By Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa/Umoja Standard.
Kansanga, Kampala–Uganda: The data company that provides Agri-FinTech solutions codenamed ‘ESUSFARM UGANDA’ has been officially launched in Uganda during the East African Food Security Symposium and Expo 2022 that was convened at International University of East Africa last week.
The platform serves to mine advanced agronomic statistical data from smallholder farmers and use it to foster productivity, market access, and credit access and to link them to the entire agricultural value chain.
Ms. Nompilo Ruth Matsebula, the Customer Success Team Leader at ESUSFARM UGANDA stressed that it has been difficult to locate farmers but when they provide their information digitally, it becomes possible and easier to get insights from smallholder farmers.
Ms. Nompilo Ruth Matsebula, the Customer Success Team Leader at eSusFarm Uganda. Photo by Julius Mugaga Tukacungurwa.
She said that the platform then becomes a digital diary for smallholder farmers in that instead of recording their information in physical counter books, they have it freely available on their phones and can be accessed at all times.
She mentioned that the platform also helps a smallholder farmer to access insurance services because it becomes possible for the insurance companies to receive digital insurance applications, approve or decline applications, manage claims and pay outs and then monitor the farmer throughout the production cycle including assessing critical crop production statistics per farmer thus creating trust between the insurance provider and the smallholder farmer including providing credit scores and productivity scores.
This is because as farmers carry out their production activities, there are many challenges along the way so they need this service. Farmers apply for insurance via USSD at no cost.
“ESUSFARM UGANDA breaks down all the production cycle in stages and helps the smallholder farmer understand the on-farm activities needed to be done from land preparation to post-harvest which enables farmers to understand all the good agricultural practices that need to be undertaken such that they improve their farming methods and adopt regenerative farming methods making them more resilient to climate change which includes applying the right inputs (seeds, fertilizers, pesticides) in order to protect their soils and environment”, said Matsebula.
“Therefore, the platform helps us train and capacitate them to foster high quality production”. She stated.
The lack of data and accurate databases was the most crucial talking point at the East Africa Food Security Symposium and Expo. ESUSFARM UGANDA is a university-funded invention by the International University of East Africa (IUEA).
IUEA has undertaken agricultural related research and has found that Uganda has the highest cost of internet and the data on smallholder farmers from what they are producing to who or where they are is limited and, in some cases, non existent.
Therefore, IUEA has designed an invention (ESUSFARM UGANDA) that can collect real-time food production data from smallholder and subsistence producers to provide the entire agricultural industry with robust data on the production, productivity, market and credit access, and the overall efficiency of the agri-value chain.
According to Ms. Matsebula, agricultural players (development agencies, researchers, research organizations, financial institutions) lack information on what is being produced by smallholder farmers and there is no traceability of the quality of produce that is being produced by smallholder farmers.
Ms. Matsebula stated that the platform then collects real time food production data from smallholder/ subsistence producers which shall in turn be vended to the agricultural players, provide markets to smallholder farmers through the formation of an eSusFarm virtual farm which shall pool output from smallholder farmers and trade to different economic agents.
It also monitors the productivity of smallholder farmers across production cycles which helps financial institutions predict good farming behaviour that can lead to improved credit approval assessment of smallholders and an increase in credit to smallholder farmers which will enable financial inclusion.
Because of the nature of smallholder farmers in rural areas with no internet connectivity and the high cost of internet in Uganda which is the highest in the world, ESUSFARM UGANDA has decided to make the service freely accessible on all kind of phones through a USSD Code of *222# for Airtel users and a smallholder farmer will access all agriculture information and services that may help them in advancing their own productive activities.