Rwanda will next year hand out electronic gadgets like phones and tablets that will be used to connect farmers with updated agriculture information, but also enable reporting of corruption among other challenges on ground.
The Director General of Planning at the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Octave Semwaga said government, through support from the European Union (EU), has already issued Rwf500 million tender to eligible suppliers of the gadgets to farmers.
Semwaga said that the supply of gadgets will start mid next year to supply in a gradual process with 14,000 gadgets to farmer promoters and about 25,000 gadgets to facilitators and more categories countrywide.
With this customized IT equipment, it means that it will be easier to communicate the information. For instance, in extension services, farmers can be able to access information on agriculture and share information on what is on ground.
“Any issue that farmers will be facing will not have to wait for research reports to be brought up. They don’t have to wait,” Semwaga said.
The move comes as part of agriculture Ministry’s response to demands by farmers who have showed in two research findings a lack of information on the market and inputs as a main challenge in the sector.
Agriculture is seen as a backbone for Rwanda’s economy – employing over 80% of the population.
Recent research on citizens’ participation in agriculture decisions conducted by Rwanda Development Organisation (RDO) and Transparency International Rwanda (TI-R) showed that for instance, many farmers did not know which inputs are subsidized by government.
Currently, through the Smart Nkunganire System (SNS), government subsidizes between 50% and 70% of the prices of these inputs and farmer equipment for farmers.
Felix Turiwacu, a Gakenke farmer said that the problem is lack of education and information on updated information as a result of lack of facilitators who are supposed to act as sources of information.
“We don’t have a facilitators, which is one of the big challenges that creates a gap in lack of information on subsidies and agro inputs,” Turiwacu said.
A majority of Rwanda’s agricultural programs are funded by the World Bank (WB) which has for the last ten years injected over $200million and supported over 400 cooperatives in the last 15 years.