Digital technologies are empowering Rwandan youth to transform farming

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Thinking that a farmer can own and use a smartphone in daily agricultural activities on their farm still sounds like a myth in many African countries where farming is a subsistence occupation that involves mainly rural older people. But Daniel Nshimiyimana, a farmer of bananas, vegetables, and rearing chicken in Rulindo district, Northern Rwanda, is a perfect example of a young farmer defying all the odds. He joined the Agriculture sector in 2014 and is one of the young Rwandan farmers who FAO trained 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, and secondly, how I can access the market freely without intermediaries who used to affect prices negatively. 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, 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 use them for information on treating and feeding their livestock, the production, conservation, and consumption of nutritious foods, weather, and 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 labourers; I cannot hire them knowing that tomorrow it will rain all day.” Said Nshimiyimana.

More than 70 per cent of Rwandans are involved in agriculture. The sector contributes more than 26 per cent 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 increase youth and women’s involvement in the agriculture sector. Rwanda’s youth constitute more than 40 per cent of the entire population. However, many young Rwandans have not yet embraced agribusiness as one of the most beneficial professions. Many youths still consider farming an archaic and tedious career, a burdensome sector with fewer rewards. This occupation 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 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 wore” and installing it following the guiding information provided. It can also be available via Https:// link and following the same process as the one provided in the 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 central to Rwanda’s National Strategy for Transformation (NST1), its vision of becoming an upper-middle-income country by 2035, and its vision for 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 local farmers, and increasing access to the market of agricultural products at local, regional, and international levels.

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


Article from FAO