In Kenya, where many smallholder farmers strive to make ends meet, a technological revolution is unfolding. Hello Tractor, an ag-tech platform, is reshaping the agricultural landscape and empowering rural communities by providing financing for access to tractors for smallholders, who typically cannot afford to own or maintain industrial equipment.
Founded in 2014 and active in Kenya since 2019, Hello Tractor's mission is to connect tractor owners with farmers through an Internet-of-Things digital solution that matches the supply and demand for tractor services.
Booking agents, who are usually farmers, assist other farmers in booking tractor services through the Hello Tractor app. The app also provides agents with an option to become tractor owners via its pay-as-you-go (PAYG) financing model. This innovative system empowers entrepreneurs to become tractor owners, typically requiring just a 5% down payment and a commitment to pre-booked land through the app. Additionally, the app not only monitors and organizes tractor reservations but also offers data-driven insights to enhance tractor distribution and optimize productivity.
The platform can be a game-changer for underserved communities, especially smallholders. It allows them to access and afford industrial farming equipment, drastically increasing agricultural productivity while reducing costs. Smallholder farmers can then plant up to 40 times faster, participate in the digital economy, and experience transformative economic empowerment.
Further, Hello Tractor helps farmers and tractor owners adopt eco-friendly farming practices by training them to enhance soil health and strengthen resilience to environmental challenges. With over 700 tractors and 1,100 booking agents in Kenya, Hello Tractor has connected 360,000 farmers to tractor services, helping them cultivate 690,000 acres. Approximately 18% of the company’s tractors on the platform are in Kenya, representing 7% of all tractors in the country.
One example of the program's transformative potential is Michael Onduru, a smallholder farmer who lives in Kisumu (East Kajulu) near Lake Victoria where he grows vegetables and cereal crops. He explained to UNSGSA Queen Máxima during her October 2023 visit that he began as a booking agent, and thanks to the PAYG financing model, he eventually became a tractor owner. This helped him increase his income and better provide for his family.
Michael's journey exemplifies how digital financial inclusion can enable smallholders to improve farming practices and empower them economically. Not only did Michael become a tractor owner, but he told the Special Advocate that he also became a Climate Smart Agriculture champion, advocating for sustainable and environmentally friendly farming practices in his community.
Hello Tractor's impact goes beyond Kenya's borders to 16 countries in Africa, including Nigeria and Uganda. The platform now serves one million farmers, providing smallholders with access to mechanization services and creating employment opportunities, while also encouraging gender diversity.
Jehiel Oliver, the Founder and CEO of Hello Tractor, is at the helm of this vision. His leadership is driving the positive impact of Hello Tractor's work, including the company’s selection to be part of the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Innovation Accelerator supporting high-impact innovation to help achieve the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger.
Hello Tractor's innovative model highlights the transformative power of technology, financial inclusion, and climate-smart practices for smallholder farmers. The company is striving to scale its impact within Kenya and beyond, overcoming challenges to create a brighter future for rural communities.