HOW WE WORK
In October 2014, Juhudi Kilimo launched Juhudi Labs (JL), a program dedicated to finding, testing and scaling new products, technologies and processes.
Juhudi Labs’ goal is to improve Juhudi Kilimo’s business and offer new services that benefit rural smallholder farmers. We also provide support to companies serving Kenya’s rural smallholder farmers. Juhudi Labs currently comprises four programs: the Financial Product Program, the Clean Energy Program, the Startup Residency Program, and the Field Research Program. The underlying assumption of our Juhudi Labs programs is that the products and services they develop are relevant and beneficial to smallholder farmers, helping farming businesses grow and creating a positive impact in farmers’ lives and communities.
CHALLENGES AND SOLUTIONS
Kenya’s seven million rural smallholder farmers face many problems, including lack of information about effective farming techniques and market trends, poor access to markets, inefficient transportation and supply chains, low quality inputs, soil degradation, lack of access to credit and insurance, unaffordable or unclean energy supply, and increasing negative effects of climate change. Juhudi Labs takes a holistic approach to problem definition, working with various agriculture ecosystem and value chain partners to address several of these challenges. Akin to a research and development or venturing unit, Juhudi Labs discovers, tests and scales new agricultural and financial products, services, technologies and processes. Juhudi Labs differs significantly from the traditional accelerator or incubator, which typically consists of scheduled intake periods, participant cohorts, and time-bound inputs, such as training, mentorship and business development support. By contrast, our long-term, context-specific method offers agriculture sector entrepreneurs both the supportive learning environment and the practical market experience they need to achieve growth and enduring success.
Assuming that Juhudi Labs partners will have full access to Juhudi Kilimo’s client base, the initial potential number of beneficiary farmers per Labs partner is at least 30,000 farmers, or about 150,000 persons at the household level. The number of accessible farmer clients is expected to increase in accordance with Juhudi Kilimo’s growth. Further, Juhudi Labs partner companies will acquire and serve their own clients, in addition to those available through Juhudi Kilimo. These non-Juhudi Kilimo beneficiary numbers will be determined by the targets and operations of each partner company, but will contribute to the overall impact of Juhudi Labs. The support Juhudi Labs provides to ecosystem partners will also have a leverage effect in auxiliary value chains, such as transportation, construction and energy, which are closely related to agriculture. We believe our approach of enabling and facilitating innovation throughout the agriculture value chain can attain more pervasive and sustained impact than is seen in conventional business incubation and innovation models.
Since its launch in October 2014, we have published a Juhudi Labs webpage, including program descriptions, application instructions, FAQs, a blog, and an online application form for prospective partners. Juhudi Labs also began working with Village Capital on the Innovations for Agriculture program, which identified 8 start-ups for potential Labs partnerships following the closure of the 3-month accelerator program.
As part of the program, we are designing and testing new loan products, piloting loans that do not require co-guarantorship, developing more detailed and effective credit appraisal and risk management tools, and exploring innovative financial products, such as weather-based index insurance. We aim to integrate successful new products and solutions into our core portfolio, making them widely available to our growing client base.[/us_testimonial][us_testimonial author=”Clean Energy Program” company=””]The Clean Energy Program began as a pilot project to supply solar lights to our farmer clients on attractive credit terms, often as supplementary “top-ups” to their main asset loans from Juhudi. Observing the appetite for clean energy products amongst our clients, we have intensified our efforts by forming a clean energy lending partnership with Micro Energy Credits (MEC), a Gold Standard Certified social enterprise.
Under the partnership, we are ramping up the provision of high-performing solar lamps, cookstoves and biogas digesters through credit financing and top-up loans to rural farmers. Carbon credits are measured using MEC’s Tracker software and revenues from their sale will be redirected into the program, to help us expand the product range and reach more farmers.[/us_testimonial][us_testimonial author=”Startup Residency Program” company=””]The Startup Residency Program emerged from our desire to foster and support innovation in agriculture. Kenyan smallholder farmers often lack information about commodity prices and market trends, have poor access to markets, must deal with inefficient supply chains and low quality inputs, and suffer from increasing negative effects of climate change.
Acknowledging that we cannot not work directly on all of these challenges, we have chosen to support local entrepreneurs who are tackling them through their own agribusiness products and services. Collaborating with other social enterprises, we encourage growth in the agribusiness value chain and help create a more secure and supportive environment for entrepreneurship and innovation by businesses who, like us, are dedicated to serving Kenya’s smallholder farmers.[/us_testimonial][us_testimonial author=”Field Research Program” company=””]The Field Research Program was set up so we could work with research and policy institutions to study and test poverty alleviation methods. Under this program, we facilitate and support rigorous, evidence-based field studies conducted with our rural farmer client base. We are especially interested in agricultural and financial research themes, as well as social impact measurement.
Past and current research projects include studies on effective methods for training rural farmers, farm yield and productivity measurements, and a study on how SMS communication affects the repayment and saving behaviour of borrowers.
We use a slightly different selection approach for Field Research Program partners, and encourage you to contact us directly if your institution is interested in becoming one.[/us_testimonial]
Juhudi Labs seeks applications from startups, small/medium enterprises and companies that:
- are legally licensed to do business in Kenya
- operate in the agriculture sector, serving rural smallholder farmers or providing business-to-business services along the agriculture value chain
- are introducing new or proven financial products/services for smallholder farmers or agribusinesses
- are introducing new or proven clean energy products/services for smallholder farmers or agribusinesses
- are introducing new or proven agricultural products/services for smallholder farmers or agribusinesses