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Agricultural innovation with digital solutions increase smallholder yields in Africa

Journal du Cameroun
18 Sep 2020

APA 16 Sep - To accelerate  growth of digital agricultural solutions, experts called for the need  for sound national strategies including the 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.

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, the 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.

Digital penetration in rural areas is  a major challenge to achieving this. Indeed, boosting the spread of  mobile technology  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.


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Policy and Regulation

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