New tech app to boost national agric targets

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Dr. Cezar Alvarez Santos Senior IT FAO Rome and Technical Lead of the Project speaks at the meeting as FAO Representative in Rwanda, Attaher Maiga (L) looks on. / Timothy Kisambira

A NEW information and communication technology-leaning project has been rolled out in the framework of improving the resilience of smallholder farmers in the country.

Smallholder farmers are considered the backbone of the country’s agriculture and feed millions through getting reliable and timely information and knowledge.

The project called “Agricultural Services and Digital Inclusion in Rwanda” was developed by the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), in conjunction with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources and the Ministry of Youth and ICT.

It was launched yesterday in Kigali.

The project is planned for four mobile applications; ‘Cure and feed your livestock,’ ‘eNtrifood,’ ‘Weather and crop calendar,’ and ‘AgriMarketplace,’ all of which will be developed by Rwandan software developers.

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Participants follow proceedings during the meeting. / Timothy Kisambira

Officials say the plan is to expand the scope of the project for use in other countries as well.

The applications will be organised around four themes mainly on animal health and feed, weather and climate change adaptation services, nutrition and agricultural market.

Bridging information gap

Lack of access to essential information in the agriculture and livestock sectors has been costing farmers a lot as they fall victim to climate change effects resulting in crop failure, low income owing to low produce prices, says Joseph Gafaranga, a farmer.

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Gafaranga says ICT is crucial to farmers. / Courtesy

Gafaranga, who is also the secretary-general of Imbaraga Rwanda Farmers Organisation, said inadequate information on food prices and market links results into low earnings not commensurate to their investments.

Urugaga Imbaraga works in about 25 districts of the country and it grows mainly Irish potatoes, maize and beans.

“A farmer [from Northern Province] currently gets about Rwf200 per kilogramme of Irish potatoes, yet a kilogramme is sold at between Rwf300 and Rwf350 in Kigali. With transport cost per a kilogramme at about Rwf25, so, you realise that there are middlemen reaping off farmers,” he said.

If well implemented, Gafaranga noted, the project will allow farmers access information on seeds for the right crops to grow following given weather patterns.

“During insufficient rain season, a farmer can grow beans or Irish potatoes that can take a shorter time to mature instead of crops that take longer, he said.

The project will be piloted in Rwanda and Senegal and later scaled up in other countries.

Holistic approach to help farmers

Thanks to the new application, farmers will be enabled to access information on various agricultural services, including seeds for crop varieties (that can be resilient to climate change) or nutrients to feed their crops and access to climatic information from Rwanda Metrology Agency.

Again, they can get information on how to treat livestock diseases based on the symptoms or the application will link them to a competent veterinarian in their locality who can help them. The app will have a database of veterinary services.

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Xavier Baributsa,a farmer in Nyakariro sector Rwamagana in his green house of tomatoes. / Timothy Kisambira

FAO country representative Attaher Maiga said the application will be using a language that local farmers understand, explaining that it will also have voice and text format options.

The Permanent Secretary at the Ministry of Agriculture, Jean-Claude Kayisinga, said the project will advance ICT in agricultural transformation to boost production using timely information.

However, Maiga noted that the impact of technology is not entirely positive due to low internet uptake.

“Bringing technological solutions closer to the needs of the poorest households in Africa in relation to the Sustainable Development Goals is FAO’s direct contribution to poverty reduction, food security and nutrition,” Maiga said.

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