How Technology can drive Agriculture in Africa

Africa with all it’s potentials in Agriculture still has low yields. According to Debisi Araba, Regional Director for Africa at the international center for tropical agriculture (CIAT) he stated …

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Africa with all it’s potentials in Agriculture still has low yields. According to Debisi Araba, Regional Director for Africa at the international center for tropical agriculture (CIAT) he stated that “Africa is facing the triple burden of malnutrition, we should focus on technologies that can make the entire value chain sensitive. But our main issue has always been lack of funds and investments”.

When it comes to fighting poverty in Africa, agriculture is more effective than the other sectors and with the help of technology, farming can go a long way in sustaining the African economy. According to World Bank, Agriculture has a very important role in Africa as it employs 65% of the work force and contributes 32% of GDP. While agricultural productivity in Africa has picked up in recent years, the industry is currently facing several problems with low productivity due to the climate change, lack of assets such as land, education, finance, equipment and expertise. But despite these hindrances, agricultural technologies could be a game-changer in boosting productivity and vast potential for the African farmers. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) predicts that the agricultural market in Africa will grow to $1 trillion by 2030 through the help of technology. Impressive!

The role of agricultural technologies affects the rate of increase in agricultural input, it also determines how the increase in agricultural output impacts on the poverty levels and environmental degradation(Meinzen-Dick et al, 2002).

Measures that can be taken to increase adoption of technology include: (i) Adopting a package approach to provision of agricultural development technologies and knowledge (ii) Improving smallholder farmers’ access to finance (iii) development of infrastructure for agricultural input and product markets. (iv) Reducing the technology costs on the farmers (Nkonya et al, 2004, Rose Grant et al, 2002).

For instance, technological developments and innovation such as weather forecasts, satellites and soil sensors are making things easier for the African farmers to manage their crops. With the help of this technology farmers can have access to information and recommendations tailored to their local soil, weather and market condition.

Agro-Robots: This innovation could dramatically lure potential ones into farming and improve net incomes and results to the existing farmers Yes! farm Robots are the prime movers in agricultural revolution, they are increasing production yields for farmers in different ways. These robots help in harvesting and picking, utility platforms, sorting and packing, weed control, autonomous mowing, seeding, spraying, thinning and pruning. They are the farm machine that receives instructions and make work easier and faster for the farmers. The demand for food is outpacing available farmland and these agricultural robots are helping the farmers to close the gap and improve their production yields.

Crop Sensors: This technology performs different tasks on the farmland. they help to monitor and eliminates human errors, find parasites, help in efficient crop management and regulations through implanted chips, bioinformatics and sensors. For Instance, instead of prescribing field fertilization before application, crop sensors will help to inform application equipment of correct amounts needed.

Led Indoor Crop Technology: With farmland becoming either too expensive or scarce, agricultural scientists are developing new and productive methods to grow crops indoors through LED lights.

Digital Technology: This technology as we all know is a fantastic way to boost Africa’s agriculture, and this will continue to be a major drive for development in Africa. The capabilities of the local entrepreneurs and businesses to provide services such as technical assistance and finance are growing significantly due to greater access to mobile and internet technology, this allows for quick transformation and dissemination of knowledge. This solution is already transforming the way in which African farmers work and interact and bridging the gaps between the informal and formal sectors. This innovation can easily help farmers to access knowledge and information on farming practices, pest control, crop diseases and land management. It also makes agricultural markets, extension services and finance more accessible and help to engage youths in the sector. Access to this digital technology plays a vital role within the agricultural sector in Africa and the use of information and communication technologies (ICT) on rural farms is no longer an exception. for instance, within the last decade, the number of mobile subscribers in Sub-Sahara Africa has steadily increased, transforming the ways farmers are cultivating and selling their products.

