Africa: Can Africa Feed Africa?

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3 September 2019

Accra — Did you ever think that they will be a time where farmers can monitor their crops or the movement of their animals without having to go to the farm.

Yes, technology is definitely changing the world, and African farmers are catching up.

But, why digital farming?

Many farmers are still traditional as they use hand-hoes and animal traction to produce their food crops. But this is changing. Now many farmers are embracing smart farming in order to meet the demands of a changing world. Those who can afford it - have acquired soil sensors to measure air temperature, nutrients and humidity, drones and satellites to collect and analyse data - making it possible for farmers to manage their crops. This gives farmers the opportunity to increase production, save costs and eliminate risk.

African leaders, stakeholders and experts are tackling how to develop actionable plans that will move African agriculture forward at the African Green Revolution Forum. The theme of the forum is "Grow Digital: Leveraging Digital Transformation to Drive Sustainable Food Systems in Africa."

Africa is on the move to make life easier by simply going digital - and in this case - in farming.

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA) has released the Digitalisation of African Agriculture Report 2018-2019 which explains the agricultural transformation in Africa. It reported that there has been a significant growth in Digitalisation for Agriculture (D4Ag) in the last ten years.

At least 33 million farmers in Africa had registered with various organisations to access agricultural services including; financial, market access solutions and satellite imagery management, Michael Hailu, Director of CTA said. Hailu noted that about 50% of African farmers - in few years - would also use artificial intelligence, drones and digital data to enhance agriculture activities to improve productivity and incomes. He underscored the need for governments, private investors and development partners, to work together to make digitization of the agricultural sector a game changer in Africa and stimulate massive transformation.

The report found that an untapped market worth more than two billion dollars for digital services could support farmers, and improve their productivity and income. It also reveals that Africa generates U.S.$127 million with the use of digitization services for agriculture activities. In other words, adopting digital farming techniques could be a paradigm shift in farmer's perception from production to productivity and to profitability.

The report's case study was conducted in Ghana, Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Nigeria, Senegal and the Sahel region.  According to the report, there is more than 400 digital solutions for the 33 million small-scale farmers registered across sub-Saharan Africa. The number of registered farmers is projected to increase to 200 million by 2030. The report showed a significant increase in incomes and productivity when farmers use digital solutions.

Some African countries have started embracing smart farming. They use low-cost drones to help farmers detect pests and diseases on their crops and make informed decisions for improving crop water efficiency and yields. They also have mobile applications that give financial tips to farmers. As a result, farmers now help combat food insecurity.

Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, African Union's Commissioner, Agriculture and Rural Economy has said that "extreme hunger can be reduced by the use of technological advancements that are available on the African continent today. Let us use this opportunity to unlock this potential that our continent has".

The report has highlighted how digitalisation is a game-changer for agriculture.

According to the report, Africa's agriculture could be transformed into a powerhouse not only to feed a growing population but to create decent employment for millions. This can be achieved with the right policies, innovation and investment but we need to be conscious and support solutions that are sustainable and that are tailored to countries' needs. Stakeholders in the agriculture sector have called for policy makers to make agriculture more attractive to the youth through technology and agri-digital systems.

Agnes Kalibata, President of the Alliance for a Green Revolution, said that "we need to optimise the use of digitalisation for agriculture. I want this to be Africa's last decade where we have to deal with food security issues."

Join us on twitter and Facebook as we tackle questions on what can be done to boost African agricultural productivity? #AGRF2019

allAfrica's coverage of this conference is sponsored by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa

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