UFAAS awards developers to digitalise agricultural extension

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The Uganda Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services organized its first ever hackathon under the theme “Digitalizing Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services for Effective Service Delivery”.  The hackathon was organized in collaboration with Dostrim Limited – an ICT firm, and member of UFAAS’s ICT technical working group under a Sub-grant from the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services, CAADPXP4 project. The exercise took place from October 04 to October 11, 2021.

The hackathon was intended to improve the effectiveness of African knowledge and innovation systems, demand-driven public policies on agricultural research and extension services, as well as enhance knowledge sharing and technology development for climate change adaptation and mitigation of agriculture and food systems.

Developers came up with solutions to challenges in agricultural extension and agriculture along three themes namely: Management of Agricultural Extension and Advisory Services actors' databases and activities; Database of Climate Smart Agriculture techniques, approaches and knowledge; and, Meteorological and weather information systems.

Congratulations to all winners of the Uganda hackathon and all that participated!

The hackathon is arranged to take place in 10 AFAAS countries: Uganda, Kenya, Malawi, Madagascar, Ethiopia, South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Mali. Hackathon winners in each country get a chance to further compete at a continental level and a possibility of having their IT solutions adapted by the 10 African countries.

The award ceremony was held on October 27th at Eureka Place Hotel in Kampala. It was officiated by African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS) Executive Director, Dr Silim Nahdy; Max Olupot; Mr Willy Ofwono Osinde, Commissioner at Ministry of Science, Technology and Innovation, and the hackathon judges.

In his opening remarks, the AFAAS ED Dr Silim Nahdy underscored the relevance of technology in ICT in agriculture. He said that AFAAS is committed to digitalization to improve the sector. For the year 2021, in continuation with efforts engaged in 2020, AFAAS will invest more in digitalisation and will build capacities of its members in ICTs, Dr Nahdy said.

A sneak peek into the winning products:

Theme 1: Management of AEAS actors' databases and activities.

In this category, the winning Team developed a product -Farmer Graphical Directory Services including a graphical map of Uganda with farmers.Farmers represented on the map, may have their hands raised, a hand raised implies a farmer has a produce to supply, the farmer details including the type of produce and animal the farmer has is present on the map, as one hovers over a farmer.

When the images show raised hands, it means farmers have produce to supply. This enables quick connection of farmers with buyers. The app also enables comparison of prices at any time and can provide information on what type of produce a farmer has. The team members were: Gibusiwa Joseph, Mutonyi Regine and Magina Denis.

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Above: Regine Mutonyi and Joseph Gibusiwa holding certificate - winners under Theme 1

The first runners up product (FarmSoko) by Team ButterScotch will help farmers to conveniently find and book services of AEAS service providers. Farmers access the platform by placing requests via a USSD menu that supports a wide range of mobile phones from basic feature phones to the most sophisticated smartphones. On submission, the platform intelligently evaluates and matches the request to the best possible AEAS worker available. The AEAS worker in turn receives notification of the job to be done via SMS or Smartphone notification at which point can accept or decline. Accepting the request triggers a series of activities that include making contact between the individuals up till completion of the job. However, on declining the request, the platform widens the search criteria and repeats. Team members are: Atukei Maureen and Mamawi Andrew.

Theme 2- Database of CSA techniques, approaches and knowledge, the winning product was AgroAid App developed by Afrosoft IT solutions. This multilingual app has a number of listed agric advisors who can be contacted through voice calls, chat, or video calls. The app also includes an interactive farmers' forum for sharing experiences, challenges etc. AgroAid App and System has been designed in a way to enable users choose language of preference as they navigate through. Languages so far deployed are English. Luganda, Swahili French and Portuguese. For the first time interacting with the system, the user is required to Register with just a phone number and Password. This is to ease usability especially with rural farmers who may not have an email.

Users are also tasked to choose the line of agriculture they operate i.e. either crops or animals and then specify the crops and or animals they deal in. For each animal or crop selected, a farmer is required to feed in how old the crops or animals are. Using the period entered, the AgroAid system is able to provide information on the recommended farming practices, likely diseases and Pests. A farmer is able to read in detail about each disease, its causes, how to treat and prevent them. He or she is able to read more farming practices and farming systems.

