Mobile Phones Bring Efficiency to Agro-Dealers in Rwanda

Claudine Mukeshimana
Businesswoman Claudine Mukeshimana uses a smart phone and a Web app to keep track of stocks, sales and profits.
International Fertilizer Development Center
Phone and Web tools strengthen business management
“Earlier I was afraid to take a loan to expand my shop. Now ... I can manage my business like a professional.”

Claudine Mukeshimana, 31, is a mother of two and a businesswoman in Rwanda’s Eastern province. In 2003, she opened a small general store selling milk, sugar and rice. A few years later, in 2009, she changed the focus of her business and began selling agricultural inputs for crop production, hoping to make better use of her agronomy training. Since then, she hasn’t looked back.

Mukeshimana sells a range of products—seeds, pesticides, fungicides, tools, fertilizers and veterinary medicine—with customers throughout the district. She sells a ton of fertilizer alone per month, worth about $5,200 (3.5 million Rwandan francs).

She was thrilled with the success of her business, but with so much demand, it was difficult to manage and plan without the proper tools.

"Like everyone else, I had many problems in managing my business,” explains Mukeshimana. “I was selling fertilizers without knowing how much profit I was making. I could not manage my stocks. I would order too much or too little.”

In hope of finding solutions, Mukeshimana joined a training program in March 2013 supported by USAID’s Privatization of Rwanda’s Fertilizer Import and Distribution System project. She was introduced to mFarms technology—a smart phone and Web-based program designed to help small-scale entrepreneurs track stocks, sales and profits; share market and price information; and more. Mukeshimana and her fellow agro-dealers were provided with phones, and taught how to use the program to manage their businesses in a way that meets their needs and the needs of their customers.

“Now I do everything on my smart phone. I record the quantities I buy and keep track of whatever I sell, day by day,” says Mukeshimana. “I check my inventory once a week and enter the stock quantities into my phone. That way, I am sure of ordering the right quantities at the right time. Every day, after the last customer, I check the quantities sold and make sure that the money collected actually corresponds to what I should have in the store.”

Recently, Mukeshimana took out a bank loan for about $1,400 (1 million Rwandan francs) for stock purchases before the early 2014 growing season. She repaid it in less than two months.

“Earlier, I was afraid to take a loan to expand my shop,” she says. “Now I have no more fear because of what I have learned. Using mFarms, I can manage my business like a professional.”

USAID’s Privatization of Rwanda’s Fertilizer Import and Distribution System is a five-year project that began in 2010 to help the Government of Rwanda transition its fertilizer distribution system from a subsidized public system to one managed by the private sector. It does this by providing training and tools to agro-dealers like Claudine, promoting private sector friendly policies, and supporting the sustainable development of the fertilizer value chain.

Last updated: July 17, 2014

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