Kencall, which has led the way in offering telephone-based customer services for other businesses, has now moved to launch its own call service, “Huduma kwa Wakulima,” as a helpline for small-scale farmers staffed 24/7 and offering the help of 14 expert agricultural advisers free of charge.
Providing real-time answers - or replies within 48 hours for more complex questions - the line is offered in both English and Kiswahili and has been called by more than 10,000 farmers. “We prefer doing it with voice than SMS as the scam perception in SMS is common in Kenya,” said Ann Kiama the Project Director.
Kencall launched the service October last year. The pilot started with Small Holder Farmers (SHF) in Mai Mahiu, Lari, Naivasha Kijabe and Athi River areas. The second phase targeted SHF’s in Nyeri, Embu, Meru, Kiambu, Limuru and Kinangop. Currently phase 3 is being rolled out in Rift Valley and Western provinces.
For the project, Kencall has hired 14 in house agricultural experts with over three years experience. They are looking to hire more agricultural specialists. Since its rollout 10,800 farmers are using the free consultancy service, according to Kiama.
First time farmers call the help lines and ask their questions on farm related subjects like livestock, crops or climate. After their queries are answered, farmers have the option of fully registering or leaving behind basic contact details “to ease follow up”, said Kiama
The query details are then stored in the Kencall Farm Customer Relationship Management (CRM) database. The queries are analyzed by agricultural experts who observe the trend of farming frequently asked questions. From the trend observed, the experts will then create an answer tree.
According to Kiama, farmers are asking questions across the whole agricultural spectrum. These include marketing, productivity, farming techniques, illnesses affecting their animals among others. That has raised the need to hire experts specializing in niche agricultural areas, like fisheries or horticulture.
In the event where an expert can’t be reached, farmers who called have their details automatically registered, to be contacted later. Where a query is not answered, immediately farmers are guaranteed a follow-up within 48 hours.
The project has cost Kencall over Sh20 million to invest in and once it takes off the company hopes to engage partners that sell farm inputs and link them with farmers making queries – to make the project economically viable for Kencall.
The project is the first of its kind in Africa where farmers use phone technology to interact in real time with experts. Currently, Kencall is working out partnerships with soon to named Firms to broaden the project’s corporate scope and involvement.
The information provided to the farmers is aimed to position them to achieve better farming practices and to find out commodity prices trends and demand.
A similar model exists in India, but is text based. Says Kencall, farmers calls flood their system from in 7am to 11am and then from 4pm to 8pm.
The Kencall’s “Huduma Kwa Wakulima” telephone help lines are:
0711-035345, 0732-135345 and 020-6602345
Written By James Karuga for African Laughter
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