Agriculture is key to Kenya’s economy. The industry contributes to 26% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and employs more than 40 % of the total population (mostly women and youth), and more than 70 % of Kenya’s rural people.
However, smallholder farmers in Kenya still face different challenges, such as limited access to the right tools they need to succeed in their farming businesses, poor infrastructure, food insecurity due to climate change, scarce resources, and low rainfall that is poorly distributed.
Samuel Munguti, our Kenyan entrepreneur, created a business to empower rural farmers, increase their income and opportunities. He is the CEO of Shamba Pride, a social enterprise that provides a one stop online-to-offline DigiShop marketplace platform that connects village-level farmers to relevant information, quality inputs and credible agriculture services in local community. Through his business he ensures sustainable increased farm production and mitigates the effects of climate change.
Samuel joined the E4Impact Accelerator program in Nairobi in 2019 to boost his entrepreneurial capacity to be able to steer Shamba Pride more efficiently and effectively. In this regard he affirms: “It’s a fantastic program that helps build technical capacity for entrepreneurs. Our best picks in the program were great capacity built around improving on financial and accounts reporting, refining Shamba Pride model and scale strategy.”
But let’s learn more about him and his business.
1. How was your Business Idea born?
When I graduated from University in 2016 with a master’s degree in marketing, I discovered my passion: farming. Therefore, I took my $4,000 in savings and rented some farmland in Simba village (Makueni county), and set out to join the estimated 70% of my fellow countrymen, who earn their living in agriculture. However, as I soon learned, that way of living can be unpredictable.
I planted tomatoes and watermelons, but my tomato seeds didn’t germinate. Even if I managed to grow some watermelons, the yield was insufficient to recoup my initial investment. My first foray into farming was by most measures a hard failure. However, from that failure, I hatched the Shamba Pride idea.
I suspected I had either been sold expired seeds, dodgy agrochemicals, or both. I also reasoned that if this had happened to me, it was likely happening to other smaller-scale farmers, and there are millions of them in Kenya. To bring greater transparency to supply chains and prices for Kenya’s small farmers, I developed Shamba Pride, a platform that connects farmers via web, USSD and mobile app with vetted and reputable agricultural suppliers in rural Kenya.
2. How can your business improve the life of the beneficiaries of your activities?
Traditional agriculture systems in Africa have failed to break low productivity and poverty barriers for farming communities: these objectives can be achieved through leveraging technology. Local entrepreneurs can be transformed and empowered to create a rural agriculture trade ecosystem offering high-quality professional retail experience to local farmers. Shamba pride believes that, by creating a reliable and efficient ecosystem in this $1 trillion industry in Sub-Sahara Africa, it will revolutionize rural agriculture trade.
Purity Nduku is a testimonial of the benefits derived from Shamba Pride activities: her dream since graduating from college was to own and run a successful agro-vet business. When she had saved enough capital, she launched a store at Nzaikoni Market, in Machakos county, in January 2019. She soon realized it was not easy to run an agro-vet, as she started struggling to raise funds to support monthly bills like rent, as the business continued to register low sales.
Around June same year, she was referred to Shamba Pride by Lydia who runs a Digishop in nearby location. Purity got excited about the Shamba Pride concept and decided to submit the application to join the Digishop network. In September 2019, Purity application was accepted and her shop was officially converted into a DigiShop. Running her store became more easy thanks to Shamba Pride one-stop supply solution, as well as technology to support inventory management and farmer training. Month by month, after conversion to Digishop, she started registering increased sales and farmer traffic. Currently, Purity’s store has grown 10 times in both monthly revenues and the number of farmers serviced. She is one of Shamba pride’s top champions of Digishop technology and ambassador of youth entrepreneurship in her village.
Another example is offered by Nguumo farmers from Nguumo ward in Makueni county: it is a green gram farmer group with 25 women members led by Evelyn Charles. This is one of groups in the county that have benefited from Shamba Pride training, inputs access and technology. Shamba Pride set up a green gram demo farm at Everyn farm, where members have been attending training sessions on land preparation, seed selection, planting, fertilizer application, weeding, pest and disease management as well as harvesting. All the members have registered in Shamba Pride digital platform to access extension and inputs access support. Through the adoption of good agriculture practices, the group members have reported a 60% increase in farm production.
The last testimony reported is the story of Mary Mueni: she started her Agro-vet business in 2015 and had run the business for 3 years before being introduced to Shamba Pride in June 2018. All through these years, she was struggling with stocking her shop, making losses month by month with average monthly USD 800 in sales. When she was introduced to Shamba Pride and joined Digishop network, her monthly sales had increased 4 times as well as the number of customers serviced daily. ”My shop has become land mark for agricultural change in this community and I am now a respected woman leader. Every day, farmers can benefit from affordable quality inputs and extension services because I brought Digishop to my village”, Mary repeats every time she meets the Shamba pride team.
3. What has been the main challenge you had to overcome in your entrepreneurial experience?
Raising growth and expanding capital has been the main challenge. Compared to other sectors like fintech and health tech, agri-tech is not receiving the right capital backup, which is key to accelerating growth in the sector. There is a need for investors to give more attention to the agri-tech space, which plays a key role in guaranteeing communities’ food security and income.
4. In your opinion, what are the main qualities an entrepreneur should have?
I believe deep passion, for obvious reasons, is easily the most significant personality trait any successful entrepreneur has. They’re successful because they choose to do what they love. Other key qualities are self-discipline, creativity and patience. Building successful enterprises takes time so entrepreneurs who are not patient give up early. Without continuous innovation and creativity, solutions get swept away by competition or become irrelevant to customers. Entrepreneurs should keep innovating to resonate with changing market needs and trends and embrace technology which is a key ingredient for success.
5. Is there a person you are inspired by, i.e. an entrepreneur or a particular mentor?
Yes, I’m inspired by Olugbenga Agboola, founder of Flutterwave. He started and built Flutterwave to great heights and become one of the most celebrated African unicorns. I keep being challenged every day: it’s possible to build Shamba pride to become one of the first African agritech unicorns in the near future.
6. What would you suggest to a new-born entrepreneur?
Be patient and love the things you are building.
7. Could you tell us a particular satisfactory moment you had in your entrepreneurial activity?
It is always a great satisfaction to see Shamba pride solving every day decade-long rural farmer challenges, that have limited their success and building community after community of happy and more productive farmers.
Learn more about Shamba Pride:
Facebook page: shambapride
Twitter Account: @shambapride