Agriculture in Africa currently stands at the crossroads of persistent food shortages compounded by climate change threats. Farmers are operating in a constantly uncertain environment in which climate change is affecting planning and future productivity. Agriculture is the backbone of Africa’s economy and will continue to be so in the foreseeable future.
Technological Innovations in agriculture will indeed go a long way to boost productivity, creating employment and bettering food security in the continent. Whether its satellites that provide accurate climate data, internet of Things (IoT) devices like smartphones or cutting-edge innovations like blockchain. Technology could be a game changer to how we view agriculture in this fourth-generation revolution and resilience in a sustainable way.
Scientific innovations should be engaged in agricultural value chains, throughout Africa technology-led transformation of agriculture sector is already underway. According to the World Bank report on innovations Africa 2016, The world bank is incorporating precision technology into its agriculture projects.
“We’re exploring Internet of things enabled smart irrigation devices that combined automated soil water sensors and cloud-based data analytics.” Noted the World Bank
In Kenya, the World Bank has deployed big data from remote sensing and GIS (Geographic Information System) enabled technologies to support the implementation of Agro-weather analysis that enables accurate weather monitoring. This technological innovation data will enable smallholders to know how and when to apply inputs for optimal results.
Another technological innovation that has been gaining momentum in the agricultural sector is the use of mobile phones. Mobile technology has been used to provide value to innovation and development. In Nigeria, for example, mobile technology is being put to excellent use through an initiative called the “Growth Enhancement Support Scheme”.
This system enables farmers to receive fertilizers and seed support through their mobile phones or electronic wallets. Such innovations were once implemented in Zimbabwe (Mashonaland East Province) where Farmers where to buy Electronic scratch card vouchers for their supplies, only 1,000 farmers participated.
According to FAO’s Emergency Rehabilitation and Coordination Unit (ERCU) in Zimbabwe between 2009 and 2011, “Each farmer received open scratch card vouchers, redeemable for preferred agricultural inputs from selected agro-dealers. The voucher had a value of USD 75, of which participants contributed USD 15 of their own money. Mobile phones were used to validate beneficiary details and to process the transaction at the point of redemption.”
The agricultural sector is becoming tech-friendly and will work towards decreasing the challenges farmers face because of delays in accessing critical information.
Mobile phones are also assisting in Kenya by bringing market related produce prices to their attention. The Kenyan Agricultural Commodities Exchange has partnered with mobile operator Safaricom in launching Sokoni SMS64 a texting messaging platform that provides pricing information to farmers. There is also the ICow mobile app billed as the first cow calendar that allows dairy farmers to track the gestation periods and progress of their cows, it makes use of SMS and voice services.
Whether apps has also been used around Africa to promote agriculture. M-Samba App, which has been used in some parts of Sub-Saharian Africa for the various features of a mobile phone, including cross-platform applications accessible in both smart and low-end phones, and SMS to provide information on production, harvesting, marketing, credit, weather and climate.
This app is accessed through the internet and mobile phones are helping farmers across the continent by providing up to date weather forecasting.
Such Apps might become helpful in Zimbabwe with the current Data Consumption which is continuously increasing to 15.8 Billion Megabytes of Data as of 2017, these apps also help collects crowd-sourced information from farmers on which crops they planted were and their yields as well as the types and amount of fertilizer used. The farm support weather app also uses a modified Geo-WIKI promoting two-way communication between data and providers and farmers.
The use of drone technology can be the future of agriculture in Africa, in a survey by Remi Carrier and Le Monde Afrique ‘drone technology can be a special method to improve agriculture. Drone use is on the rise among crop farmers in Europe and the United States.’
Although it might take some time to be effectively used in Africa drone technology might be the future of agriculture technology and has a huge potential. The drone technology could cut labour and costs spent in collecting data for maize breeding.
As technology improves, and if governments and farmers join forces to invest in these innovations agriculture sector will accelerate in Sub-Africa.
Eyetro Digital believes that technological innovation in agriculture is a key to create jobs and economic opportunities for youth in the sector. We are also glad that among the six out of One Hundred Eighty-Eight Start-ups that got funded from The Potraz Innovation Fund, one of the start-ups was an agriculture-based company called Shift Organic Technologies.
Shift Organic Technologies utilizes technology to make high quality and affordable agriculture products. The start-up also specializes in vegetables, herbs using a combination of chemicals and technology to increase efficiency. The company also employ the use of chemicals and technology in increasing efficiency in animal husbandry.