A new digital platform is set to revolutionize how farmers get their goods to market in East Africa.

2KUZE, which means “Let’s Grow Together” in Swahili, is a mobile-to-mobile platform that will help farmers in Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania find buyers and streamline the system of selling produce.

2KUZE was developed at Mastercard’s Nairobi Labs for Financial Inclusion with funding from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the world’s largest private charitable foundation. The platform is aimed at small-plot farmers who have one or two acres of land. Mastercard is a New York-based financial services corporation.

East Africa is at the forefront of mobile phone adoption and mobile money transfers, with almost 70 percent of the population owning a mobile phone.

“We believe that by using mobile, a technology that is so ubiquitous among farmers in Africa, we can improve financial access, bring in operational efficiency and facilitate faster payments,” said Daniel Monehin, division president for sub-Saharan Africa at Mastercard.

Currently, small farmers have to take their goods to a market to find buyers. Since they don’t have broad networks, they often are forced to settle for whatever price is offered to them and cannot negotiate.

Mastercard hopes to fix this situation by creating a digital market for small producers.

Here is a step-by-step look at how 2KUZE works:

    1. A 2KUZE agent registers farmers and buyers.
    2. Buyers post orders for produce on 2KUZE.
    3. Farmers receive the orders via text message.
    4. Farmers can agree to provide all or part of the order by replying to the text.
    5. A 2KUZE agent collects the produce from the farmer and takes it to the buyer.
    6. The buyer pays for the produce with a mobile money transfer, a bank transfer or cash.

Because 2KUZE gives farmers access to more buyers, they can get better prices.

2KUZE will allow farmers to spend less time traveling to and from markets. This is especially important for women farmers, Mastercard says, because they often cannot take the time to travel from their farms due to family responsibilities.

By adopting 2KUZE, Mastercard says, farmers also will be able to get loans and better interest rates from banks. Traditionally, selling produce is a cash deal that leaves no record of the transaction. With 2KUZE there will be a digital paper trail that will enable farmers to establish creditworthiness.

The project is being launched to 2,000 small farmers in Kenya in collaboration with Cafédirect Producers’ Foundation, a nonprofit that works with small farmers. Mastercard intends to expand to the rest of East Africa.