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Everline Wakhungu with her cell phone

Mobile Phones Are Making a Huge Difference for Kenya's Farmers. Here's How.

A look at the huge impact digitized loan repayments is having on Kenyan smallholder farmers.

One of the most important tools for Everline Wakhungu (pictured above) on her farm is her mobile phone.

Everline, who raises maize, beans, and livestock on a four-acre farm in western Kenya, always plants her crops on time because of text message reminders she receives from One Acre Fund. Mobile phones have become ubiquitous in Kenya, and the nonprofit, which provides smallholder farmers with inputs on credit and agricultural training, has expanded its digital presence in the past few years. In 2016, all 198,000 of its farmer clients in the country were able to use their mobile phones to pay back their loans.

Matthew and Everline Wakhungu

Everline, who farms with her husband Matthew near the village of Namawanga, said text message reminders about field preparation and planting helped her harvest a big crop last year. She also said that the mobile repayment system made it easier to manage the family’s finances. Now, instead of waiting for a One Acre Fund field officer to collect cash from her every week, she uses her phone to send loan repayments directly to the organization whenever she has enough money on hand.

Better Than Cash Alliance Study

A new study by the UN-based Better Than Cash Alliance provides a deeper look into how One Acre Fund successfully digitized loan repayments for smallholder farmers in Kenya. It also details the tremendous benefits that were achieved due to this shift, from boosting transparency and efficiency to increased economic opportunity and financial inclusion for thousands of smallholder farmers and their families.

Matthew and Everline Wakhungu on their farm
“We trust this system better than the other one, because before sometimes money could be stolen or lost,” Everline said. “Now, when you send the money, you receive a message back immediately. You can see your balance, and know what amount is left on your loan.”

Mobile repayment has also made life easier for One Acre Fund staff, said Meshack Mocho, a field director who oversees workers in Teso district, where more than 180 farmers are enrolled. Prior to 2014, farmer repayment to One Acre Fund was a 12 to 16-day process that involved a host of middlemen, from field officers to bankers, treasurers, bookkeepers and farmers. Now, due to mobile repayments, the process takes only 4 days. “Now, field officers are able to spend more time working on training sessions and answering questions for farmers, instead of collecting cash,” Meshack said.

“Before, field officers would have payment meetings, and not all farmers would attend, so then they would have to do a lot of work following up with everyone. Now, field officers can basically focus on training. They can get back to what is important and what they need to do.”