Jamila Abass Fellow 2012
Living in: Nairobi — Kenya
Operating in: Sub-Saharan Africa
Impact Area: Agriculture, Community Development, Technology
Describe yourself briefly.
Jamila is the C.E.O and co-founder of M-Farm. She strives to empower farmers by using technology as well as drive growth in the East African IT sector.
Describe your Unreasonable Venture in 100 words or less.
MFarm gives farmers transparent market price information, aggregates their farm input needs and creates market linkages.
Describe your relevant experience (especially entrepreneurial).
I was born in North Eastern part of Kenya,an arid land. When I was a kid,my brother and I used to grow coriander and kales next to our well and sell it to the neighbors. The dry land did not deter me from farming. My entrepreneurial journey started at an early age and did not stop there.
In 2010,I co-founded M-Farm and quit my job at Kenya Medical Research Institute (KEMRI/University of Washington) where I worked as a Medical Records Systems developer. I worked as a Software Engineer in other companies like African Virtual University and also served as the Business Development Manager of the Akirachix, an IT forum for girls. I strive to empower people, especially women, with the knowledge to unleash their potential and drive growth in the East African IT sector.
Why is your team uniquely qualified to run this venture?
Our team is a versatile and energetic one, with different expertise and driven by the need to impact the society positively. Our pride?The MBAs we acquired from the farms.
Susan,The Research Junkie,is a mobile apps developer who worked with companies like Safaricom, Microsoft, Rivotek etc.
Melvin,The Early Bird, is an upcoming techy aspiring to be a full fledged software developer. He assures quality and integrity of every detail and piece of data.
Isaak,The Bug Shredder,likes to describe himself as a “full-stack programmer”, a generalist,and someone who can create non-trivial applications by himself.
Linda,The Corporate Hustler,is an inborn entrepreneur with a bachelors in Business and Information Technology. You want to create a big brand or close a deal?Ask Linda how to!
What is the urgent social or environmental need you're addressing?
According to IFAD,about 79 per cent of Kenya’s population lives in rural areas and relies on agriculture for
most of its income.
The poorest communities living in these areas are small scale farmers
and farm laborers
who lack access to information. This results in exploitation by the middlemen who take advantage of the lack of transparency in the market.
Secondly,markets are inaccessible for these farmers since they have little produce that can only be sold at the local markets or to brokers who buy it at throwaway prices.
Thirdly,they have difficulties accessing affordable farm inputs which hinders their yield.
What is your solution to this need? Describe your business strategy.
M-Farm enables farmers inquire about the current prices of different crops in specific markets throughout Kenya. Up-to-date market information empowers farmers as they bargain for a fair price with middlemen and purchasers.
The M-Farm system provides farmers a group selling service where they can connect with other farmers from the neighborhood to jointly market crops in greater volume, helping rural farmers access large-scale local and international markets. Farmers often need to have large quantities of produce available in a short time frame in order to sell to exporters and large-scale retailers.
Farmers also get connected to suppliers and, through collective buying power, get significant discounts on farming inputs such as seeds, fertilizer.
Convince us it will work. What milestones have you achieved?
In the past month, we have entered into partnership with 5 NGOs who work with farmers at the grassroots level which will give us access to more than 10,000 farmers in the first quarter of 2012.
We have recruited more than 3,000 new farmers since February. This sums up to 5,000 farmers subscribed and paying for our services from the initial 2,000 we reported at the begining of the Unreasonable market place. Most of the farmers we are working with doubled their profits and have direct and stable market with buyers who are also M-Farm clients. The number of buyers,increased by 75% since February this year.
The price information content is used by media houses such as TV and radio stations who pay us for daily feed.
We recently received an investment that will help us drive customer growth in Kenya.