A mobile-based platform, M-Ahwii Limited, invented by three students to boost farming goes commercial in August starting in Rwanda before it expands across East Africa.
Ms Lilian Uwintwali, who visited Kenya to participate in the Young Agricultural Innovators Forum at Nairobi’s Hotel Crowne Plaza in Upper Hill said their year-long piloting with 10,000 farmers in Rwanda through 10 co-operative societies had proved the viability of the platform which is used to connect farmers with appropriate seeds, pesticides and acaricides as well as markets.
Farmers’ queries are also answered promptly.
Ms Uwintwali, 22, now CEO of M-Ahwii Ltd, a provider of agri-information, said farmers who use the platform have increased crop, meat and milk production, adding that more farmers are now seeking to join the currently toll-free service funded by the United States Aid for International Development (USAID).
Ms Uwintwali, a computer engineering graduate from KIST which has been renamed the University of Rwanda, partnered with her two friends in the project which has been a boon to farmers.
“We have noticed that traffic is heaviest on issues surrounding market access and we have been able to link them to the Rwanda Grains and the East Africa Commodities Warehouse who offer guaranteed prices for wheat and maize,” she said.
The service also provides farmers with agricultural information on prices, insurance, banking and other government extension services.
“Most farmers want to know about where to sell their farm produce and the prices on offer.
“We also provide linkages to banks, government extension and insurance services.
“A farmer only needs any rudimentary phone and be within an area with a reliable network and all information is available at the click of a button,” she said.
The project has since enjoyed regular visits by about 10,000 farmers and there are plans to commercialise it starting August 2016 as it goes national following increased government support.
Ms Uwintwali said farmers now enjoy direct access to the Rwanda Cereal Grains Co-operative and the East African Grains Commodities Exchange warehouses.
“Farmers can now sell their produce directly to the warehouses without necessarily going through an agent and this has given them an efficient market and guaranteed prices at the clique of a button,” she said.
She added that while the site provided farmers with real-time information on the market, it also eased costs of travel and phone call charges while enquiring on various products.
The new service, once commercialised at a nominal fee, will be run on pay-per-use basis, granting farmers flexibility while extra funds for the project are being sourced from private companies seeking to have their products uploaded on the site for advertisements.
In future, the project will be expanded across East Africa to enhance farmer to farmer interactions as well as make it easy for them to access free extension services from governments for better animal and crop husbandry.