Ten Senses Africa
If you were to visit the lush slopes of Mount Kenya, with its green, rolling landscape and surrounding farms, you may not expect to see field workers on motorbikes armed with collecting containers, receipt books, and mobile phones.
It is an organisation called Ten Senses Africa that has revolutionised nut farming in this way. Starting out with the export of macadamia nuts in 2005, Ten Senses has since introduced cashews because of the increased international demand for this type of nut. Before Ten Senses was established, individual farmers were selling to middlemen who paid low prices. Now, Ten Senses collect the nuts from the farmers and pay them on receipt, direct from one mobile phone to another. The transaction is tracked and matched to the receipt against a WhatsApp photo - hence the need for motorbikes, lightweight equipment, and technology.
Production staff used to have the thankless task of scraping discolouring from some individual nuts. This was caused by dampness from the macadamias sitting on the ground while awaiting collection. Now, the nuts are gathered quickly and taken to an overnight storage area where they are collected every few days by a truck. This allows Ten Senses to know more about the produce going to the processing unit and enables them to export high quality nuts.
The farmers receive better prices, are paid immediately and there are no risks associated with payment by cash. Malcolm Curtis, Customer Relationships Manager, visited Ten Senses in February 2016. He said: "We hear a lot about mobile technology so it was very interesting to see it in action at Ten Senses. The way the team had built their processes and data collection around existing software such as Instagram was fascinating and great to understand how quickly the farmers were paid."
By registering all 700 growers, monitoring where all the cashew trees are located, and estimating the expected volume of nuts, the introduction of mobile field workers has proved successful. Monitoring the location of the trees helps to determine the volume of nuts expected in a particular season. This type of advancement is vital to Kenyan livelihoods as cashew production alone provides an income for thousands of farmers in the coastal region.
Boniface Nganga, Operations Manager, Ten Senses, said: "The loan from Shared Interest came at just the right time and has allowed us to expand and improve our business. We are now exporting better quality nuts and the farmers are being paid on time."