John Oroko, a Kenyan social entrepreneur whose company is connecting smallholder farmers across Africa with global supply chains, has won the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Innovation Award for Sustainable Development. The awards seek to showcase impactful innovations and forward-looking solutions that help countries advance the Commonwealth Charter values.
Oroko, the Co-Founder of Selina Wamucii, received the recognition for the work his innovative company is doing in integrating smallholder farmers, pastoralists and fishing communities into global supply chains.
The award was presented by Commonwealth Secretary-General, RT Hon Patricia Scotland and the The Vice-President of Seychelles Vincent Meriton in the Seychellois Island of Mahe.
The award ceremony event was held during the opening day of the Commonwealth Africa Innovation Ecosystem Workshop. Speaking at the award ceremony, Oroko said that the award would go a long way in building the necessary momentum for transforming agricultural value chains across Africa.
“As challenging as our innovation journey has been, this award and recognition gives us much appreciated motivation to continue being at the forefront of agricultural innovation across Africa,” Oroko explained.
“I believe we have the best opportunity to transform Africa’s agricultural value chains while passing the benefits of an efficient chain to producer communities across the continent,” he said.
Since co-founding the company in June 2015, he has managed to enlist over 7,000 farmers across the country who grow high value food among them fruits, vegetables, fish, seafood, spices and other agro commodities which find their way across markets in Middle East, Asia, Africa and Europe.
To become part of the network, farmers sign up to join Selina through their mobile phones via USSD. USSD is a communications protocol used by GSM cellular telephones to communicate with the mobile network operator’s computers.
The system captures information relating to the geographical locations of smallholder farmers, what they are producing, the various stages of progress throughout the season, harvest timelines and projections and actual volumes at harvest.
This information makes it easy to estimate expected volumes in a year for different produce, which then enables buyers around the world to plan in advance.
It also streamlines the sourcing process, making it faster and less expensive with a digitized value chain. Buyers on the other hand specify what they want and are guaranteed consistent quality, fair price and volumes. The company has improved farmers ability to meet global market standards such as organic and good agricultural practices.
The company is now looking at having the services offered in local languages for easier communication with farmers. Oroko plans to expand his operations to the rest of the continent with a target of being in every country across East, Southern, Central and North Africa.