Although Uganda and Kenya are members of the East African Community (EAC), many small-scale farmers especially women have for so long not felt the impact of the regional bloc’s integration on their livelihood.
The problem has been blamed on the existing information gap related to agricultural produces market availability and economic opportunities the EAC integration offers to the smallholder farmers in the community.
It's on this background that small-scale farmers from Uganda and Kenya with support from development partners have launched an Integrated Information Communication Technology project.
The project will help farmers to address the challenge of information flow related to agricultural products and the economic potential of the EAC countries, majorly Uganda and Kenya
The project code-named Kilimo Mart Application, an ICT application, will be developed to aid farmers to share information using Information Communication Technology gadgets such as mobile phones.
Through using the application, farmers will be in a position to access information related to markets for agricultural products.
According to Andrew Adem the program's Manager of the Eastern and Southern Africa Small Scale Farmers' Forum (ESAFF) Uganda, if the application is well embraced by the sector holders, it will open many agro-business opportunities to the small farmers in the region.
“ESAFF Uganda in partnership with Kenya small-scale Farmers’ Forum (KESSFF) and with support from Incubator for Integration and Development in East Africa( IIDEA), GIZ and the EAC will be implementing the project.
“The project will boost trade opportunities for agricultural products and services by promoting small-scale farmers’ access to markets and information in East Africa.
“This will create market opportunities for small-scale farmers and consumers to utilize the current trade prospects and share agricultural information using ICT,” he said in Statement.
He added that this project will play a very vital role in empowering women small -scale farmers hence improving household livelihood.
The Kilimo Mart Application is a 12 months project that will be jointly implemented by ESAFF Uganda and KESSFF with support from Development partners such as the African Union, GIZ IIDEA among other Development partners.
Although the East African Community and Common Market for the Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) has a combined population size of 606 million people, smallholder farmers particularly women feel they have not benefited such economic integrations.
Masudio Margaret, a small-scale farmer from Adjumani district, says the project will provide an opportunity for small-scale farmers who cannot access market most especially after the collapse of cooperatives that used to help them in marketing. She added that the EAC integration should present an opportunity to share market information and cross border trade.
Other farmers from Uganda said that East African members states should ensure that smallholder farmers tap into the opportunities that come alongside with the regional economic integration.
Masudio observed that many smallholder farmers are not aware of the regional integration which keeps them away from tapping on the wider opportunities the integration offers to them as farmers.
“The EAC integration is supposed to offer market opportunities to small scale farmers in the region but in many cases, small-scale farmers don’t feel the impact. For me, I only hear about the EAC market, and I feel that small scale farmers are left out; thus we are not benefiting from the EAC integration as they are not getting market opportunities.” Vicky Lokwiya, a small scale farmer from Gulu district in Northern Uganda, said.