The World Bank, through the Export-Import Bank of Korea, has announced a $150 million financial boost to the information and communications technology programme for Uganda’s agriculture sector.
A senior agricultural specialist at the Uganda World Bank country office Joseph Oryokot, said that the funding will help the Ministry of Agriculture deploy ICT to become more effective and efficient. Such efficiency will then be extended to farmers.
“The programme will provide technical assistance to utilise ICT platforms and expand the scope of the ministry’s functionality, including sharing information,” said Mr Oryokot.
He added that in order to raise productivity, farmers require information on inputs, prices, transport to reach markets, pests and diseases, beter crop and animal management practices, and weather patterns.
The funding will be channelled through the World Bank’s Agricultural Cluster Development Programme.
Experts from the Republic of Korea were in Uganda for a five-day visit from June 26 - 30 to share their skills on how to make the best use of ICT to develop the agricultural sector.
Sanghun Lee from the Korea Agency for Education, Promotion and Information Service said that, given the penetration of mobile phones in Uganda, the Ministry of Agriculture could use these as an avenue to inform and train farmers.
According to statistics from the Uganda Communications Commission, more than 20 million Ugandans are connected to a mobile telecommunication network.
“It means farmers can get information through their mobile phones. This could be simple text messages,” said Lee.
Joy Kabatsi, the State Minister for Agriculture in charge of Animal Industry said extension services, which are crucial to developing agriculture, remain low in Uganda.
The ratio of extension staff to farmers stands at one for every 5,000 farmers, which is far below the recommended 1:500.
This, coupled with the prevailing extension delivery approach based on face-to-face contact is unsustainable because financial and human resources are often insufficient.