The government through Rwanda Development Board (RDB) wants an intensive application of Information Communication and Technology (ICT) in the agriculture sector.
This is aimed at improving the sector to yields better results for economic development.
Agriculture has in the last 10 years contributed to the Rwanda’s economy quite significantly. Last year alone, the sector contributed 37.4 percent to Rwanda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Information from the National Bank of Rwanda (BNR) also shows that its good performance boosted the GDP from 7.9 percent in 2007 to 11.2 percent last year.
Additionally, agriculture sector also employs about 80 percent of the Rwandan population.
Nkubito Bakuramutsa, the Deputy Chief Executive Officer of RDB/RITA, said that the intensive application of ICT in the agriculture sector is well under the Vision 2020 as Rwanda strives to become a middle income economy.
The agriculture policy under the Vision 2020 stipulates the need to intensify and the transform the sector’s subsistence status into a market oriented one.
Therefore for Rwanda to achieve its economic development targets embedded in Vision 2020, Bakuramutsa cautioned that the agricultural sector must at least grow at a rate of 5.04 to 8.7 percent.
“However, this requires transformative actions and policies within the agricultural sector to provide for an ecologically, economically and socially sustainable Rwandan future,” he stressed.
Adding; “Intensive ICT in the farming would improve efficiency and productivity, which would ensure food security, generate rural employment and contribute to economic growth.”
In order to streamline these efforts to develop the agriculture sector, stakeholders from both sectors (ICT and agriculture) convened in a day workshop last week at hotel La Palisse, Nyandungu. This was to create a common ground of knowledge, opportunities and constraints concerning the introduction of ICT in the sector.
The meeting was the first of its kind in the country following reports that there is low embracement of ICT in the sector, proven crucial towards the economic development.
The Minister of Agriculture, Christopher Bazivamo however said that despite the determination to create the right atmosphere for applying ICT, there is need to invest in capacity building and other technological related trainings.
“If this is done, rural areas can be fully integrated into the productive economy, as opposed to its current status of substance status,” he explained.
Despite the call, studies indicate that several initiatives are being carried out by the government, development partners and the private sector to improve agricultural production in the country.
For instance, government has established several management and information systems to the agricultural sector. One of the systems known as e-soko supports farmers, through a mobile or website to access the prices of crops all around the country.
This has been boosted by the increasing penetration of mobile phones in the rural Rwanda. MTN-Rwanda has the widest coverage while Rwandatel is also rolling out in different part of the country.
The entry of the third operator is expected to further increase penetration as government targets 6 million subscribers of its 10 million people by 2012.
Government is also installing telecentres across the country as part of its e-governance project for developing the use of ICT in public service delivery.
These telecentres are equipped with touch screen computers and printers where service seekers can access public information, check e-mail and surf the Web.