"Cap, cap, cap’’ 8-year-old Marie-Claire Mutoni puts her hands together to remove the dust and make sure her hands are clean as she comes closer quickly to Marguerite, her mother, who has just started listening to a recording from a mobile phone.
The 8-year-old girl has been busy helping her mother clean the backyard of their modest house. She drops the broom she is using when she hears voices. After some investigation she discovers that the voices are coming from a mobile phone in her mother's hand. The first recording talks about improved farming technics. The next voice she hears is that of Jean Pierre, president of farmers’ association in the area. He brought the phone.
Marguerite has been struggling to raise her four children, after her husband died. Land contraction, lack of fertilisers, improved seeds and farming technics are the issues that were preventing her from harvesting enough to care for her family until recently. World Vision Rwanda introduced, a farming technology known as e-Hinga in the local language (e-Farming)--a technology the organisation invented to help land smallholder farmers in Rwanda to improve their productions by accessing agronomic services through a mobile phones.
"This application came as a result of listening to the needs of smallscale farmers and realising that technology could bridge the gap,’’ George Gitau, World Vision Rwanda National Director explains.
"We came together with farmers and thought of how a mobile phone application could solve their needs. Over time, we developed an App that now speaks to our farmers," he continues. E-Farming is a comprehensive Agricultural extension information system that is designed to offer up to date information regarding various topics related to crop cultivation: from panting to harvesting.
Since she started using the app, Margerite has been able to double her production. The instructions in the app have been created by World Vision Rwanda with support from the Ministry of Agriculture to come up with an application.
"We now have our own agronomist in our pocket,’’ Jean Pierre Havugimana, president of farmers' association in Ngera says smiling. During critical periods, like sowing and harvesting, Jean Pierre makes sure association members are accessing utile information all the time. Today he woke up early to bring the mobile phone to Marguerite, who has started harvesting her beans.
Farmers need guidance on proper harvesting a stroage techniques now that harvesting has started; Jean Pierre says. After training farmers how to use the new technology, World Vision also provided smart phones to farmers’ associations.
"Each association was supported with four smart phones to help them access the information provided by the e-farming app,’’ Ananias, World Vision’s western region manager explains.
Marguerite saw her production of beans double since she began accessing the app. She can now harvest up to 200 kg, on her small plot of land.
"Before this phone information, I was using beans fertilisers on tomatoes as well;’’ Marguerite explains laughing at her past practices. This is her second harvest since she started using e-farming technology, she recounts.
Marie-Claire Mutoni, her daughter who has started primary school last year, couldn’t wear a uniform the whole year because her mother couldn't afford to buy her one. This year Marie-Claire Mutoni will go back to school with a uniform like the other children.
Another great element of this technology is it provides farmers with the option to read or listen to the lessons--this makes the information available for those who don't know how to read or write. Each lesson is also accompanied by images to help farmers identify when crops may be diseased or need special treatment.
After seeing the success of this technology in the first communities where it was implemented, plans are being made to expand this service to other areas and apply the technology to other areas of intervention as well.