FAO in Rwanda

Mobile applications are transforming agriculture in Rwanda

Enticing more youth and women through digital agriculture

Daniel Nshimiyimana, checking on FAO’s mobile applications ©FAO/Eugene Uwimana

Thinking that a farmer can own and use a smartphone in daily agricultural activities on his/her farm still sounds like a myth in many African countries where farming is a subsistence occupation that involves mainly rural elderly people. But Daniel Nshimiyimana, a farmer of banana, vegetable, and rearing chicken in Rulindo district, Northern Rwanda is a perfect example of a young farmer who is defying all the odds. He joined the Agriculture sector in 2014 and he is one of the young Rwandan farmers who were trained by FAO under the agricultural service and digital inclusion in Africa project.

“This technology gives me all the information I need in my farming. First on production, how I can better produce, secondly how I can access freely the market without middlemen who used to negatively affect prices. Lastly, technology helps build a strong network with my fellow farmers for peer education. I encourage every farmer to leverage these FAO applications.” Said Daniel Nshimiyimana.

Harnessing science, technology, and innovation is key to ending poverty and hunger. Young farmers in Rwanda like Nshimiyimana who are using mobile phone applications developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) say the technology is helping them transform subsistence farming into market-oriented agriculture. The mobile applications support better production and better nutrition. Rwandan farmers are using them for information on treating and feeding their livestock, the production, conservation, and consumption of nutritious foods, and weather and the crop calendar.The four digital applications are, “Cure and Feed your livestock”, “e-Nutrifood”, “Weather and Crop Calendar” and “AgriMarketplace”. To facilitate all end users the applications are accessible in Kinyarwanda, a local language that the majority of the farmers in Rwanda speak.

“Every morning when I wake, I just take my phone and check on how the weather will be the whole day. This helps me plan my farming activities. It helps me deal with casual farm laborers, I cannot hire them knowing that tomorrow it will rain the whole day.” Said Nshimiyimana.

More than 70 percent of Rwandans are involved in agriculture. The sector contributes more than 26 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.  However, there is a need to explore new models and technologies to unlock the largely untapped reservoir of youth employment and to increase the involvement of youth and women in the agriculture sector. Young people in Rwanda constitute more than 40 percent of the entire population. However, a big percentage of young Rwandans have not yet embraced agribusiness as being one of the most beneficial professions. Many youths still consider farming as an archaic and tedious career a burdensome sector with fewer rewards, an occupation that does not accommodate ICT and innovations yet they only need decent jobs that keep them connected. FAO’s digital portfolio is one of the solutions.

“Looking at the way there is a dramatic increase in food demand, we definitely need new ways of increasing production, new ways of securing the future of food, new ways of addressing challenges that threaten food systems, and digital innovation are the weapons to overcome all agriculture value-chain related constraints and Future of Agriculture Work,” said Angelique Uwimana, FAO’s National Project Manager  

“These solutions are accessible via Google play store by searching “Hinga worore” and installing it following the guiding information provided. It can also be available via Https://digital.apps.fao.org link and following the same process as the one provided in google play store” Ms. Uwimana added.

Rwanda is leading in many innovative ways of mainstreaming technology across all sectors of inclusive economic transformation. Technology is at the center of Rwanda’s National Strategy for Transformation (NST1) and its vision of becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2035 and its ambitious vision 2050. The Agriculture sector has not been left behind. Since 2017, FAO has been partnering with the Government of Rwanda in different projects aiming at promoting the digitalization of the agricultural sector, bringing digital innovations to the local farmers, supporting local suppliers’ capacity development and promotion of E-commerce for agricultural value chains, developing of the digital agricultural strategy and women and youth empowerment. The aim of these interventions is always to ensure enabling environment in embracing agricultural digitalization, bridging the gaps of digital literacy among the local farmers, and increasing access to the market of the agricultural products at local, regional, and international levels.

The digitalization of agriculture is the cornerstone of FAO’s strategic Framework 2022- 2031.  The Strategic Framework seeks to support the 2030 Agenda through the transformation to moreefficient, inclusive, resilient, and sustainable agri-food systems for better productionbetter nutrition, a better environment, and a better life, leaving no one behind. The digitalization of Agriculture is crucial to promoting smart agriculture that fosters resilience capacities, preventive capacity, anticipative capacity, absorptive capacity, and adaptive capacity and this is a beacon of hope to achieve Sustainable Development Goals for people, the planet, and prosperity.