MARKET- LED USER- OWNED ICT 4AG ENABLED INFORMATION SERVICES (MUIIS)
implementation in Uganda in the year 2015 and it will end in 2018. A consortium arket led user owned ICT4AG information service Project (MUIIS) started its
project in nature (MUIIS) is being implemented by a number of partners being led by CTA Uganda. These include Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), aWhere, East African Farmers’ Federation (EAFF), EARS Earth Environment Monitoring (EARS), the eLEAF Competence Centre and Mercy Corps Uganda. The project focuses on working with recognized Apex body institutions which include Uganda Cooperative Alliance whose role on the project is to monitor the ACEs / MSAs to ensure profiling of 350,000 farmers is achieved before end of 2018.
MUIIS project focuses on three elements in agriculture these include:-Weather information, Agronomic Information, and access to financial services, which are drivers towards increased productivity for small holder farmers. The project is based on a demand-driven, market-led, and user owned extension and advisory service, using satellite based information services for: weather forecasting and alerts, crop management, agronomic tips and financial services – including index-based insurance to crop farmers in Uganda. While the partners within the consortium drive the project from the start, the farmers Organisations (UCA& UNFFE) are expected to own the project and provide services to their members.
The project aims to reach at least 350,000 farmers growing maize, soya bean and sesame in the regions of Central, Eastern, Northern, and Western Uganda through profiling. To reach the above number, the Uganda National Farmers Federation and the Uganda Cooperative Alliance will work through their membership organizations DFAs (District Farmers Associations) and ACEs (Area Cooperative Enterprises) to identify a focal point for MUIIS to help in profiling the farmers. These focal persons in this project are referred to as the MSAs (MUIIS Service Agents).
- Monitoring and evaluation is an integral part of MUIIS to ensure smooth functionality of services offered as well as ensuring work is done accordingly. So far M&E is been done in the central and Northern regions (Acholi and Lango areas covering 22 ACEs, as well as 7 SACCOs under Mercy corps and AGRA. The purpose of this activity was to monitor the respective institutions ,MSAs poor performance and discussing with leaders about the project to ensure successful implementation of the project
- Developing MoU: In order to have a proper effective implementation strategy and ownership of the project by the institutional leaders, it was inevitable to develop a partnership agreement (MOU) between the ACEs and UCA to ensure smooth running of the project implementation activities. However the process of to have such MOU in place reasonably delayed because CTA as the head of the project delayed to confirm to other partners if provision of weather information to farmers was cleared by the meteorology Authority.
- The regional distributor workshops. This activity took place in the 4 regions of the country and it started on the 20th, 24th, 26th and 28th April 2017. The major purpose was to create linkages between the farmers, buyers and input suppliers through the existing organized farmer based organizations (FBOs). Through this activity , the main objectives were to support farmers to:-
- Access clean genuine seeds for increased crop yield for maize, soybean, sesame and beans Access affordable negotiated price for quality fertilizers to increase productivity at the various growth stages required by the four crops of focus
- Access affordable and negotiated price for genuine pesticides/fungicides that can be used as preventative or curative control measures for pests and disease attacks (e.g. current outbreak of Ball Army worms).
- Access a market for their surplus production to enable them increase household incomes
- To ensure farmers receive quality input services, an MOU was signed between the ACEs on behalf of their members and the Input dealers as well as buyers
- Launch of the MUIIS service bundle. After over one and a half years of thoughtful and careful preparations (MUIIS) Service Bundle was officially launched on the 8th of March 2017. The MUIIS Service Bundle consists of a series of context-specific weather alerts, agronomic tips and index-based insurance throughout the season and covers four agricultural commodities – maize, beans, sesame and soybeans. At the launch, subscriptions of the MUIIS Service Bundle were witnessed live on screens by the participants. The technical team from Ensibuuko Technologies and Mercy Corps showcased the system that included the data collection tool (ONA) and system dashboard. They also explained how farmers’ data get into the MUIIS system and how profiled farmers can subscribe to the Service Bundle using a project code (*284*10#).
- Monitoring and evaluation is an integral part of MUIIS project to ensure smooth functionality of services offered as well as ensuring work is done accordingly. M&E was conducted in the West Nile region and a total of 9 farmer institutions were visited these include 5 ACEs, 2 DFAs and 2 Marcy corpse SACCO partners. The purpose of monitoring these farmer institutions was to discuss with the leaders of the above institutions about the performance of MSAs who were selected contribute to the profiling of 350,000 before end of 2018. Each Organization was independently visited and future strategic ideas were reached for better improved performance. This took place from 18th – 27th April 2017.
- Still under M&E, on the 11th – 17th June 2017. A team from UNFFE, UCA and EAFF travelled to the field to monitor ACEs and DFAs in the western region. The purpose of the filed visit was the same as (1) above a total of 8 ACEs, and 2 DFAs were reached. Each organization was independently visited, meeting the leadership and management of the farmer institutions to discuss more about the implementation of the project as well as reaching strategic approaches of improved performance. ( a detailed report is available)
- Capacity Building for cooperative leaders of ACEs and DFAs on the use of ICT for data-driven agricultural businesses and field activities to operationalize the theory of the MUIIS service business took place from 3rd – 7th July 2107 at Kawanda Research Centre .The five days’ workshop attracted 150 leaders representing key institutions such as ACEs and DFAs .The training was facilitated by a team from CTA Netherlands with the help of the on ground team from UCA, UNFFE and Mercy corps. The major objective of the workshop was to promote and facilitate the development of ICT-led cooperative agri-business while improving the field operational capabilities as well as monitoring and evaluation through ICTs and management consulting services.
