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Wednesday, 12 August 2015 21:14

MOBIS – Helping Smallholder Farmers Access Credit and Manage their Finances

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David Opio

As a child growing up in rural Uganda, David Opio experienced at first hand the difficulties faced by smallholder farmers. His mother owned an acre of land but was unable to farm it fully because she lacked the resources she needed to do so. Now David is an ambitious entrepreneur, with a passion for information and communication technologies (ICTs).  He is working to improve the livelihoods of rural farmers in Uganda.

Too many projects are invented in offices, far removed from farmers and their needs. But this initiative was different: working with Gerald Otim, David studied producers’ needs and expectations, and looked at existing solutions. Building on their in-depth knowledge of the target area and their understanding of local problems in rural Uganda, David and Gerald quickly saw a key gap. Their idea was simple – to provide an innovative service for farmers that would help them to get access to financing.


They developed their solution – an information system facilitating access to loans and financing for small farmers – in cooperation with savings and credit cooperatives (SACCOs). These cooperatives encourage savings and provide loans. There are thousands of SACCOs in Uganda, with about 18 million members in rural areas. However, their impact is limited and this is notably because they lack appropriate information technology.

Local solutions to local problems

To address this deficiency, David and Gerald developed Ensibuuko app (later known as Mobile Banking and Information Software [MOBIS]) – a mobile banking system that allows small-scale farmers to get access to credit and to manage their own money. With a mobile phone, farmers can manage their savings, request a loan, make repayments, etc. The SACCOs also benefit from MOBIS: using this tool has helped them increase the quality and reliability of their services considerably while reducing their overheads.

Decisive partnerships

The idea of the Ensibuuko app was good and the partnerships  created helped considerably in achieving its success.

The application was developed in the framework of a regional hackathon (AgriHack) organised in 2013 by CTA’s Agriculture Rural Development and Youth in the Information Society (ARDYIS) project as part of the ICT4Ag international conference in Kigali, Rwanda. “After becoming regional winners of the hackathon, we benefitted from a six-month incubation at Outbox, an ICT centre in Kampala. We also benefitted from mentoring and coaching by several leaders in the field,” said David.

Since then, Ensibuuko has recruited eight employees, including several young women developers, and has attracted international partners.

They were also involved in other CTA activities such as the Plug and Play Day at the Fin4Ag international conference held in 2014; this allowed them to pitch their product to the public and to potential partners. The Government of Uganda, for example, encourages SACCOs to adopt MOBIS. Mercy Corps and Microsoft in Uganda are other partners for the deployment and uptake of the services. Ensibuuko has now diversified its services offering also access to solar energy to farmers.

More than 10,000 Ugandan farmers are now using MOBIS.

Find out more at http://www.ensibuuko.com/
Initially published on the EU website on July 16th in the framework of the European Year of Development 2015 celebrations
Republished in the framework of International Youth Day. Read more at: bit.ly/1DJGfUP

Last modified on Saturday, 15 August 2015 09:20
Thierry Lewyllie

Thierry Lewyllie

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