Smallholders 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.Dr. Denis T. Kyetere, the Executive Director of Kenyan-based African Agricultural Technology Foundation (AATF) said major challenges facing farmers in Africa include drought and climate change, pest and diseases, low access to technologies, market failure and inefficient value chains and adulterated agro-inputs 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) that facilitates farmer access to e– extension services and markets, Agridrive App that supports access to mechanisation services and Hello Tractor App which provides remote tracking of farm assets, preventing fraud and machine misuse,” said Dr. 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 allowing 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 smallholder yields by up to 70 per cent and incomes by up to 40 per cent.
“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 per cent increase in customer yields,” Dr Kyetere said.
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 adoption of digital solutions especially with regards to ensuring affordability of mobile phones, connectivity and internet access in the rural areas.
According to him, Agricultural transformation is within our reach. Our 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 time the digital penetration in rural areas is descided as a major challenge to achieve this, 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.
“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,” emphasized Dr. Kyetere.
In addition, ‘digital literacy’ is critical for using digital technologies, it said.
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 stresses that those countries that do prioritize the use of ICT in agriculture also 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.