Cloud Farming: This is a promising technology that can change the way we farm. It increases the knowledge of the farmers of what happens on farm scale, according to IBM’S EZ-FARM PROJECT, which is currently being piloted in Kenya, it aims to explore how advanced data collection and analytics can help farmers monitor farming conditions. Sensors and cameras are strategically placed to monitor water tank levels, the amount of moisture in the soil, the rates of photosynthesis and the performance irrigation equipment, this data is then teamed wirelessly to the IBM Cloud and can be accessed by the farmers through their smartphone app. This innovation is a great way for the African farmers to modify their practices and make their farms more productive.

In addition, the World Bank is incorporating technology into its agricultural project across the globe. For instance, in Kenya, the world bank is deploying big data from remote sensing and GIS-enabled technologies to support the implementation of agro-weather analytics that enable accurate weather monitoring. Also, in Nigeria the farmers can hire affordable tractors to work in their land through their mobile phones. This start-up has served thousands of farmers to date and increased yields in the past years. Due to the constant poor power supply, the solar refrigerators can help farmers preserve their products without wastage. According to the World Bank about 1.2 million farmers in Ghana, Niger, Malawi and Ethiopia are learning best farming practices through engaging videos from digital Green. As long as agriculture remains the backbone of most of the economies in the region, all these technologies and many more will continue to be essential for farmers and their food production.

With all these benefits, entrepreneurs in Africa are increasingly seeing opportunities in the agricultural sector using technology, the market is changing as things are becoming easily accessible to farmers.

CONCLUSION

The biggest problem facing Africa is funding, effective and sustainable policies and systems required to drive agricultural processes. And as we all know, agricultural technologies is a primary factor that will contribute to increases in farm productivity in Africa, this is an essential strategy that will help in achieving food self-sufficiency, elevate poverty and food insecurity in Africa. These technologies plays a significant role in determining how fast agricultural productivity grows in Africa thereby making crop production more efficient and profitable.

On the other side however, there are many cases where the technologies have failed to gain acceptance either because of the deficiency in technical performance (Graves 2004) or because farmers have been unable to acquire skills required to implement them and the additional demand of these technologies. There is a large gap between what the smallholders gets and what is feasible with the available technology in sub-Sahara Africa (Muhoho, 1989).

Therefore, improved technologies are of little value if the farmers does not have deep knowledge of them. It is therefore imperative not only to develop new agricultural technologies, but to also promote their adoption to the smallholders farmers. The agricultural scientists should also emphasize certain variables which reduce the farmers’ vulnerability to loss of income, natural disasters, bad health and other factors.

To empower farmers in Africa, I believe a solid finance, cost reduction, equipment and knowledge are essential. Also, an understanding of local cultural practices and preferences is important if smallholder farmers’ are to benefit from these agricultural technologies. Enough and continuous investment is needed to empower rural farmers and provide them with reliable infrastructure to make work easier for them.

 I urge the African government and the people to invest in these technologies, which in turn will increase the African economy, human development and foreign reserves.

Share your thoughts and experiences in the comment section below.

REFERENCES

Von Braun, J. And P. Webb, (1989). The Impact of New Crop Technology on the Agricultural Division of Labour in West African Setting

Nkonya, E, Pender, J Jagger, P, Sserunkunmo, D., Kaizzi C., and Ssali, H, (2004). Strategies for Sustainable Land Management and Poverty Reduction in Uganda

Curated by Kofi Annan, Gordon Conwey and Sam Dryden, (2016) African Farmers In the Digital Age

Foresight Africa (2018).

Graves. A, R. Matthews and K Waldie, (2004). Low External Input Technologies for Livelihood Improvement in Subsistence Agriculture

Forbes, (2018).

Kennedy, E, and Bouis, H.E, (1993). Linkages Between Agriculture and Nutrition: Implications for Policy and Researches

Meinzen-Dick, R, Adato, M, Haddad L, and Hazell P, (2004). Science and Poverty: An Interdisciplinary Assessment of the Impact of the Agricultural Research

Washinton Muzari, Wirimayi Gatsi and Shepherd Muvhunzi, (2012). The Impacts Of Technology Adoption on Smallholder Agricultural Productivity in Sub- Sahara Africa

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