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Farmers shun digital financing platforms: Experts

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | A lot of farmers are still hesitant to embrace digital transactions even when these present immense opportunities such as accessing credit through mobile money.

Irene Sekamwa Kajoro, a Product Manager of Financial Services Development at the Agricultural Business Initiative says they see a lot of phobias, especially among rural farmers where small changes such as the introduction of a tax, threw off a number from using mobile money services in conducting business.

Acknowledging that farmers are still hesitant, Reagan Mugume, a research analyst at the Economic Policy Research Center (EPRC) said that whereas they are pushing for farmers to go digital, there’s a need to invest in curbing digital fraud, noting that the farmers’ fears are valid considering reports pointing to government’s incapacity to investigate such crimes.

Over the years, he says money lost in cyber-crime has been increasing to 15 billion Shillings by 2021, but when he analyzed to see how much is recovered, it only accounted for 0.05 percent. Even in programmes that are specifically directed to farmers and run by the Ministry of Agriculture such as the World Bank-funded cluster project, there are reports of farmers being defrauded, Mugume says.

The matter came up at the launch of the eleventh edition of the Agricultural Finance Year Book on Wednesday. The newly launched book focuses on how the agriculture sector will recover amidst uncertainty brought about by the pandemic.

Henry Musasizi, the State Minister for Finance in charge of general duties who officiated at the event said there’s still an agriculture financing gap which will only reduce if innovations in financing such as digitalisation are guided by real-time data of how many farmers there are, where they are and their production capacity. He says the financial gap is estimated at 65.1 billion Shillings.

However, the minister notes that they are developing a parish-based information management system which will offer such information that’s important in directing finances towards agriculture.

Meanwhile, Stephen Waiswa, a Technical Specialist in Digital Financial Services at the United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) says they started a campaign in rural areas where they offered farmers loans without collateral security but documented their farming activities in order to track how they progress.

Waiswa says they also offered farmers phones on loan to make digital financial services attractive to them.   Proposing things like tax holidays on devices, these initiatives he says can be replicated elsewhere to make digital agriculture financing attractive.



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