The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO-Rwanda) in partnership with the Ministry for Agriculture and Animal Resources has launched yesterday the “Agricultural Services and Digital Inclusion in Africa” project that is coordinated by FAO division of the information and technology.
The project intends to boost ICT for agriculture through the use of application that will benefit farmers through rapid digital information in improving agriculture services and will be piloted in Rwanda and Senegal.
For Rwanda’s part, it will begin in Rulindo district as test area because of its geographical position, high rates of stunting and the population who are small farmers and to leverage and strengthening ongoing FAO project activities in the region.
The project aims to facilitate access to agricultural information and advisory services to more than 40,000 producers and thousands of rural youth and women.
“The implementation of this project will be achieved through the creation of a framework of partnerships with Ministries and institutions, civil society organizations and local businesses for the development of web and mobile solutions adapted to the Rwandan contexts with the involvement of young entrepreneurs and developers,” said Mr. Attaher Maiga, FAO Representative to Rwanda.
“I strongly hope that once these solutions have been developed and adapted to the needs of the local population, all the project’s stakeholders will together contribute to reducing inequalities, poverty and lack of information from producers, young men and women, not only in Rwanda but through Africa,” added Maiga.
Over the last 15 years, the internet and information and communication technology (ICT) services have increased considerably. The number of internet users worldwide reached 3.4 billion or 46%of the world population.
By 2015, 89% of the world’s urban population and 29% of the world’s rural population had access to 3G coverage.
In Sub-Saharan Africa, it is estimated that the utilization rate of 3G will reach 38% in 2020, in other words, 20 percent more than in 2015.
According to Maiga, the project will bring technological solutions closer to the needs of the poorest households in Africa and in relation to the sustainable development goals (SDGs) by contributing to poverty reduction, food security and nutrition.
The development of applications in the first phase of the project will be organized around four themes which are animal health and feed, weather and climate adaption services, nutrition and Agricultural market.
Maiga said that these applications will essentially facilitate access to real-time information in the agricultural market by connecting producers to consumers, disseminate information on animal health and feed, disseminate information on weather and crop calendar and provide nutritional information on the production, conservation and consumption of food.
Jean Claude Kayisinga, Permanent Secretary in MINAGRI said that the project comes to strengthen the national program to use ICT in agriculture and assured that the four applications of the project will help farmers get real time information.
“We need to look on how to strengthen our five year ‘ICT for Ag’ program intends to reduce poverty from 30 percent to less than this number. These applications will enable us give real time climate change information to farmers in ten day-period. We target to help a farmer to increase the production,” said Kayisinga.
The information will be disseminated through mobile phones in audio and written forms as for the smart phone use and all farmers will have access.
“We are really supporting any initiative making value of the infrastructure that was deployed and all the facilitation put in place to leverage on the capability of ICT to improve on rise but also on the way business is done in Rwanda. This is part of ICT for Ag strategy as approved by the cabinet last year in line with the smart Rwanda master plan implementation which is the new strategy of five years to implement ICT in Rwanda,” said Josephine Nyiranzeyimana, Acting Director General of ICT in the Ministry of youth and ICT.
“We really hope to have this strategy implemented and improve the way agriculture is being done in Rwanda,” added Nyiranzeyimana.
“Farmers had not access to information especially for new prices. I expect that farmers will be able to get price information from various markets to avoid losses caused by middlemen. We will also manage to select short-term seeds due to real-time climate service information with this project,” said Joseph Gafaranga, Rwanda Farmers Organization Secretary General.
According to Dr. Cezar Alvarez Santos, Senior IT/FAO Rome and Technical Lead of the project, the real implementation will start from December as the applications are still in designing progress.
By Elias Hakizimana