New technology to ease distribution of fertilisers

Farmers and suppliers will no longer have to worry over fertiliser supply or application arithmetic thanks to a new mobile phone-based technology, Mfarms Agribusiness Solutions.

Farmers and suppliers will no longer have to worry over fertiliser supply or application arithmetic thanks to a new mobile phone-based technology, Mfarms Agribusiness Solutions.

The Android mobile phone operated application is touted for its accuracy and data recording ability that will ease agro-dealers operations.

Mfarms helps manage the fertiliser supply chain, making it easy for agro-dealers to know the amount of fertilisers to supply each season.

The technology works with MTN Internet network, but one has to have a minimum airtime balance of Rwf100. The Mfarms roll out is supported by United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

Martin Drevon, the director of the International Fertiliser Development Centre and Rwanda’s fertiliser import and distribution system, said the new technology will enable farmers apply the right amount of fertilisers required per hectare, per crop compared to previously, where dealers and farmers were just estimating measurements.

“With this technology, agro-business dealers are also able to record all supplies bought from the distributor, the sales to customers, as well as calculate the remaining stock, at least for each week,” he explained.

Mfarms is already being used in Rubavu, Kayonza, Rwamagana, Nyabihu, Nyagatare and Musanze districts.

The mobile device also has inbuilt software that makes it possible for dealers to plan the quantity of fertilisers needed by farmers each season, according Jeanne Nyaniyanga.

“It is imperative to track the type and quantity of fertilisers needed by farmers, as well as application, especially for mineral fertilisers such as urea and nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium. This can only be achieved when those in supply chain have proper records of fertiliser distribution,” he noted. The device will also help record prices, payments and payment mode.

Egide Gatari, the head of the fertiliser programme inspection team at Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, said the technology will fill the gaps in data collection and improve efficiency in paying farmers’ invoices.

“The ministry subsidises farmers by reimbursing half of the money used to buy fertilisers. Payments are done when we get the voucher records. Therefore, this application will ease the payment process for us,” he explained.

He said there was also need for streamlined system to ensure the private sector suppliers are accountable “because they were entrusted with fertiliser distribution by the Government.

“With Mfarms Mobile, we can now request for and get records on time without going to actual distributor,” Gatari said

How Mfarms works

The Mfarms device is installed in a phone and requires a secret PIN code, which a farmer gets at the time of acquiringe the device. Dealers then enter their invoice numbers, date of invoice, the name of the distributor, the amount of cash paid or credit, if he paid using credit. The dealer then enters the amount of fertilisers bought.  

How the technology has so far changed the dynamics of agro business

Claudine Mushimiimana, an agro-business dealer from Kayonza District, said Mfarms has helped her reduce losses by 50 per cent.

“I am now also able to supply fertilisers to farmers on time since I can easily access my records. It is easy to process the information and submit my report to the agriculture ministry on time,” she noted.

Joseph Habarurema, an agro-dealer and farmer in Rubavu District, said the technology has improved operations.

“I have been able to maximise profits and I am always in position to know how restock is needed, thanks to Mfarms.” 

According to Innocent Musabyimana, the Rwanda Agricultural Board deputy director in charge of agricultural extension, application of fertilisers has since increased from 5kg of inorganic fertiliser usage per hectare to 30kg per hectare and is projected to reach 45kg per hectare.

This will be a great boost as far as increasing food output is concerned, especially after big drops in production last season. Last season, Irish potatoes, sweet potatoes, wheat, yam, fruits and vegetables output dropped during the second season of 2013 compared to the same season in 2012, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources Crop Assessment report for 2013 season B.

Maize production declined by 3 per cent from 166, 649 tonnes in the second season of 2012 to 161,935 tonnes last season and wheat production declined by 18 per cent, from 68,026 tonnes in 2012 to 55,744 tonnes last season, while sweet potato output went down by 2 per cent from 593,517 tonnes in 2012 to 581,132 tonnes.

This situation could change as USAID distributed 47 android mobile phones with Mfarms technology last season and 49 mobile sets this season in its drive to ensure every farmer accesses fertilisers on time to increase land productivity.

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