one of the priority areas. In our interactions with agri-tech entrepreneurs, we have learned that access to quality agri-inputs and technical know-how is a huge challenge which further makes smallholder farmers (80% of which are women) vulnerable to the risks of climate change. Covid-19 has only widened this gap and impacted productivity by creating several bottlenecks.

Vishwanathan added that Farmers Pride had built a sustainable solution that can address the looming challenges related to the agricultural last mile.”

By harnessing technology, Farmers Pride transforms the women-owned informal stores into micro-franchisees that can build traceability of the inputs and thus, guarantee quality, Vishwanathan

“In the process, they not only help build a community of micro-entrepreneurs with improved incomes but also shift gears for smallholder farmers by increasing the productivity of their yields. We are excited to work with Farmers Pride and support their inclusive agri-tech model that serves the underserved and has the potential to create a ripple effect in the communities.”

The funding of Farmers Pride marks coLABS’ third investment in Kenya and its seventh portfolio company to be added from Africa following Rwanda’s ARED, Ghana’s Redbird Health Tech, Nigeria’s SonoCare, Tanzania’s WomenChoice Industries, and Kenya’s Taimba and Farmshine.

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