E-Verification Gives Food Security a Boost in Uganda
Counterfeit or substandard agricultural inputs (agro-inputs)—such as adulterated or mislabeled agricultural products—account for as much as 30 percent of the market in Uganda and have a profound economic impact on the productivity and income of the country’s smallholder farmers. To counteract the situation, the Feed the Future (FTF) Uganda Agricultural Inputs Activity— funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by Tetra Tech—collaborated closely with the Uganda National Bureau of Standards (UNBS), Ministry of Agriculture Animal Industry and Fisheries, agro-input businesses, and manufacturers. With the program’s support, UNBS successfully launched E-Tag, its new electronic verification system, in November 2015.
E-Tag enables consumers to verify the legitimacy of the agro-input products (including seed, pesticide, fertilizers, and fuel) on a mobile phone. The service is free and available on various networks, which will encourage consumers to use it. As part of the launch, the Activity also initiated a public awareness campaign to educate farmers about this new innovation that can help them make informed choices in purchasing agro-inputs.
E-verification is a proven technology used to assure customers that the products they have purchased are genuine. A scratch-off label is affixed to each product that the consumer removes to reveal a unique code. The consumer can use a mobile phone to send the code via SMS (text message) to the number provided on the label. A message is sent back to the consumer with details about the product that verify whether it is genuine. In cases in which the code is fake or has expired, the E-Tag Coordination Center is alerted, enabling UNBS to follow up and take corrective action. As a result, consumers and manufacturers are protected from losses resulting from using counterfeit inputs and government agencies have access to the information they need to strengthen enforcement.
The FTF Uganda Agricultural Inputs Activity is a 5-year (2012–2017) USAID/Uganda-funded program to promote the responsible use of agro-inputs in FTF target districts. The goals of the program are to increase the availability and responsible use of high-quality agro-inputs such as fertilizers, agro-chemicals, and light equipment by farmers in FTF target districts and to decrease the prevalence of counterfeit agro-inputs.