Small-scale farmers across Africa are shunning traditional labour-intensive threshing and winnowing methods, as they adopt digital solutions to increase productivity and drive progress across economies.
The Executive Director of Kenyan-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF), Dr Denis T. Kyetere said major challenges facing farmers in Africa include; drought and climate change, pests and diseases, low access to technologies, market failure and inefficient value chains. Further, adulterated agro-inputs are said to threaten gains already made by the farmers.
“We have developed and deployed a digital application, Market Information Support System for Cassava Mechanisation and Agro-processing (MISS CAMAP), which facilitates farmer access to extension services and markets, Agridrive App. [The app] supports access to mechanisation services, [whilst the] Hello Tractor App provides remote tracking of farm assets, preventing fraud and machine misuse,” said Kyetere.
According to him, digital solutions can be deployed to enhance crop management, seed inspection and seed certification processes, with capabilities for seed inspection with real-time data generated from the field. This allows for quick decision-making, data management and product traceability throughout the certification process, which supports efficient seed dispatch and cross-border trade of the seed.
In terms of adoption of digital solutions in agricultural value chains and the potential for growth, the expert noted that digital agriculture innovations can help to increase small-scale farmer yields by up to 70 percent, and income by up to 40 percent.
“The uptake of these solutions is considered a game-changer in the transformation of African agriculture. For example, Hello Tractor App has served 22 500 farmers in Nigeria and Kenya, and reports a 200 percent increase in customer yields,” Kyetere claimed.
To accelerate growth of digital agricultural solutions, experts called for the need for sound national strategies, including creation of an enabling policy and regulatory environment to support the adoption of digital solutions. This is crucial for ensuring affordability of mobile phones, connectivity and internet access in the rural areas.
According to Kyetere, agricultural transformation is within reach. Farmers can improve their productivity, increase their wealth and health, and continue the path of progress if they have access to the right mix of farming innovations, including digital agricultural solution.
At times, the digital penetration in rural areas is perceived as a major challenge to achieve. It has been suggested to boost the spread of mobile technology, which can play a transformative role in shifting food systems towards more sustainable and efficient practices.
“[The] time is ripe for digital solutions to accelerate agriculture development in Africa. As in most other innovations, an enabling environment would be key to supporting private sector investment and allowing access to the solutions by those who need them,” Kyetere emphasised.
Reports by the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) note that in many countries from Sub-Saharan Africa, government policies and frameworks are one of the driving forces behind digitalization.
The report also stresses that those countries that do prioritize the use of ICT in agriculture generally have a better business environment and policy and regulation framework for agribusiness. These create an enabling environment for competitive digital markets and e-services, it said.
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