BK TecHouse has introduced a new technology platform that will increase funding of the agriculture sector and avoid unnecessary financial loss by farmers.
The platform willimprove agricultural productivity by giving lenders assurance that the money they lend will be used exactly for the right purpose, officials at Bank of Kigali’s BK TecHouse say.
The technology dubbed Smart Nkunganire System (SNS) will ensure that farmers comply with recommended best farming practices – such as quality and quantity of agro-inputs – to qualify for the loan; leading to higher quantity and better quality of harvest.
The loans will also be season based with an expiration date in case the farmer does not use it, so that it can be allocated to other investments.
On May 14, 2018, BK TecHouse Ltd together with Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) and the Private Sector Federation (PSF) held a one-day meeting with the public and private institutions in agriculture as well as beneficiaries of the agro-input subsidy program (Farmers & agro-input suppliers, dealers and distributors) to discuss on the use of the system.
In the meeting, all parties agreed to digitise Rwanda’s agro-input, increase efficiency, productivity and transparency while also helping small-scale and large-scale farmers in getting loans and insurances.
Addressing the issue of meager funding to farming sector
In fact, though about 70% of Rwandans live off agriculture activities and contribute to 30% of the GDP, only 7.4% of the total commercial loans were allocated to agriculture (Finscope report 2016).
While addressing parliament on agriculture performance in the country, in April this year, Prime Minister Edouard Ngirente said that among the challenges facing farming sector performance there is low investment from the private sector, and low lending to farming sector.
For instance, the Premier said that in 2017, total lending to the sector accounted for only 5.2 % of all loans given in the country.
“Our concept is to De-Risk Agriculture!” said Regis Rugemanshuro, CEO of BK TecHouse before adding “we will be happy when the total loans allocated to agriculture get to double digits and the agro-input subsidy program is completely a cashless and paperless business, as this should lead to significant social economic positive changes in Rwanda.”
Rugemanshuro explained that the SNS platform powered with a state of the art big data analytics engine will provide financial institutions, telephone companies and insurance companies with the information needed to issue personalised instant loans and crop insurances with the guarantee that the money disbursed through the platform can only be used to buy fertilizers, improved seeds, pesticides, mechanization and Small-Scale Irrigation Technology (SSIT).
The SNS platform will also facilitate “contract farming” by linking farmers and post-harvest aggregators to buy from the farmers or cooperatives at harvest.
On the other side, Rwanda Agriculture Board (RAB) pledged to make sure that famers get genuine seeds, fertilisers, and irrigation equipment while PSF will link up agro-dealers, cooperatives or other possible markets to farmers.
“This will also help PSF create more opportunities and value for its members in the agriculture sector said Christine Murebwayire, chairperson of chamber of agriculture and livestock at PSF.
According to Gatari Egide, the agriculture input subsidies program manager at RAB, 2 million farmers are expected to have registered before the July 2018.
How the system works
To use the system, a farmer has to start by dialing *774# on mobile phone or computer using a national identity card number and be guided through the process. The farmer also needs to know the Uniform Parcel Identifier (UPI) number of the land used for farming activities.
Over 19,000 facilitators have been trained across the country to support this process. Based on pre-set configuration by RAB, the system will recommend the appropriate agro-inputs needed and the quantity to be applied based on the size of the land used for agriculture as well as the location of the land.
After registration and validation, the farmer will know the specific type of seeds and fertilizer to use and how much it will cost him/her at a subsidized price, allowing the government to also know how much it will need to cover the subsidies and an overall view of the full picture at the country level and down to the village level.
The farmer will be able to apply for a loan to purchase the agro-input they need from financial institutions or telephone companies to be integrated with platform.
Many of the farmers in attendance such as Pascal Ngirente, a fruit grower in Rwamagana District says they believe SNS will address many of the inefficiencies that lead to delays in distribution of fertilisers and will help more farmers access loans to buy recommended agro inputs for increased yields.