Everything Samwel has done with Smart Shamba has been with the aim of supporting the community he is from. He comes from an area of Kenya, which is mostly very dry and so he knows from personal experience how this kind of climate affects the local population. Drought affects people’s access to food and the production of food. The chain reaction to drought can lead to situations such as kids missing school. It has broad effects that are both immediate and long-term.
Samwel himself was lucky enough to go to school and college, where he studied agriculture. He realized that a large part of the problem is governmental neglect and inadequate government policy. In 2018, he decided to do something for his own community and started brainstorming ideas related to agriculture with his fellow students. They particularly concerned themselves with the question of how to provide an all-year supply of food – and this is how Smart Shamba was born.
Smart Shamba aims to enable young people to relearn how to farm. There are simple things that can be done to alleviate the problems caused by droughts, such as accessing water from drains, but it all requires clear instructions and follow-through, and this is Smart Shamba’s focus. The social business has two founders, one of which is Samwel, and a total management team of four. They have so far been able to carry out training that has affected 500 households; more than 70% of those in training have been women. They are hoping to scale up this model quickly as their use of technology allows them to make it accessible: they have developed adult learning tools, which are user-friendly for people with low literacy levels.
However, Samwel and his team have found that one of the biggest challenges is to change the culture. Most people in the area they have been working with are used to farming livestock, so convincing them to change to crops is no easy feat. Behavioral change is tough, and Smart Shamba is forced to be the change.
Samwel talks a lot about the impact of COVID on his local community. The travel restrictions affected the social business and its beneficiaries a lot – but they were able to regroup and turn to digital. Thanks to this, they are now able to offer the training online, which helps with reaching a broader range of people. They are optimistic they can accelerate and scale the business soon, and branch out properly into other areas, one of which is solar panels, which is something they have already begun working on.
The Y&Y Fellowship has been a fantastic experience for Samwel and his Smart Shamba team. Overall it has helped the social business get closer to a sustainable level, and the mentors have helped in areas that were perhaps underdeveloped within the structures of Smart Shamba until now. Thanks to Samwel, and his perseverance, the arid region he comes from in Kenya can expect good changes to happen in the near future.