Minister of ICT and National Guidance, Judith Nabakooba has launched a project by United Nations Capital Development Fund (UNCDF) that seeks to use inclusive digital solutions to boost productivity in the agriculture sector in Northern Uganda and West Nile.
The 5-year program is supported by the Swedish government through the Swedish International Cooperation Agency and over $15m has been invested.
It will benefit underserved communities – women, youths, refugees, migrants – in rural areas of Uganda by building an inclusive digital economy.
The project seeks to solve constraints like access to credit, market information, extension services, advisory services, weather forecast updates in the agricultural sector.
Chris Lukolyo, the Digital Country Lead for UNCDF Uganda explained that the project will also target innovations that leverage digital platforms to assess farmers’ creditworthiness.
He said the innovations will be inclusive, so as to cater for farmers that do not have smartphones or access to the internet. This will include off-line Apps and SSD provisions for feature phones.
“Digital market places allow for easy exchange of information and services. If I am a farmer, and I am onboarded onto a digital market place and I grow maize, I can see who is buying maize and what’s the fair price,” he said.
“As opposed to only relying on the offtaker who comes to my farm and gives me a take-it-or-leave-it offer”.
Speaking at the launch, ICT Minister, Judith Nabakooba noted that leveraging technology will deliver economic benefits and transform agriculture which has traditionally been rudimentary.
“Driving the use of technology to increase productivity in agriculture, is one of the objectives of the digital transformation agenda of the National Development Plan III,” she said, adding that the Ministry has worked with UNCDF and the National Planning Authority to mainstream ICT into all programs of the NDPIII.
“Digital transformation in this sector does not only benefit the farmers. It also impacts the food security of millions of Ugandans”.
Using tech solutions in the agricultural sector will be critical in attracting the youth to agriculture, she said.
Nabakooba said the launch comes at the time when the world is depending on digital technology to continue operations amid the Covid pandemic.
The Ministry of ICT has invested in ICT infrastructure by extending the National Backbone Infrastructure (NBI) to remote parts of Uganda.
Agriculture contributes 21 percent to Uganda’s GDP. However, statistics indicate that 83 percent of the farmers are small holder farmers who produce for consumption. There has been a longstanding push by economists to transform subsistence farmers into commercial farmers.
Sserubiri Uhuru, the CEO of Cabratech said that through their platform (Kilimo, a toll free call centre for farmers), farmers get information on weather forecasts, market data, pests and diseases.
He said digitization will help bridge the gaps in agriculture extension services. He said the current number of extension workers (3,800 in Uganda) is still very low compared to the number of farmers.