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AgroAid app team (holding certificate) - winners of Theme 2

AgroAid has a number of listed Agronomists and Extension workers whom a farmer can ably reach out to through voice call or audios, chat and video calls. The application also comes with a Farmers Forum where subscribed farmers can interact, share their experiences, challenges and advice. The application also comes with a 7 days’ weather updates to help farmers plan ahead of unfavorable conditions. The Application has a Market Intelligence module to help farmers make Market decisions using Artificial Intelligence. Based on the farmer’s location, the application will provide the price at which the given crop or animal product is sold in the nearest market places.

Team members were: Kihunde Christine, Balintuma Isaac, Matovu Joseph, Kalungi Charles, and Katamba Ronald

Theme 3: Meteorological and weather info systems.

The winning team will develop a Smart Crop Calendar which will improve data collection by using sensors to detect soil moisture, soil water content, hear success and more. Therefore, this project aims primarily to improve data collection by use of various sensors (soil moisture sensors, soil water content and threshold, heat sensors), reduce on-farm resource wastage, to save money, and improve yields using IOT wireless precision irrigation. Secondly, to reduce labour and to increase participation in agriculture. Team members: Brian Peter Kazibwe, Eric Muhwezi and Emmanuel Semutenga.

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Above: Team Smart Crop Calendar winners of the Theme 3 category., receive the certificate from AFAAS ED

The first runner-up AutofarmUg is an irrigation system, and this will focus on water usage through monitored sensor readings to check volume of water required. This product has hardware components, a web application

The hackathon was organized by the Uganda Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services - UFAAS in collaboration with Dostrim Limited. It was supported with funding from the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme EX Pillar 4 (CAADP-XP4) Project under the Development of Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture (DeSIRA) program financed by the European Union and managed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Agriculture challenges require interdisciplinary solutions:

In his remarks, Mr Max Olupot the Partnership, Planning and Learning team leader at AFAAS applauded participants for contributing to agriculture. He recognised the various disciplines coming together to develop ideas to solve challenges in agriculture, and participating in UFAAS activities. He ended his remarks by inviting the participants to the Africa wide extension week due in November 14 - 20 November 2021.

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“It is inspiring to see the engineers coming to agriculture. That is what they call discipline blending. There is one word-hacker-the clever person, and which is you. I want to extend to you an invitation to the extension week whose theme is Effective Agricultural Extension Systems for Sustainable Agripreneurship in Africa.

In line with the theme, agripreneurship is driven by ICT. This hackathon is just the beginning leading to the Continental level, to develop innovations further and go beyond. Service is the most important thing and a hackathon is about a collective effort and willingness to give. This also shows that you are willing to give and contribute to the community. Be simple, flexible and continue with novelty and let us continue to serve farmers together”, remarked Mr Olupot.

AFAAS also promoted open source concepts among developers in the agriculture sector as a way to speed up growth of the ecosystem of ICT innovations in Africa for improved uptake of Climate-Smart Agricultural Technologies and Practices.

 

Not all farmers are the same:

Mr Osinde applauded the participants for participation in the hackathon, and highlighted those that identified the products with the market. In his communication, he called for segmentation of farmers to ensure appropriate targeting with advisory services.  FGD identified its products with the market, and provided for it.

“It is difficult to target farmers, generally important to segment them in various categories to enable effective targeting for each of the category”.

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He encouraged the startups to reflect on the feedback, get synergies through which they can develop the products further. “All these efforts, different startups, and networks are important and are in line with the Government’s National Development Plan (NDP).”, he said

When you move alone, you cannot go far. Please move as a team, see gaps in your apps, seek partners and address the issues, and proceed to the next level” concluded Mr. Osinde.

Please visit the photo gallery here for more visual information.

#afaashack2021

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Above: A swag kit for everyone

 

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Above: Mrs Beatrice Luzobe, UFAAS CEO

 

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Above: Mr George Sserwadda, Dostrim Managing Director

 

By Elizabeth Asiimwe (UFAAS CIKM), and Samuel Muyinda, Dostrim Limited