Agriculture is the mainstay of Uganda’s economy, employing over 70% of the country’s labour force. Considering the prevalent changing climate change effects, rapid population increase and drastic reduction of arable land, agricultural productivity ought to grow to feed the growing population, provide sufficient raw materials to the growing industrial sector, and decent employment opportunities for rural communities.
Despite the importance of agriculture in the country, agricultural productivity generally remains low. This low agricultural productivity is attributed to a number of factors but specially droughts, pests and diseases, declining soil fertility, poor extension systems and socio-economic constraints.
In response, resources have been invested in research and development of technologies to enable crops cope survive stress and improve overall crop productivity. A substantial number of technologies has been developed by the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) and its collaborating research partners, and these technologies include high yielding and stress resilient seeds for staple crops, fertilizers, crop protection and production technologies.
However, there is inadequate access to these proven technologies especially seeds with improved pest and disease resistance, and abiotic stress tolerance. Approximately 80% of the farmers save and replant seeds from year to year because that’s what gives them security of access. It is worthy of note to mention that continued replanting of seed especially for clonal crops such as cassava, sweet potatoes, coffee etc. increases virus load thereby causing severe yield losses in the farmers’ fields. Additionally, because of the underdeveloped seed systems for clonal crops, spices and tree fruits, reliable access to resistant and disease free planting material in sufficient quantities is very cumbersome.
My idea is to increase access to pest and disease resistant seed, and disease free tissue-culture plantlets using an online marketplace accessible in every part of Uganda. Seed companies, tissue-culture labs and certified seed growers will be rigorously inspected to ensure consistent quality, and then connected to the marketplace. In the marketplace, crops will be categorized, and up-to-date information on management of major pests and disease of that crop will be provided, in addition to modern agronomic practices to obtain high yields.
We shall be a customer-oriented service, driven by purpose, integrity and excellence. The online marketplace will have a well-equipped 24hrs support system, with differentiated delivery systems designed for our local situations to ensure affordability. Farmers will access the online marketplace using their mobile phones (app) or our website with the help of nearest computer experts in the internet cafes which are distributed in all the major towns of Uganda, or place orders using a phone calls and pay cash before or on delivery. This is intended to serve as many farmers as possible even those in areas with inadequate internet access or working knowledge of ecommerce. The payment platform will readily accept mobile money because that’s what the largest percentage of the Ugandans use to make transactions. The marketplace will be marketed by word of mouth, print media, social media, community sensitization, radio and TV adverts and talk shows, and expos. We shall also develop an Internet based brand by engaging in promotion and marketing of our products and services online. This approach will improve the marketing and distribution of clean, pest and disease resistant seeds, quality agro-chemicals, and crop protection knowledge to get to the hands of the farmers thereby reaching underserved areas. We shall strive to leverage every opportunity to improve on our services to achieve wider adoption and impact.
It is important to note that the principal focus of crop protection is to obtain high crop yields whilst maintaining human safety and environmental sustainability. Planting quality pest and disease resistant seed, and disease-free plantlets implies that the farmer will utilize minimal pesticide regimes and applications which protects human health, because of minimal exposure to the pesticides and minimal pesticide residues in food; preserves soil microbial activity; and significantly reduces farmer’s production costs, while maintaining the genetic purity for key end-user traits of the crop.
The online marketplace will provide farmers borderless access to high yielding, pest and disease resistant seed of high quality, quality agrochemicals, crop protection knowledge, and production technologies and practices. Seed growers will have more market access for their seed. And eventually, farmers will reap bigger profits from their produce with multiplier effects along the value chains, increased food and nutrition security, human health, and environmental sustainability.
Francis Manze , Uganda