Smallholder farmers in Kenya — like smallholder farmers everywhere — work very hard, and live precariously, always facing challenges from drought to floods to commodity market fluctuations. Margaret Auma Oyoko, who grows maize and raises cows, when asked to describe her day says simply, “When I wake up, I pray to God to help me in my activities like farming, feeding the cows, and other household duties.”
Apollo Agriculture, an Accion Venture Lab portfolio company, was founded to help farmers like Margaret thrive in the face of their many challenges. When farmers become Apollo clients, they receive not only high-quality seeds and fertilizer but also advice to help them farm more effectively.
Alfred first heard about Apollo from a friend who is also a farmer. He reports that he and several neighbors have all had positive experiences with Apollo so far. “Their fertilizer is very rich, which meant my crop yield was very high. After harvesting and selling my maize, I was able to pay the school fees,” he says, adding, “I’ve also learned so much more about agriculture. They teach us a lot and show us how to do farm work.”
Susan Wangui Wanjiru also learned about Apollo through a friend, and while like Alfred, she appreciates the quality of its products, she is especially impressed by its tech-enabled systems. She first signed up as a customer via text message and then an agent came to her property and assessed her farm. Says Susan, “The beauty of it is that Apollo does not give out cash to anyone, not even the agents. You send it directly to them [using M-Pesa]. You then get your balance as a text message.” For a busy farmer and mother, the convenience is invaluable.
Summing up his Apollo experience, Alfred says, “Before, I struggled to get farm inputs. The next problem was finances, as you have to buy everything with cash. It was also difficult to find people who could teach you something new. But now it’s better with Apollo.”