Agriculture has for several years formed the backbone of Uganda’s economy.
The agriculture sector employs about 70 percent of Uganda’s working population, yet the country’s smallholder farmers face a myriad of problems – from over-dependence on weather patterns, crop diseases, counterfeit acaricides or pesticides, unstable prices to unscrupulous middlemen. Furthermore, most of the smallholder farmers are unbanked, have scattered market information, limited access to agriculture extension services and thus scanty information about agro-inputs.
While the emergent growth in the use of digital services in sectors like agriculture can address some of the constraints rural farmers face, many people in rural communities in Uganda remain with no or limited access to digital services. To bridge this gap, UNCDF is working to increase access to and usage of digital services in rural communities in sectors such as agriculture, health, education, energy and financial services.
In 2019, with funding from the government of Norway, and through partnerships with MobiPay AgroSys Limited and Yo! Uganda, UNCDF developed and piloted a Digital Community Entrepreneur (DCE) model to drive access to digital products and services in rural communities in Uganda. The pilot of the model focused on smallholder farmers working within the maize, seed oil and dairy value chains.
DCEs are young people (between 18 to 35 years old) working within a community, with good business acumen and are trusted by the community. These young people earn income from selling products including phones, airtime, data top-ups as well as mobile money services within their communities on which they earn a commission.
The DCEs work as role models or peer educators tasked with training and supporting farmers in the use of new digital solutions. Through training, the DCEs are able to build the capacity of rural farmers to effectively share digital knowledge and skills with other farmers within their villages. Thanks to this approach, in the pilot phase, UNCDF and partners were able to create a critical mass of adopters with over 168,000 smallholder farmers using a new or improved digital service.
The model is reinforced by strategic partnerships with farmer groups, local telecom distributors, solar companies, extension workers and mobile phone suppliers who avail digital products and services sold and distributed by DCEs.
The increased use of digital services in turn increases farm productivity, improves farm management, eases access to energy and market information, and consequently increases income for farmers.
Building on the success of the pilot phase, from January 2020 to date, UNCDF scaled up implementation of the DCE model in selected districts in Northern Uganda and Kiryandongo district as part of its programme focused on building an inclusive digital economy that leaves no one behind funded by the government of Sweden.
Learn more about the DCE model through our latest publication here.