Digital farming: The rise of digitalization in African agriculture
The application of digital technology in agriculture has been cooperative in promoting data generation as well as in decision-making process for farmers.
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Agriculture is the main source of income among the rural and poor population. In Africa, over 80 per cent of the farmers are smallholders and they produce 70 per cent of the continent's produce.
The application of digital technology in agriculture has been cooperative in promoting data generation as well as in decision-making process for farmers. Digital farming assists to increase the planning, security, efficiency and productivity of farms.
Agriculture employs 65 per cent of Africa's population and makes up 32 per cent of its GDP. Nearly 50 million smallholder farmers in Africa are struggling to support their families and communities through agri-business because less than 10 per cent have their economic needs met by the financial sector
According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the world population will reach 9.1 billion by 2050, and to feed that number of people, global food production will need to grow by 70 per cent. For Africa, which is projected to be home to about two billion people by then, farm productivity must accelerate at a faster rate than the global average to avoid continued mass hunger.
African entrepreneurs are now focused on how farmers work and how they can help improve yields. Several tech companies have already started working to tackle the challenges of food security and prepare agriculture to be more efficient for the future through big data and analytics.
"Those who feed the nation should be empowered by technology"
The obstacles to entry into farming technology have dropped with the introduction of cloud computing, computing systems, connectivity, open-source software, and other digital tools that have become increasingly affordable and accessible. Entrepreneurs can now deliver solutions to small-size African farms at cost models that farmers can afford.
Technological advances have opened up new possibilities for farmers around the world. Few of the practical examples where technology is making agriculture more efficient and sustainable in Africa are analyzed below:
- Zenvus: It is an intelligent electronics sensor that measures and analyzes soil data like temperature, nutrients and vegetative health to help farmers apply the right fertilizer and optimally irrigate their farms.
- UjuziKilimo: A Kenyan startup uses sensor technology with big data and analytic capabilities to transform farmers into a knowledge-based community, with the goal of improving productivity through precision insights.
- M-Farm: It provides pricing data to remove price asymmetry between farmers and buyers, making it possible for farmers to earn more. It connects smallholder African farmers with urban and export markets via SMS and a web-enabled marketplace.
- Farmerline and AgroCenta: It utilizes mobile and web technologies that bring farming advice, weather forecasts, market information, and financial tips to farmers, who are traditionally out of reach, due to barriers in connectivity, literacy, or language. It provides real-time market information prices across major markets in the country to smallholder farmers through SMS.
- Sokopepe: It uses messaging services and web tools to offer market information and farm record management services to farmers.
- Farmdrive: It uses mobile phones, alternative data and machine learning to close the critical data gap that prevents financial institutions from lending to creditworthy smallholder farmers.
Moreover, many global corporations have launched payment systems, credit platforms, and digital insurance to advance digitalization in the African agriculture.Digitalization has opened up a vast untapped potential for farmers to improve the efficiency, productivity and profitability of food in Africa. Digital farming will completely revolutionize the agriculture sector in Africa in the near future.