The Sokoni app was born as a result of a conversation with Watson Lepariyo, who was working as an enumerator on the baseline study for a randomized controlled trial in Samburu County, Kenya. We were discussing the challenges pastoralist face in deciding when to go to market and bargaining once they are there, and hatched an idea for a marketplace app to connect pastoralists with traders directly.

For pastoralists, going to market is a risky venture. At any given time, the nearest market is likely to be several days journey by foot from a pastoralist’s current location. Further, prices vary widely across markets, so pastoralists must decide which market to travel toward and whether to go to the market without knowing the price they will receive for their livestock. If the price is lower than expected, the only option is to wait or travel to another market. The traders who buy the livestock know this, and as a result know they can often drive a hard bargain.

Sokoni provides a platform where pastoralists can post animals for sale and get in touch with traders. The two parties can then negotiate a price and arrange a meeting at at market or elsewhere. We will be testing the Sokoni app in early 2020 thanks to a grant from the Blum Center for Developing Economies. If it is well received by pastoralists and traders, we will then seek a larger grant to study the impact of reduced transaction costs on pastoralists, traders, and the market for livestock.