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TECH BREAK: A digital innovation to streamline food aid delivery

Monday May 25 2020
TechPic

Lorna Sempele and Joshua Nderi explain how M-Riziki works to the media during the launch. PHOTO| COURTESY

By HILARY KIMUYU

The much-publicized scramble for relief food by residents of Nairobi’s Kibera slums in April shed light on the magnitude of hunger facing the low-income populations due to Covid-19 disruptions.

Kajiado County over the weekend launched M-Riziki, a mobile and web-enabled system that brings together shopkeepers, beneficiaries, and financiers capable of reaching over 30,000 families in record time.

The innovative system dubbed M-Riziki was launched at Ngong town by Governor Joseph ole Lenku.

The governor said the app will help vulnerable poor people receive a pin sent to their phones to be able to access food from a pre-selected shopkeeper.

The app is designed by Empiris Creative Communication and Fashionnaire Corporation Ltd.

The system, already adopted by the county to distribute relief food was developed in less than two months.

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A few days after the Kibera slums incident, Lorna Sempele who runs a communication consultancy agency, Empiris Creative, partnered with a software developer Joshua Nderi from Fashionnaire Corporation, to come up with the innovation.

The digital innovation which the duo have already patented facilitates beneficiaries’ access to relief food.

AT OWN CONVENIENCE

They collect the package at their own convenience and from the nearest pre-selected shop.

The duo enters into the system data on beneficiaries identified by the financier. It is the information they use to prompt the beneficiary through a short message sent to their mobile phones, on where to collect the food and its cost.

Sempele says the dignity of the beneficiaries is safeguarded since the system excludes gathering or queuing for the commodity.

Nderi, the system’s developer assured of the security of the system, stating that its features are tamper-proof.

With the system, financiers deposit the money to buy the food to a bank account linked with the mobile money transfer platform, M-Pesa.

The shopkeepers are later paid through the M-pesa upon proofing the dispatch with receipts. Nderi said this is to ensure transparency and accountability of the entire process.

“We collect receipts to prove that the beneficiaries did indeed collect the food because every beneficiary gets a unique number through an SMS,” said Nderi.

According to Nderi, once that number expires, the system automatically bills them on behalf of the shopkeeper.

“So, we have to get the receipts as evidence and that is what we will present to the financier,” he added.

Nderi is optimistic that digital innovation would be adopted by humanitarian agencies that provide food aid to communities affected by climatic shocks like droughts.

The digital food distribution comes as dozens of residents in the county go hungry following prolonged drought coupled with effects of the coronavirus pandemic.

“A large number of people in rural areas cannot afford to put food on the table, let alone afford facial masks and that’s why we are working to assist them,” said Lenku.

Most affected areas are Mailua (Kajiado Central), Torosei (Kajiado West), and Ilkilunyeti in Kajiado East Sub-county.

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