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Plan to improve regional road networks, good news for small-scale farmers

trader delivering tomatoes to the market

Trader delivering her tomatoes to the market. Poor roads remain the single largest barrier between millions of small-scale farmers and the marketplace. Photo: Denish Ochieng’.

The plan by Liquid Telecom Kenya (LTK), one of the internet service providers in the country to connect the Kenya Rural Roads Authority (KeRRA) headquarters to all 47 of its regional offices over the next two weeks via high-speed internet to accelerate road bidding and commissioning is good news for millions of small-scale farmers who find it hard to access better markets for their produce.

Since the onset of March-May 2018 “Long-Rains” Season a month ago farmers in Lower Moiben area of Uasin Gishu County, for example, are experiencing post-harvest losses on their tomatoes which are rotting due to lack of market as 50km Moiben to Eldoret is impassable hindering their means of reaching a bigger market in Edoret Town which is also the county’s headquarter.

“Some of us have tried approaching vehicle owners for transport but they (owners) refuse because of the bad roads. We are therefore left to contend with the little we get from the middlemen and rural consumers selling at farm-gate price which is way low as compared to market price.” Said one of the farmers from the area.

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This comes at a time when tomato prices have increased in various markets across the country.

The average price of a kilo of tomatoes in sampled markets increased from Sh91 in March last year to Sh101 this year translating to an increase of 11 per cent, According to the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

However, the farmers cannot reach the markets to sell their produce due to the bad roads in most parts of the country.

“Most of our tomatoes go to waste because the traders and local consumers who come to buy from farms choose the best fruits which are large in size and are desirable leaving the rest to waste away,” said the farmer.

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With LTK’s new connection which will facilitate the complete digitisation of KeRRA’s operation through an Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) platform that will be accessible from all 47 regional offices and the headquarters through Voice over Internet (VoIP) services, the agency will be able to access and identify the best-suited contractors for rural road building and renovations in just a few clicks after the closing of bidding.

“We are looking to improve on efficiency by connecting and harmonising all our internal functions, across IT, finance, and human resource management, and achieve an end-to-end platform with a minimum human interface for maximum efficiency in our service delivery,” said Fred Bitta, KeRRA’s ICT Manager.

KeRRA’s 47 regional offices will be connected to a Wide Area Network on MPLS with a 2Mbps capacity, while the headquarters will have an aggregated 40Mbps internet link.

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The new communications platform will also increase speed of decision making at the authority.

“The new connectivity across all our regional offices and headquarters will allow us leverage on digital platforms and solutions, such as video conferencing and VoIP to enhance and speed up information sharing,” added Bitta.

Poor roads remain the single largest barrier between millions of small-scale farmers and the marketplace, despite agriculture accounting for over 60% of Kenya’s employment and contributing over 45% of government revenues.

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