By Prossy Nandudu
The Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries (MAAIF) in partnership with the National Information Technology Authority — Uganda (NITA-U), is set to debut a digital platform that will help monitor how fake agro-inputs reach farmers.
The Crop Inspection and Certification Systems(CICS) was designed by the agriculture ministry as a three module interactive platform for regulating seed, agricultural chemicals and plant health for imports and exports.
This was revealed by the commissioner crop inspection and certification, Paul Mwambu, while officiating at the close of a two-day Public-Private Dialogue of the Future of Fertilisers in Africa. The dialogue was organised by the African Fertiliser and Agribusiness Partnership at Speke Resort Munyonyo, on Tuesday.
“The intention is to digitise all business processes of regulators. If you want to apply to be registered or renew certificates, if you want to apply for assessment to know how much revenue you have to pay this will also be done online,” said Mwambu.
He explained that previously, the registration and certification processes were being done manually where one would go the ministry, apply, then go to a bank or Uganda Revenue Authority to pay return receipts to the ministry as evidence before clearance.
To roll out the program, Mwambu said training of regulators on how to use the digital app that will be installed on Smart Phones is complete. The next group to be trained is the Uganda Seed Traders Association (USTA) then extension workers, traders and later farmers.
For the agro chemicals cluster, he said they are working with Crop Life, an umbrella organisation that brings together agro chemical importers.
But because the export and import value chain is wide, he said training will be carried out through the different clusters starting with the coffee cluster, tobacco, and grains till all the value chains are complete, Mwambu added.
“We think that when this system is fully rolled out, we will move a step higher and bring on board other services like the digital traceability services, where we shall be tagging every one kilo pack of seed or fertiliser. With hand held scanners, we are able to tell any product that was cleared by us, and if fake, through the code on the tag that is in the seed pack, we can trace the source,” he explained.
For farmers with no smartphones, these too can use basic phones and send the digital number that will be revealed when they scratch the tag in the package and then send the number to an SMEs number that will be provided.
Status of agricultural inputs in Uganda
Information from the Uganda Seed Traders Association indicates that fake seed accounts for 40% of the total seed on the market, while the Anti-Counterfeit Network Africa (ACN) states that over 60% of herbicides and pesticides on the market are fake.
Although the initiative was welcomed by many stakeholders attending the conference, some raised concerns over the high cost of internet and cost of gadgets.
In response, Collin Babigarukamu, the director e-government services at NITA-U, admitted that although the network quality is quite stable in city centres, it is not the case in upcountry districts, adding that service providers like Airtel, MTN, UTL and Smile among others, have to work with NITA-U to find a solution.
He also said that by expanding the National Backbone Infrastructure Project whose coverage is currently 48% to 50% in all district across the country, the cost of internet will reduce even further.
The increase in coverage means that internet cost will come down through government or public institutions like schools, hospitals, MDAs and local governments as most of these are already connected to the national fibre network.
“We now have funding of about $200m to extend this National Fibre Backbone Infrastructure to extend and develop e-government services through the Uganda Digital Acceleration Program, following the signing of an agreement between the Ministry of Finance and the World Bank,” he added.