Smallholder farmers are some of the most hardworking people in the world but are also among the most economically disadvantaged. Many Sub-Saharan African farmers struggle to produce enough food to feed their families largely because they live in remote places that lack access to quality farming supplies and knowledge.
At One Acre Fund, we specialize in last-mile delivery, distributing agricultural supplies within walking distance of some of Sub-Saharan Africa’s hardest-to-reach places. And in 2022, we set up our first-ever Home Delivery Unit in Kenya. The goal of this unit is to go one step better and deliver directly to farmers’ doorsteps every planting season.
“Many farmers miss out on farming tools and services that can help them attain prosperity. Our home delivery service provides a convenient way for farmers to access farming inputs without the need to travel long distances,” says Jeremy Muganda, the Home Delivery Service Lead for our Kenya program.
While doorstep delivery might be the norm in other parts of the world, smallholders in Sub-Saharan Africa often walk for hours to find a shop selling the seed and supplies they need to farm.
Delivery attempts often get foiled by rough, unpaved roads; the limitations of mapping software, such as Google Maps, that are less detailed outside the major cities in much of the continent; and much lower tech and smartphone penetration—making tools like GPS pins challenging to use. But because mobile phone density in Kenya is relatively high and growing year-on-year, starting our home delivery pilot there made sense.
While we’re still fine-tuning our solutions to many of these challenges, we’ve found a relatively smooth solution for our delivery team – using motorbikes. Farmers can place their orders for farming supplies through an on-the-ground field agent, at a nearby shop, or - if they have a smartphone - through our new farmer-facing app, Tupande Online, and then have their products delivered directly to them by a motorbike courier.
Sometimes, getting the correct coordinates to a village home can be challenging in which case we call the farmer for verbal directions, often using a series of landmarks to chart the way. We also hire local riders who are familiar in the areas we serve.
“I am happy with our progress in expanding the home delivery service: we built software designed to organize the collection and drop-off points. And, to ensure our customers get the best service, we liaise with our field officers to recommend responsible riders from their community,” Jeremy says.
Since the Home Delivery Unit became fully operational in January 2022, we have delivered 1.5 tons of products to 7,229 farmers and seen farmer satisfaction with our service rise. In January 2023 alone, home delivery orders rose by 10%.
Why home delivery matters for farmers
With home delivery services, farmers save time and effort by eliminating the need to travel to market centers to purchase or collect agricultural inputs. This is particularly advantageous during the planting and harvesting seasons when farmers are busy with farm preparation and have little time to spare. Importantly, home delivery also provides farmers with timely access to essential agricultural inputs, which helps increase harvests by allowing farmers to plant on time, every time.
In addition, with home delivery, farmers can order their farming supplies when they're ready to plant, knowing One Acre Fund will keep their supplies safe in our climate-controlled warehouses. This means they no longer have to worry about seeds going bad before they plant because they have no way of controlling the heat and humidity levels in their homes, which can cause damage to seeds.
As we work to roll out home delivery services to more farmers across Kenya, we’ll continue to leverage technology and community-specific solutions to help improve the lives of rural farm families.