At the recent Harvest Money Expo, participants witnessed how Agric-techs support farmers to use mobile phones to transform
COMMENT | DAVID BIRUNGI | Agriculture continues to be a key contributor to the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of various economies across the world. According to the 2020/2021 financial year, agriculture accounted for about 23.7% of Uganda’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and 31% of export earnings.
Drawing an example from Coffee farming which is Uganda’s top-earning export crop, farm-gate prices for Robusta Kiboko according to Uganda Coffee Development Authority (UCDA) averaged Shs1,800 per kilo in 2010 and stand at Shs3,100 per kilo as per the UCDA January 2022 monthly report. This price translates into various economic benefits including; employment and export revenue for the country.
According to a December 2021 Uganda Economic Update 18th Edition report by World Bank, loosening of COVID-19 containment measures and opening of the economy improved domestic demand conditions and private consumption figures grew by over 7 percent in Financial Year 2021 (FY21). This is reflected in the better performance of Uganda’s Purchasing Managers Index for most of FY21, as the business and trading environment improved.
Traditionally, our farmers depended on the weather changes to tell if it was planting or harvesting season, today, weather patterns are available to more farmers using Smartphones through a freely available ACCU weather app that is available on Android devices.
Such new technologies and innovations have created an enabling environment for farmers across the country and around the world to practice modern-day farming methods, where they have access to real-time information on the planting seasons, weather patterns, and crops, among other elements that facilitate a good harvest.
With the digital revolution and appropriate sensitisation of farmers on modern-day farming techniques that are supported by new technologies, it becomes easy to address questions like; what more can be done to boost the performance of Uganda’s Agricultural Sector?
To boost sector performance, our farmers need to integrate technology in their agricultural operations. They now have the opportunity to use of high-tech temperature and moisture sensors, aerial crop irrigation and fumigation equipment, and mobile phone applications for farming, among other modern farming practices.
At the recent Harvest Money Expo in Kampala, participants witnessed how start-ups like EzyAgric, an Agric-tech company that supports farmers to embrace the use of technology through mobile phones can lead to an enormous transformation of the sector. This Agric-tech, through a partnership with Airtel Uganda, enables farmers to have access to useful information on agricultural inputs, market access, insurance options, marketing and weather information among others.
What’s interesting is that the service is accessible to both smartphone and non-smartphone users who can access the firm’s services through a mobile app or USSD for farmers with feature phone users and the service comes with a long and free list of extension workers who are in several districts and can speak English, Lugbara, Lumasaba, Runyakitara and Luganda.
Technology companies that aid communication, connectivity and payment services need to then invest in designing and delivering products and services that support the penetration of smartphones and usage among the farming community, cognizant of the fact that mobile phones are a tool that eases and improve agricultural productivity, increase market access and expand marketing options for rural producers.
In addition, for the smallholder farmers in rural areas, there need for more training through agriculture workshops or seminars that address the skills gap in utilizing and operating some of the technologies. These workshops can be hosted by both the government and licensed private entities that are well versed with the sector so that appropriate knowledge and information is shared.
Overall, for more dividends to be gained in the agriculture sector there is need to constantly harness and implement strategic partnerships that will enable the farmers have access modern and relevant services and information.
David Birungi is Public Relations Manager at Airtel Uganda.