How digital technologies can help Africa’s smallholder farmers

 In Uncategorized

«Back to Home

How digital technologies can help Africa's smallholder farmers

The Conversation
12 Jul 2019, 04:34 GMT+10

Digitisation could change the game for agriculture in Africa. That's a key message in a report recently released by an international institution that enhances smallholder farming in African, Caribbean and Pacific countries.

The Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) focuses on poverty reduction through modernising smallholder farming by fostering innovation and knowledge sharing.

Digitisation refers to everything from delivering farming advice via text messaging to interactive voice response. It also includes smart phone applications that link farmers to multimedia advisory content, farm inputs, and buyers. And it covers the use of drones and satellite systems to inform farmer activities, such as crops and times to plant; and types and amounts of inputs to use.

Other global organisations have echoed this message. These range from NGOs like Solidaridad Network – a civil society organisation that accelerates sustainable and inclusive development – to the World Bank. These organisations believe that digital technologies can create employment for young people in the agricultural sector, promote economic activity, and enhance food security.

For the past two decades, digitisation has steadily transformed African farming. In Ghana, for instance, online platforms such as Esoko, Farmerline, 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..

Elsewhere on the continent, international organisations help provide precision 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.

The continent's digital agriculture industry is growing. The number of farmers subscribed to digital services has grown by between 40% and 45% per year in the last three years.

Annual revenues from digitally supported farming are estimated at about $140 million. Services are provided by a small but growing number of providers – some of which are estimated to generate €90 of revenue per farmer annually, partly through service charges. This trend looks set to continue.

But the success of digitisation in agriculture shouldn't just be evaluated by its economic value. Its benefits must be enjoyed by smallholder farmers and rural populations. Smallholder farmers, most of whom have access to less than two acres of land, produce more than 80% of the food in sub-Saharan Africa.

African smallholder farmers will ultimately determine the continent's digital farming story. Only through collaborations with them, and among sectors, will the digital transformation become a success in Africa.

Challenges of smallholder farming

Smallholder farmers face daunting political, economic, social, cultural, and institutional barriers. They have limited access to information, markets, capital, land tenure, and even basic inputs like fertilisers and seeds.

Government policies, and the influx of foreign land grabbers in many African countries, only worsen the situation. Ethiopia, Ghana, and South Sudan are among the hot beds for foreign land deals.

Added to these are environmental issues like soil erosion and a changing climate. In recent years, droughts, rising temperatures, and El-Nino events left nearly thirteen million people from Kenya, Ethiopia, and Somalia needing humanitarian assistance.

This makes traditional farming hard for smallholders across the continent, and can undermine their capacity to fully benefit from the digital revolution.

Also, connectivity tends to be limited in rural areas. And, even if farmers can connect, they may not have enough money to access the services.

These concerns limit the production and profits of farmers and undermine rural development. This is where digitisation comes in. It has potential to increase access to information and resources to provide solutions.

Elsewhere, digital technologies are already showing promise for rural farmers. The Chinese government partners with private actors like Alibaba to digitise agriculture. From web-portals to Mobile Internet Based Services, rural farmers benefit from access extension advice and capital. This leads to increased productivity and incomes.

Inclusion in digitisation

There have been positive strides in ensuring smallholders become involved in digital agriculture. An estimated 33 million people – about 13% of all sub-Saharan African smallholders and pastoralists – are already registered for services such as weather updates and market linkages.

Ethiopia's "80-28" hotline – a farmer advisory service – has about 4 million users, the highest on the continent. Beyond being a free service, its success is partly due to the delivery of services in local languages. Aligning services to local circumstances encourages farmers to subscribe willingly.

Kenya leads the way in digitisation in Africa. Collaborations between agriculture and telecommunication has been instrumental in their success so far.

What's missing

These examples show what is necessary to help smallholders become connected to digital services.

One additional strategy is to blur the boundaries between different sectors. Digitisation is not just an agricultural issue, or a technological one. It involves many parts of the economy. Hence, digitisation must be situated within a broader development and poverty reduction agenda. For instance, education is critical to farmers' ability to use and benefit from digital technologies.

It is also crucial to place smallholders front and centre when designing policies and specific digital products meant to help them. In this way, digital transformation will reflect the users' needs.

Authors: Abdul-Rahim Abdulai – PHD Student, @Feeding9Blilion Research Lab, Department of Geography, Environment and Geomatics/Arrell Food Institute, University of Guelph | Emily Duncan – Ph.D. Student, University of Guelph | Evan Fraser – Professor, Director of the Arrell Food Institute and Tier 1 Canada Research Chair in Global Food Security, University of Guelph

