Pride Mahlangu, Business Reporter
RURAL farmers in Matabeleland can now use a mobile app for agricultural extension services and hiring of farming equipment under a programme being co-ordinated by a group of non-governmental organisations in liaison with Government.
Running under the ‘Matabeleland enhanced livelihoods agriculture and nutrition adaptation’ (Melana) initiative, the programme is being implemented under a US$75 million budget, through the Zimbabwe Resilience Building Fund (ZRBF).
It provides a five-year multi-donor support involving seven consortiums that operate in 18 districts of Zimbabwe. One of the programme leaders, Mr Tawanda Hove, said two agricultural oriented mobile applications have been launched throughout the country to assist rural farmers with extension services as well as hiring farming equipment. The first national launch was recently done in Bulawayo.
“Kurima Mari/Ukulima Imali is an agricultural extension and marketing app that empowers farmers to produce for the market by giving them tips on various crop and livestock value chains. It contains input, output market contacts as well as extension market contacts,” he said.
“The app is designed to bridge the extension services gap. Currently one Government worker has to serve at least 800 households, which compromises quality of service delivery in a given time.”
Mr Hove said they were also running “Agrishare App”, which enables smallholder farmers to access mechanised equipment they would not ordinarily have access to through their mobiles such as tractors, trucks and processing equipment such as maize shellers. He said farmers had the leeway to pay for the services using their mobile money platforms in a secure way.
Mr Hove said both applications have an estimated total of close to 25 000 active subscribers and were being embraced in both urban and rural communities.
“Kurima Mari has 22 000 online and offline users nationwide whereas Agrishare is still in its infancy with approximately 3 800 users in eight districts. Kurima Mari has been widely accepted by both extension workers due to its ability to be used without data connectivity,” he said.
“Farmers have reached the extent of adopting new crops such as Sesame due to the knowledge they acquired through the platform.”
Mr Hove said the two applications were gaining popularity throughout the country with Midlands, Manicaland, Matabeleland North and South and Harare provinces taking the lead. Several districts are also said to be piloting similar projects. — @pridesinstinctz