New mobile app to boost potato farming

A Nyabihu-based professional Irish potatoes farmer stands in her plantation. Farmers said getting access to financial services will boost their welfare. Régis Umurengezi

Nine banks and other financial institutions in the country will, effective next planting season, start issuing various financial services to Irish potato cooperatives through a new mobile telephone platform.

Dubbed ‘Mpuzanunguke Kirayi’, the platform will among other utilities, help farmers carry out various bank transactions on their telephones, including applying for loans without necessarily leaving their farms.

It will also help farmers record their produce on a seasonal or daily basis which will then allow financial institutions to trace the farmer’s financial capacity when applying for a loan.

The platform has been successfully tested by Irish potato farmers, banks and financial institutions in the last eight months

In a workshop that took place in Musanze District on Tuesday, stakeholders as well as the Ministry of Trade and Commerce (MINICOM) agreed to begin exploiting the technology in the 2020 agricultural season ‘A’ that is scheduled to kick off in the next three months.

Officials from KCB Bank Rwanda, one of the stakeholders, said they were ready to offer a wide range of affordable services to farmers through the platform so as to boost agriculture.

“Farmers from their respective rural areas are now able to use their simple phones to open bank accounts on which they can deposit and withdraw money instantly,” noted Speciose Mukarukaka, a partnership officer for KCB Bank Rwanda.

 She added that they will also be able to borrow money which can be paid at the end of planting season.

The farmers were advised to use the platform effectively by carrying out regular transactions on their accounts as much as they can so as to boost their creditworthiness.

 “Before guaranteeing a loan to a client, the bank checks their capacity to pay back, and this is determined by analysing the transactions,” advised Damien Rutegeranya, the manager of Duterimbere Microfinance in Musanze and Rubavu districts.

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

“We find it important, our cooperative has already opened an account and we always make sure we record our produce through the platform and carry out some transactions so that we will be guaranteed a loan in this coming season,” said Charles Uwamungu, the  president of one of the Irish potato farmer cooperatives in Musanze.

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

The technology is under ‘Irish Potato Value Chain Financing (IPoVaF)’ project under Spark Ignites Rwanda, the project operates Musanze, Burera, Nyabihu and Rubavu.

Figures from IPoVaF indicate that 4,088 farmers from 64 farmer cooperatives have been using the platform in the last eight months while a total of 25,801,646 kilogrammes, worth Rwf3.9 billion, have been recorded through the platform.