Mobile phone platform to enhance access to finance for farmers

An Irish potato farmer using the application on her simple phone in Musanze District. Régis Umurengezi.

A mobile telephone platform designed to link Irish potato farmers with banks and financial institutions has been tested for effectiveness in Musanze District.

Dubbed ‘Mpuzanunguke Kirayi’, the platform also provides Irish potato famers with timely information on various aspects, including data on state of weather, seeds availability as well as market information on produce.

The platform is intended to help Irish potato farmers overcome challenges that generally prevent them from accessing financial services as it interconnects farmers, potato collection centre and banks or financial institutions that work with farmers, according to developers.

The testing intended to ensure that farmers give their inputs about the technology as they had been using it for the last six months during the trial period.

The technology is under ‘Irish Potato Value Chain Financing (IPVF)’ project that is being implemented in Musanze, Burera, Nyabihu and Rubavu – Districts are home to Irish potatoes farming.

The IPVF Project Manager, Jean de Dieu Ndacyayisenga, said the initiative is a response to farmers’ complaints associated with the lack of access financial services, especially bank loans.

“We engaged banks and other financial institutions. They are interested in working with farmers but they disclosed that they lack information about farmers’ day-to-day activities and that is why farmers are, in most cases, denied access to loans,” he said.

Ndacyayisenga however underscored that their technology helps a farmer to record the produce on seasonal or daily basis which allows banks or financial institutions to trace financial capacity of a farmer who applies for a loan.

“Information that is gathered through this platform is crucial as it is the one that financial institutions consider while assessing loan application for a farmer throughout scoring process,” he noted

“Something interesting with the platform is that a farmer is now able to make savings just after their the produce at potato collection centres without necessarily going with money to the bank and this will obviously boost farmers’ development,” added Ndacyayisenga

To register on Mpuzanunguke Kirayi platform, a farmer dials *847# and follows prompts at free of charges.

Some farmers who spoke to The New Times welcomed the technology, saying  it would boost their welfare given the fact that it helps them to gather electronically the requirements that banks ask for in loan application processes.

“We are fond of this technology as it never requires much from a farmer like buying a Smartphone, it never asks airtime as well and it works on whatever phone one uses,” said Hilary Kanyange, president of Twizamure Cooperative .

“This technology came at the right time, it is assisting us (farmers) to record professionally and sustainably the produce that we sell at our potato collection centres that should bring about getting a bank loan with tangible facts,” added Kanyange

Jean Pierre Mpatswenumugabo, an agronomist in Jenda Sector in Nyabihu District, said local officials consider Mpuzanunguke Kirayi platform as a remedy to obstacles that hinder the progress of Irish potato farmers.

He said they will mobilise all farmers to adopt the technology.

So far, over 7000 Irish potato growers from Musanze, Burera, Nyabihu and Rubavu districts have registered on the platform according to officials. However, IPVF envisages reaching out to 50,000 Irish potato farmers in the districts.