More Africa News

Access More

Wimbledon 2019: Highs and lows from SA perspective

The Africa News.Net

Bankrupt Becker's trophy auction raises nearly R10m

The Africa News.Net

Mexico's Diaz fires 62 to seize John Deere lead

The Africa News.Net

101 questions Jacob Zuma must answer at the Zondo commission

The Africa News.Net

Free Migrants Detained in Libya, Human Rights Officials Say

The Africa News.Net

Netball Proteas ready to take on the world

The Africa News.Net

Farmers Benefit from Having Nature Nearby, Research Shows

The Africa News.Net

Algeria beat Ivory Coast on penalties to reach AFCON semis

The Africa News.Net

Cameroon Fights Boko Haram Recruitment with Goats, Sheep

The Africa News.Net

New UN poverty report reveals vast inequalities between countries

The Africa News.Net

JSE retreats as mining production data disappoints

The Africa News.Net

How SARS can 'pierce' the corporate veil to catch tax avoiders

The Africa News.Net

Madagascar fairy tale ends as Tunisia ease into AFCON semis

The Africa News.Net

15 Springboks to fly out early to New Zealand

The Africa News.Net

Another Gupta wedding brings shadowy in-laws into the fold

The Africa News.Net

Mantashe: SA will get nuclear at a cost it can afford

The Africa News.Net

Currie Cup ready for lift off this weekend

The Africa News.Net

Workers finally represented on PIC board ? unions

The Africa News.Net

Bankrupt Becker's trophy auction raises over £500,000

The Africa News.Net

How digital technologies can help Africa's smallholder farmers

The Africa News.Net

SABC confirms Phat Joe 'unscheduled until further notice'

The Africa News.Net

Sign up for The Africa News

a daily newsletter full of things to discuss over drinks.and the great thing is that it's on the house!

All Africa News Headlines

115,000 cases of measles reported in Democratic Republic of Congo

UN News

More people being murdered than dying in wars or terrorist attacks

Jay Jackson/UN News

From Syria to Sudan, women rights defenders need more than likes

The Africa News.Net

5 Sundowns stars given break after AFCON exit with Bafana

The Africa News.Net

Rosko Specman chats to Sport24

The Africa News.Net

Wimbledon 2019: Highs and lows from SA perspective

The Africa News.Net

How SARS can 'pierce' the corporate veil to catch tax avoiders

The Africa News.Net

Bankrupt Becker's trophy auction raises nearly R10m

The Africa News.Net

Madagascar fairy tale ends as Tunisia ease into AFCON semis

The Africa News.Net

Mexico's Diaz fires 62 to seize John Deere lead

The Africa News.Net

15 Springboks to fly out early to New Zealand

The Africa News.Net

101 questions Jacob Zuma must answer at the Zondo commission

The Africa News.Net

Another Gupta wedding brings shadowy in-laws into the fold

The Africa News.Net

Free Migrants Detained in Libya, Human Rights Officials Say

The Africa News.Net

Mantashe: SA will get nuclear at a cost it can afford

The Africa News.Net

Netball Proteas ready to take on the world

The Africa News.Net

Currie Cup ready for lift off this weekend

The Africa News.Net

Farmers Benefit from Having Nature Nearby, Research Shows

The Africa News.Net

Workers finally represented on PIC board ? unions

The Africa News.Net

Algeria beat Ivory Coast on penalties to reach AFCON semis

The Africa News.Net

Bankrupt Becker's trophy auction raises over £500,000

The Africa News.Net

Cameroon Fights Boko Haram Recruitment with Goats, Sheep

The Africa News.Net

How digital technologies can help Africa's smallholder farmers

The Africa News.Net

New UN poverty report reveals vast inequalities between countries

The Africa News.Net

SABC confirms Phat Joe 'unscheduled until further notice'

The Africa News.Net

JSE retreats as mining production data disappoints

The Africa News.Net

EFF thrown out of Gordhan budget vote address after tense standoff

The Africa News.Net

Standoff in the chamber: EFF's indignation and Gordhan's spunk

The Africa News.Net

Pat Symcox saddened by death of 'hero' James Small

The Africa News.Net

Friday's weather: Light rain along the coastline

The Africa News.Net

Central Africa News

115,000 cases of measles reported in Democratic Republic of Congo

UN News

5 Sundowns stars given break after AFCON exit with Bafana

The Africa News.Net

Bankrupt Becker's trophy auction raises nearly R10m

The Africa News.Net

Madagascar fairy tale ends as Tunisia ease into AFCON semis

The Africa News.Net

15 Springboks to fly out early to New Zealand

The Africa News.Net

101 questions Jacob Zuma must answer at the Zondo commission

The Africa News.Net

Access More

New Releases

The Africa News.Net's News Release Publishing Service provides a medium for circulating your organization's news.

Facebook Feed

International News

115,000 cases of measles reported in Democratic Republic of Congo

UN News

Trump hosts social media summit at White House

ANI

Predeccessor of FBI: Bureau of Investigation – born March 1909

FBI

Sanctions on Iran to be increased substantially, Trump says

Jay Jackson

33 convicted in Ankara over actions during 2016 coup

Jay Jackson

Canadian-Tunisian man who brought jihad to Michigan

FBI

Trump Twitter decision a resounding victory for free speech defenders

Clay Calvert Brechner – The Converation

More people being murdered than dying in wars or terrorist attacks

Jay Jackson/UN News

From Syria to Sudan, women rights defenders need more than likes

The Africa News.Net

In Peru, tougher rules set to push Venezuelan migration underground

The Africa News.Net

Access More

Twitter Feed

Twitter

Recent Posts

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Contact Us

We're not around right now. But you can send us an email and we'll get back to you, asap.

0

Start typing and press Enter to search