The Minister of Agriculture & Animal Resources (MINAGRI), Dr. Agnes Kalibata, during the closing of the ICT4AG Conference, committed herself to put the Yala Prize, worth $30,000, to a yearly ICT for Agriculture competition in a bid to encourage youth to come up with ICT-enabled solutions for agriculture.
Minister Kalibata made the commitment after realizing the impact of innovative ideas that resulted from the 4-day Hackathon competition that took place in parallel with the ICT4ag conference in Kigali.
“Let’s put the money together to encourage youth with innovative ideas and get to work to create a green revolution,” said Minister Kalibata, while pledging the financial support as a way to build an enabling environment.
The willingness to encourage innovative ideas, according to Kalibata, makes part of the Rwandan government to involve and build a vibrant private sector that can drive the country’s economy.
“We, as the Government of Rwanda, are committed to make something happen for the private sector,” she said.
During the gala dinner, the best Hackathon winners were announced and awarded with cash prizes. Uganda’s Ensibuuko team from Outbox went away with the overall prize with 5,000 EUR and a six-month incubation to refine their project.
The wining team developed an application to improve access to finance for people in remote areas. The application makes it possible for them to acquire small loans and pay back loans with ease by text messaging services.
Other awardees included the first run-up group from Ethiopia who received 4000 EUR, the second run-up from Tanzania with 3000 EUR.
A Rwandan team, Fertilizer Logic, also participated in the competition, although did not receive any awards. Their application detects soil fertility in order to help farmers determine the nutrients composition in the soil, as well as the proper amount of fertilizer to apply to their crops.
According to Kalibata, these kinds of innovations need to be supported in order to fast track agricultural professionalization. In respect to this, she also announced that the ICT4AG meeting will become an annual event.
Michael Hailu, the Director of CTA, said that the weeklong event has been a success.
“It was really exciting to see the energy of these young innovators. This gives us a unique opportunity to continue supporting the use of ICT and for the the youth to provide solutions for agriculture. At part of CTA, we will be continuing this activity and intensifying this effort,” said Michael Hailu on the event’s outcomes.
“This is the beginning to put ICT for agriculture on the map,” he pointed out, thanking Rwanda’s Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources for having hosted the memorable event.
“Seeing people at the Hackathon today reminded me of these home-grown solutions that Rwanda has; going back on the ground and asking yourself, what are the real challenges? It’s about digging deep into people’s cultures to help create solutions that will reach them even faster,” Minister Kalibata remarked.
In addition to the ICT innovative projects, CTA also recognized the best journalists who produced pieces on how ICT is facilitating agriculture transformation. Joshua Masinde from Kenya’s Daily Nation was for best piece.
The ICT4AG conference was attended by more than 400 participants from 60 countries of the African continent, Asia, Pacific and the Caribbean.