Digital technologies can also help Africa’s farmers: the power of digitalization

Smallholders or large and very large farms in any production areas can benefit from appropriate, i.e. sustainable, digital technologies. Especially for Africa, recent publications discuss the opportunities to eradicate poverty using digital technologies, even at a small scale.

Main concerns include digital communications (mobile phones); drones and  satellite systems in charge of preventive surveyance, and linked to localised data technologies and models (for example included in already existing platforms), in the aim to prevent or diminish the effects of adverse conditions, and to help cultivation decisions. Soil, climate and human skills are key factors.

In all latest scientific and technological advance objectives, the need to explore the scaling of digital projects in Africa’s food market, is enhanced by International organizations and on-site researchers and promoting agencies. Today, many programs aim to achieve development on the African continent through digitization.

 

Digitalization for agriculture (D4Ag) can be a game changer in supporting and accelerating agricultural transformation across the continent. At CTA the power of digitalization is claimed for transformation of agriculture in Africa. Digitization, focusing on not individual ICTs but the application of these technologies to entire value chains, is a theme that cuts across all the present work in the transformation of territories. Here, youth entrepreneurship, fostering a new breed of young ICT ‘agripreneurs’ is a main target in Africa.

In addition, it is necessary to ensure that development is coordinated, that best practices are shared and a collaborative approach to rolling out and scaling-up digital innovation, primarily focused on increasing use by farmers, is adopted.

D4Ag (Digitalization for Agriculture) has the potential not only to support agricultural transformation but to do so sustainably and inclusively. A list on the needs for the inclusive growth through development of African digitization is presented:

AgData : farmer registries, farmer transactions, soil maps, weather, agronomy, pest &,disease surveillance)…. data is the new oil.  “While I prefer a more sustainable analogy, for Africa it is certainly the case that data might be the impulse that drives the transformation of smallholder farming and keeps the continent on track to meet its food and nutrition demands into this century and beyond.” (CTA 2019).

D4Ag software: (e.g., CRM, ERP, data ,capture tools, field agent, management tools, data analytics tools, blockchain platforms). In Ghana, for instance, online platforms such as EsokoFarmerline, and Trotro Tractor have provided farmers with accessible services. These have included voice messages and SMS extension advice. This helps farmers obtain information about how to access markets and extension services..

 

D4Ag hardware : (e.g., drone, satellite/GIS,field sensors, machinery sensors, portable soil/crop/ input diagnostics….): international organisations help to provide PA: Precision Agriculture advice to farmers. An example is the CTA’s ‘Transforming Africa’s agriculture: Eyes in the sky, smart techs on the ground” project that supports the use of drones for agriculture.

It has been difficult to assess impact of the already completed improvement efforts. But some promising metrics are emerging for assessing the recognised impacts:  Higher yields .Climate change resilience, Higher incomes, Inclusion of women and  Youth employment. Lately, the reduction of food wastes, and reutilization of surpluses has become very related to the improvement aims: 8.8 Mi tones of edible products are wasted per year only in Europe!

As regarding precision agriculture, clearly the methodologies, the digital technologies and the appropriate equipment, already existing and to be developed, form a real possibility for needing territories, and that means not only in Africa. A pool of ideas may emerge  from our SPARKLE project to contribute in the effort for the increase of global food availability and humanity welfare.

Let us produce some objectives where PA  and/or digitization are key factors:

  • Generalise production, in higher proportions of homogeneous commodities
  • Schedule of on-farm production to meet market demand
  • Monitor conditions of produce through the market
  • Cooperate in developing weather-based insurance policies for farmers
  • Encourage and cooperate in education in advanced technologies, mainly

of young population.

  • Monitor wastes, potentially hazardous or harming to the environment
  • Monitor pests and diseases, and climatic data.

 

In addition, environmental issues like soil erosion and a changing climate like droughts, rising temperatures, and El-Niño events left nearly thirteen million people needing humanitarian assistance in African countries. PA technologies would highly increase, or even create capacities for territorial monitoring  that would prevent this type of disasters.

In addition, the integration of technology in the agricultural sector is not only an issue of appropriate solutions. Socio-economical measures  and the industry need to be a company to the advanced appropriate farming technologies

Looking into the Global Goals, no less than eight of them are closely dependent on the success of PA/digitization farming methodologies: No poverty; Zero hunger; Good health and wellbeing; Quality education; Decent work and economic growth; Responsible consumption and production; Climate action; Life on land. Regarding SPARKLE project results, these potential benefits and possibilities should be taken into account in our documents and training programs.

 

 

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Extracted from:   The Conversation (Digital publication)   https://theconversation.com/how-digital-technologies-can-help-africas-smallholder-farmers-119952    Main author: Abdul-Rahim Abdulai

…and further documents:

CTA Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)  Reports  https://www.cta.int/en/digitalisation/all/issue/the-digitalisation-of-african-agriculture-report-2018-2019-sid0d88610e2-d24e-4d6a-8257-455b43cf5ed6  .

European Commission, DG for International Cooperation and Development   https://ec.europa.eu/info/sites/info/files/organisation-chart-dg-devco_en.pdf

https://www.globalgoals.org/

https://news.sap.com/2016/05/digitization-vs-digitalization-wordplay-or-world-view/

Image: “pictures on African farmers” by Google.