By Ambrose Gahene
Agriculture remains Uganda’s main economic driver, but widespread use of new and disruptive technologies can quicken the transition from subsistence to commercial farming necessary to increase incomes.
The Minister for Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries, Vincent Ssempija said on Tuesday: “To ensure all these technologies work to strengthen our agricultural sector and improve its resilience, we must also ensure they reach Uganda’s farmers. We need to expedite the coverage of these disruptive technologies to the smallholder farmers with proper training and support to be able to use them.”
Ssempija was officially opening the Disruptive Agricultural Technology (DAT) Challenge and Conference in Kampala jointly organised by the World Bank and the ministry. Winners of the best innovative technologies aimed at improving farmers’ productivity and efficiency were also announced during the conference held at Speke Resort Munyonyo.
DATs are defined as digital innovations that enable farmers and agribusinesses to leapfrog to increase their productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness, facilitate access to markets, improve nutritional outcomes and enhance resilience to climate change. These technologies range from mobile apps to digital identities for farmers to solar applications for agriculture to portable agriculture devices to bio-fortified foods.
Ssempija said, “Agriculture is already a major economic driver, yet there is enormous potential for even more Ugandans to benefit as we increasingly transition from subsistence farming to commercial enterprises. This is precisely why the new and disruptive agricultural technologies that are the focus of this event are so vital. They promise to accelerate the transformation of the sector.”
The Guest of honor Hon Frank Tumwebaze speaking at the Munyoyno assured the innovators that Government is full support of internet penetration and digitalization of Business “Affordability is no longer a question in the access of Broadband internet. The Uganda government has recognized broad band as an important infrastructure.”
The first component the government’s Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP) leads off with intensification of farm production for maize, beans, rice, cassava and coffee, in 42 districts grouped into 12 clusters across Uganda.
Complementing these efforts is the Innovation Challenge designed to encourage and link DAT solutions to support farmers. Pre-qualified suppliers and those providing advisory services are then designated as Preferred Vendors for the ACDP.
The Challenge winners and first batch of Preferred Vendors were named as M-Cash (Uganda) Limited for its financial inclusion package; M-Omulimisa for best advisory on productivity; AkelloBanker for market linkages and Data Care Uganda for provision of data analytics.
M-Cash offers an integrated e-commerce platform enabling farmers to purchase high quality authentic inputs. Farmers make orders using USSD or mobile app. Farmers collect inputs from the nearest M-Cash agent touch-point.
M-Omulimisa has a mobile and web-based platform that enables farmers toExchange information with extension officers in their local languages for free.Using the mobile based Akello Banker, smallholder farmers can order for farm inputs and implements.
Data Care is an Information Technology (IT) Consultancy firm that provides solutions in software development, data management, customized trainings, business process re-engineering, technology strategies and system audits.
The four emerged out of over 80 applications and also had to go through a one-day Boot camp at the Innovation Village.Antony Thompson, the World Bank Country Manager Uganda said, “The World Bank is proud to have committed more than$13 billion (to date) in project financing in Uganda, including the Agriculture Cluster Development Project.
Disruptive technologies also stand to improve the productivity of agriculture, transforming it into a higher-value sector and providing the potential for quality jobs and higher incomes. For the 12 million young people entering into the workforce in Africa each year, this could all help make farming and food production much more appealing.”
Uganda is the second largest host of DATs in East Africa after Kenya. Investors have largely focused on Kenya, which received 64 per cent of the funding, followed by Uganda (26 per cent), Tanzania (6 per cent) and Rwanda (3 per cent).DATs can make smallholders and especially marginalized farmers more competitive by leveling the playing field.
Even in poorly-connected rural contexts, or with marginalized groups who have lower access to information and markets, sophisticated off-line digital agricultural technologies can provide opportunities to help poor and even illiterate farmers.
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