By: Christophe Hitayezu
More than 70% of Rwandans are engaged in Agriculture, most of them are illiterate smallholder farmers, a big challenge to the sector in the country.
The country’s mobile telephone penetration level was at 78.7 per cent in 2016, and according to figures of the year 2018, the internet penetration is over 52%.
The increase of digital tools has been an opportunity for other sector including agriculture, to ease service delivery and the increase of productivity.
ICT technologies are providing innovative solutions to different challenges for farmers in Africa. As the world population is projected to reach 9.1 billion by 2050, farmers will need to feed the world without relying on unreliable climate.
Under the project ’’Support to Agricultural Services and Digital Inclusion in Rwanda’’, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), with partners, developed four mobile phone applications that will be used by farmers to access real time information that was not accessible before, to facilitate them take better decision on how to manage their farming activities.
The FAO representative in Rwanda, Gualbert Gbehounou, said all categories of people will benefit with digital technologies, “Most of the time, we underestimate the knowledge of farmers, and we have good example here in Rwanda, we have been monitoring Fall Armyworm with a mobile application, we have different categories of farmers that are able to use simplest mobile phones. They can use SMS and applications that do not require access to the internet,” he said.
“When we talk about farmers nowadays, we target all categories of farmers, and we do have many farmers nowadays that are well educated. The other dimension of the mobile applications is to attract youth to agriculture, educated youth. All categories can use these applications, educated ones that have access to internet, the less educated can still use them offline,” added Mr. Gbehounou.
The country has started engaging youth in Agriculture to build a sustainable and knowledge based farming practices, this has been made possible through youth organizations like RYAF, HoReCo among others, that are implementing a number of projects in different districts, working and transferring knowledge to other farmers in the rural area.
Masimbi Violene, a farmer promoter in Musanze district, said digital tools will be useful in their farming activities, “For example, we used to get weather information from the Radio, but by these tools, we will be able to get such information at any time by our mobile phones. The Apps also contains information that will help us to follow up our crops, and nutritional best practices,” she said.
At the project launch on Tuesday November 3 in Rulindo, the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources, Jean Claude Musabyimana, said undoubtedly that digital inclusion will help to increase the country’s agriculture production. “As farmers, these services will support your effort in agriculture to increase production in quantity and quality,” he told the audience.
The four mobile apps services launched are: Weather and crop calendar; Cure and Feed your livestock; Agri-Market place and E-Nutrifood that are accessible at FAO’s digital apps platform.