In 2016 I participated in scaling up a technology aimed at enhancing production of clean and healthy vegetables in three central districts of Uganda. This gave me the opportunity to understand the challenges confounding farming in Uganda. For the farmers that I interacted with, crop pests and diseases came on the top of their list. These farmers possessed a certain degree of information about the possible chemicals that could be used to contain the diseases, but little or no mention was made about the use of biocontrol agents in their crop protection program. Additionally, the farmers also applied excess pest and fungicides above the recommended levels. Worse more, harvesting of vegetables was done while the chemicals were still on the vegetables.
This background informed the decision of a team at Centre for Life Sciences (a start-up company) to develop an application (currently for android) that would enhance connectivity between our extension workers who would efficiently give feedback to the farmers regarding diagnosis of certain pest and diseases and also give us a chance to interact with them later in realtime. The platform dubbed “Digital Platform for Farmer- Extension worker Interaction (DiPFEwI)” will go a long way in offering crop protection solutions through providing accurate and reliable information about crop pests and diseases as well as recommending effective crop protection agents (chemical and biopesticides) .With this platform, farmers will be able to keep in touch with our extension workers for routine inspection and surveillance of pest and disease incidents on farm as well as give recommendations on the most suitable crop protection options and where they can be accessed.
In the process of developing this digital platform, we shall compile a database of farmers whom we shall test this technology and track its operation before scaling it out to the wider populace. Later, an app shall be developed for android and apple systems to make it easy for the farmer to upload photos of the diseases and pests and this will assist us to assess disease and pest cases and a response from the Extension workers Command Centre (EwCC) will be generated. This will also help the EwCC decipher a rough diagnosis of the disease or pest and have an idea before actual onsite inspection and diagnosis. Meanwhile, due to the limited internet connectivity, we shall also incorporate message (sms) system in which the farmers will be able to contact our extension agents by sending a message and a rapid response shall then take course to assist the farmer in need. In this system, we shall also capture the service providers offering various crop protection solutions so that the farmers can easily get to purchase particular chemicals or biocontrol agents as we shall have recommended after onsite assessment of the crop protection need.
Denis Ogwal, Uganda