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Farmers may miss message in technological advancement for agriculture – IT specialist

Makerere innovations Centre where many of the city startups including Sharability, Xente App among others are  incubated from. (Photo by Javira Ssebwami)

KAMPALA- In the midst of booming technological innovation across the country, the hand hoe remains a primary tool many smallholder farmers who grow nearly three quarters of the food consumed in the country.

However, such farmers’ transition to new technologies is constrained by factors ranging from inappropriate design to underdeveloped infrastructure. Notably few agriculture innovations are created by – or even with – the farmers they are meant to serve.

Now Ugandan innovators targeting agribusinesses have been advised to develop simple technologies that small holder farmers in rural settings can easily be embraced.

Mr. Godfrey Kajjubi, the in-charge of events and communications at Makerere Innovations Centre (MIC) in an interview with this reporter on Wednesday urged innovators to understand the primary users of their innovations before unveiling them on the competitive market and if such innovations are to effect any changes in the AgriTech business

“Definitely farmers in rural settings are the real targets of these mushrooming technologies in agribusiness but as you know most [of them] do not own smartphones,” he said urging developers to come up with USSD based technologies.

“They [USSDs] are not hard to use given that they can even be used on simple phones which majority of our small holder farmers use,” Kajjubi said.

Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) is a Global System for Mobile (GSM) communication technology that is used to send text between a mobile phone and an application programme in the network.

Kajjubi further said that it is important to have these applications developed in local languages to ease the work of the local farmers, while helping the start-ups and innovators compete in the changing agribusiness sector.

He castigated the Ministry of Agriculture together and the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) on the mobile application to fight the Fall Army Worm they launched early last month saying it would work better if it was integrated in local languages.

“How many farmers in Kalangala or Rakai own smartphones, how many of them know English or French?” such farmers were ignored yet they are the primary maize growers in the country,” he said.

The Fall Armyworm Monitoring and Early Warning System (FAW) app was rolled out early last month in Mukono.

The application is expected to enable farmers, agricultural workers, and other partners at the frontline of the fight against FAW in various communities of Uganda.

The application will also help farmers to identify, report the level of infestation and map the spread of this destructive insect, as well as to describe its natural enemies and the measures that are most effective in managing it.

But, according to Kajjubi, the initiative could flop as farmers are not well-versed with such technologies.

 

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