DATs seen as pathway to dynamic agricultural sector
Uganda’s minister for Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries, Vincent Ssempija has advocated for more efficient lab to farm pathways for disruptive technologies if they are to have a more immediate impact on the transition from subsistence to commercial farming.
“To ensure all these technologies work to strengthen our agricultural sector and improve its resilience, we must also ensure they reach Uganda’s farmers. We need to expedite the coverage of these disruptive technologies to the smallholder farmers with proper training and support to be able to use them,” Ssempjja said this week while presiding over the opening of the Disruptive Agricultural Technology (DAT) Challenge and Conference in Kampala.
Winners of the best innovative technologies aimed at improving farmers’ productivity and efficiency were also announced during the conference at Speke Resort Munyonyo that was jointly organised by the World Bank and the agriculture ministry.
DATs are defined as digital innovations that enable farmers and agribusinesses to leapfrog to higher productivity, efficiency, and competitiveness, facilitate access to markets, improve nutritional outcomes and enhance resilience to climate change. These technologies range from mobile apps to digital identities for farmers, to solar applications for agriculture, portable agriculture devices and bio-fortified foods.
“Agriculture is already a major economic driver, yet there is enormous potential for even more Ugandans to benefit as we increasingly transition from subsistence farming to commercial enterprises. This is precisely why the new and disruptive agricultural technologies that are the focus of this event are so vital. They promise to accelerate the transformation of the sector,” Ssempija observed.
Minister for ICT and Guest of honor at the event Hon Frank Tumwebaze pledged government support for innovators better internet penetration to support digitalization of business.
“Affordability is no longer a question in the access of Broadband internet. The Uganda government has recognized broad band as an important infrastructure,” he said.
The first component the government’s Agriculture Cluster Development Project (ACDP) leads off with intensification of farm production for maize, beans, rice, cassava and coffee, in 42 districts grouped into 12 clusters across Uganda.
Complementing these efforts is the Innovation Challenge designed to encourage and link DAT solutions to support farmers. Pre-qualified suppliers and those providing advisory services are then designated as Preferred Vendors for the ACDP.
The Challenge winners and first batch of Preferred Vendors were named as M-Cash (Uganda) Limited for its financial inclusion package; M-Omulimisa for best advisory on productivity; AkelloBanker for market linkages and Data Care Uganda for provision of data analytics.
M-Cash offers an integrated e-commerce platform enabling farmers to purchase high quality authentic inputs. Farmers make orders using USSD or mobile app. Farmers collect inputs from the nearest M-Cash agent touch-point.
M-Omulimisa has a mobile and web-based platform that enables farmers to
Exchange information with extension officers in their local languages for free.
Using the mobile based AkelloBanker, smallholder farmers can order for farm inputs and implements.
Data Care is an Information Technology (IT) Consultancy firm that provides solutions in software development, data management, customized trainings, business process re-engineering, technology strategies and system audits.
The four were selected from more than 80 applications and also had to go through a one-day Bootcamp at the Innovation Village.
Antony Thompson, the World Bank Country Manager Uganda said, the Bank was proud to have “committed more than$13 billion (to date) in project financing in Uganda, including the Agriculture Cluster Development Project.”
Thompson observed that Disruptive technologies also stand to improve the productivity of agriculture, transforming it into a higher-value sector and providing the potential for quality jobs and higher incomes.
“For the 12 million young people entering into the workforce in Africa each year, this could all help make farming and food production much more appealing,” he said.
Uganda is the second largest host of DATs in East Africa after Kenya. Investors have largely focused on Kenya, which received 64pc of the funding, followed by Uganda 26pc, Tanzania 6pc and Rwanda 3pc.
DATs can make smallholders and especially marginalized farmers more competitive by leveling the playing field.
Even in poorly-connected rural contexts, or with marginalized groups who have lower access to information and markets, sophisticated off-line digital agricultural technologies can provide opportunities to help poor and even illiterate farmers.