Why it’s crucial to digitalize the agriculture sector 

Why it’s crucial to digitalize the agriculture sector 

Digital technology has significantly affected every sector of the economy and agriculture is no exceptional. 

In Uganda the agricultural sector is the least digitalized sector in the country and the limited adoption of technology, innovations and mechanization across the value-chain continues to undermine the competitiveness of the sector thus reducing its productivity and contribution to the economy.  

Recently, we participated at the 28th National Agricultural show in Jinja organized by the Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE) in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries. During the show we spotlighted our Digital Doors Program to the public and held stakeholder conversations on how farmers, corporative, agents, financial institutions and innovators can leverage the program through the digital rails and the “Community Pass” platform to improve the livelihood in remote communities.  

Held under the theme “Fostering Resilient Commercial Agriculture for Agro-Industrialization & Wealth Creation” the show focused on encouraging farmers and players in sectors to adopt digitalization and emphasized on the use of technology to increase productivity, improve the household income and livelihood among farmers, and driveways farmers to actively contribute towards the socio-economic growth of the country.  

While officiating the launch of the show, the minister of State for Animal Industry, Hon. Lt. Col (Rtd) Bright Rwamirama urged stakeholders across the agricultural value chain to adopt scientific technologies and digital innovations to improve the country’s food security, increase import substitution, value addition and mitigate climate change.  

“With support from the Ministry of ICT and National Guidance, we have created a digital program that trains and equips farmers with digital tools that will better production, access to sustainable market linkages and include smallholder farmers into the digital and money economy. We believe these interventions will increase their household income, improve their quality of living and eradicate poverty among farmers” Rwamirama said. 

He added, “Through programs like the Parish Development Model, we will mobilize and sensitize stakeholders at grassroot level across the agriculture value-chain on how to access ICT infrastructure, affordable credit solutions and enable them produce substitute products that have a high-impact value addition. Together with National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO), we continued to provide farmers with improved seedlings, pesticides and conduct fertility & pests soil testing to ensure that our produces are of high quality and quantity and can be exported. 

According to the report on the ‘Status of digital agriculture in 47 Sub-Saharan African countries’ by FAO, the Digital Uganda Vision that guides the country’s ICT development and implementation aims at empowering citizens and achieving “Universal inclusion, sustainable development, economic progress and poverty eradication through digital innovation” (Ministry of ICT & National Guidance). The Uganda National Development Plan III (NDP III) is currently under development and continues to increase ICT penetration and services within the country through the Digital Transformation Programme, as well as leveraging advancements in the ICT sector.  

This agenda is directly in line with our “Digital Doors” program that seeks to provide digital infrastructure, skills and tools to digitalize a number of sectors including the agricultural sector across its value-chain right from the data collection process, farming, buying, input provision to exportation.  

Speaking about the program, Saul Weikama, the Digital Economy Practice Lead at the Innovation Village said, the Digital Doors program is part of our Digital Economy practice aimed at broadening and championing the global digital transformation initiative to accelerate economic growth and job creation.  

Weikama added, “Together with our partners, the program will provide a technology platform for innovators and MSMEs to leverage on and create digital services and solutions for remote communities that have been traditionally excluded from formal commerce to tap into the digital footprint to manage their data, production processes, connect with wider market and manage transactions.  

“By leveraging on the shared digital infrastructure created by Community Pass, the program will enable the creation of innovative solutions that will bring critical financial and related services closer to communities. Also, the platform will enable innovators expand their access and reach, reduce costs, and realize new revenue opportunities.”  

Rachel Bale Head of Products at Mastercard said, further noted, the Community Pass platform will create linkages between farmers, cooperatives & buyers. This will enable them collect, aggregate and upload information onto one integrated platform so that farmers can access more finances and get paid faster.” 

“Today, we see tech companies trying to reach farmers individually which has created duplication of data and increased the operational business costs. Through the features embedded within Community Pass, we will aggregate these companies into a shared platform to strengthen their capacity to become resilient and efficient” Bale added.  

Kenneth Oburu, the Portfolio Manager at Axiom Zorn, an AgTech data service provider emphasized that its crucial for farmers to plug into digital innovations to grow beyond their physical reach, build a strong credit score database that they can leverage on their portfolio to access financial services, new market linkages and business development opportunities.  

“Through our Digital Agriculture Reference Bureau platform, we bring together isolated production activities of smallholder farmers, businesses of agro dealers and SMEs to access low interest loans, provide certification for quality and safety control, and source suitable insurance policies for their produce to mitigate risk in losses. This has helped eliminate most of the conventional bottlenecks initially faced by farmers”  

“This platform has enabled us to digitize and synchronize the database of over 385,000 farmers and 2,700 Agro-SMEs. The data will be processed and used to meet the various needs of farmers and partners in the value chain. For instance, financial Institutions can access the credit worthiness of a farmer, insurers get to know how many farmers are up for insurance over a known size of land while project implementers can easily select farmers and value chain of their choice to deal with. Oburu added, 

Transforming of the agriculture sector through digitalization is a global priority to meeting the challenges of food and nutrition insecurity, youth unemployment, climate change ad overall economic growth. Therefore, in youth entrepreneurship, it is imperative to foster a breed of young ICT ‘agripreneurs’ while supporting digital platforms to drive greater inclusion especially women entrepreneurs in the agricultural value chain.  

In Uganda, the Digital Doors program will be a game changer in boosting productivity, promoting financial inclusion and driving sustainable growth in within our communities.