- On the 7th of June 2017 I attended a meeting which took place at AFFAS. The meeting aimed at discussing Development of MUIIS Knowledge Application (MUIIS-KA) specifically focusing on the Fertilizer Optimization Tool (FOT) which will be integrated within the already application being used by the MUIIS Service Agents. The major purpose of the tool is to help and enable the target population compute how to apply fertilizers on their farms as well as provide the amount of yield if an amount of money is invested in fertilizer bought. The application is under way development. ( This activity is directly handled by CTA and the application is being developed by blue wave technologies )
- As it is well documented in the project document, at the end of the project, MUIIS will remain in Uganda under the operation and management of UCA and UNFFE. Plans and strategies to affect sustainability approaches are already under way to ensure UCA and UNFFE remain with the capacity to run the project. To this end UCA is expected to handle the business arm of the project and one of the requirements UCA is expected to open up a mobile money collection account which farmers will use while paying for the MUIIS service bundle. The process to open such account has already started farmers are expected to this such account during the second farming season which due August 2017 in some regions.
- The project developed MUIIS local adverts which run on local radio stations in different languages. Much as such adverts run, time allocated was not enough and in some regions they were not able to benefit due to language.
- Other activities include :-
- Following up with MTN on mobile money account opening process
- Following up MSAs monthly payment
- Following ACEs to ensure MSAs perform as expected
- Responding to MSAs queries raised through the WHATSAPP platform
- Responding to emails and phone calls regarding the implementation of the project
- Attending to meetings through Skype call on matters regarding project implementation.
- Signing of the MOU between UCA and the ACEs reasonably delayed and this has affected performance and ownership of the project by the ACE leadership. The delay was due to no clear partnership between the project and the relevant ministry in regard to provision of weather information. Lack of formal partnership between UCA and the ACEs has made some ACEs become reluctant to actually take project serious.
- According to the contract between UCA and EAFF, UCA is expected to pay MSAs from ACEs according to performance and number of forms submitted per each MSA. UCA submitted financial reports and requests to EAFF regarding MSAs payments. This communication has never been responded to up to today. This means UCA has no funds to pay MSAs in the coming months. A follow up was made to EAFF feedback is still being waited for.
- It was a very good approach to mobilize 150 farmer leaders and managers of ACEs whose capacities were built to actually understand the methodological approaches of the project with expectation that performance will improve. A follow up through phone call was made to each ACE finding out if things were any better, findings indicate that most of MSAs who were selected earlier were not willing to surrender phones to the leadership of these ACEs and the same MSAs are not willing to work. While those who voluntarily surrendered the phones to new MSAs, do not know how to use the applications.
- In general a big a number of MSAs are not profiling yet the project fully facilitated them with mobile phones. This has continuously affected the project performance to meet the project target. On the same note most of the MSAs are not IT literate thus find it hard to use the applications of the phone.
- The process of opening a mobile money collection account is in process however the process is very slow. This may affect farmers who are ready to subscribe for the MUIIS service bundle for the second season.
- There is general lack of awareness about the project. The Main goal of the project is to see farmers get profiled and subscribe for the MUIIS service products. However this is a challenge in all regions where farmers do not easily understand the methodological approach being used by the project.
- Late payments to MSAs which resulted into some MSAs posting demoralizing messages on the WHATSAPP platform
- Farmers who were able to subscribe for the MUIIS service bundle were not able to receive messages on time and this created some suspicion within the farmers who subscribed.
- Some of the MSAs who were selected are chairperson who are old and unable to understand the technicality of smart phones. On the same note the product of insurance is not clearly understood by farmers.
- Majority of MSAs who were trained did not brief the leadership and management about MUIIS project. Throughout M&E exercise in the 2 regions of North and Central, some leaders were learning of MUIIS for the first time.
- Most of the mobile phones which were given to MSAs have a lot of technical challenges and this has therefore affected general performance of MSAs to reach out to the project target of 350,000.
- The technical team not able to respond to MSAs complaints regarding phone issues.
- MSAs profiling wrong data
- There is need to conduct timely M&E to easy track on ground challenges for proper implementation
- Creating awareness in communities about MUIIS service bundle is very key for the success of the project.
- There is need to facilitate the coordinators salary
- M&E should be immediately done in the other remaining regions
- UCA to engage the technical team and ensure phone related challenges are addressed.
- There is need to recruit more MSAs and ACEs if the project is to achieve its results.
- UCA needs to make a follow up with Mercy corps and ensure farmers who subscribed receive the bundled messages.
- All data submitted by MSAs to be verified every month before payments.
- The project has re-strategized to sensitize farmers to subscribe in groups and to actively involve the cooperative leaders in the same process.
- There is need to withdraw all phones from none performing MSAs and make replacement of persons who are willing to work for the MUIIS project. Recruitment should be done with the help of UCA.
- To intensify monitoring both in the field and on ONA system.
- MOUs between UCA and ACEs was developed and sent to respective institutions for signing. The MOU is aimed at streamlining the effective implementation of the project.
- Monitoring and evaluation of the project activities was successfully done in the central, western and northern region, detailed report for each region is available. The team is planning to complete M&E in the eastern region.
- The project has so far profiled 67,000 famers out of 350,000 expected to be reached by 2018 and only 125 farmers subscribed for the MUIIS service bundle.
- The MUIIS service bundle was officially launched thus farmers are able to conveniently subscribe
- The implementation of the project was streamlined thus UCA and UNFFE are now responsible for a follow up of ACEs and DFAs.
- The project organised a 5 day workshop which brought 150 leaders whose capacity was built to understand MUIIS business and approaches.
- Project organised 4 regional workshop aimed at mapping out regional buyers, agroinput suppliers of quality in puts to farmers.
During M&E in Ogur production cooperative in Lira .
During M&E in mayuge eastern region