Use of technology can raise farm productivity and boost growth

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By  Dias Nyesiga

food

As Africa continues to be the world’s most food insecure continent coupled with relatively low levels of agricultural productivity, experts are saying application of technology into the sector expected to have a market worth $1 trillion by 2030 would revert the negative trend.

The use of technology, as Toro Orero, Managing Director, DraperDarkFlow says the move will shift agriculture to a modern and mechanised sector with a growth in its productivity while also attracting more tech businesses in the sector currently employing around 65 percent.

“Technology has proved to be a key driver of growth in different sectors; I think this is the time we looked at applying it (ICT) in Agriculture,” he told Kt Press on Wednesday, “ This will be achieved by developing applications that  are result oriented for the sector.”

He also explained that countries that have developed successfully have shifted resources from agriculture to manufacturing.

With growing demand for solutions to cap climate change, fertiliser and pesticide usage, access to markets and rising harvest wastage along the value chain mainly in storage and transportation, technology remains the option for experts.

But some governments have already started applying technology solutions into sector, with Rwanda looked on to help its peers on the continent to create a technology driven agriculture after its success in implementing smart agriculture.

“So many initiatives have already been done. We are working on a roadmap that will help us increase of technology in agriculture,” said during the recent concluded The Global African Investment Summit in Kigali.

The government is finalizing the national ICT strategy for Rwandan Agriculture (ICT4RAg) which according to government will be coordinating financial, human and institutional resources to address challenges within the sector that grew by 7.0 percent in the first half of 2016.

The government and the World Bank initiated the project, e-soko worth Rwf 5 billion which is updating farmers through daily mobile phone short messages on commodity prices in different market thus easing access to market as well as solve the underpricing challenges.

Developed locally, Inkatrack used in monitoring livestock health and productivity through a digital device such as mobile phone or computer. The application helps to know total numbers of livestock, their productivity as well as disease outbreaks.

But implementation still faces hurdles with most farmers and stakeholders within the value chain are digitally illiterate and are less familiar with the use of digital devices. In Rwanda, for example, only 3 percent are digitally literate.

“We have finished the infrastructure side and now optic fibre runs through the country, what we have embarked on is the digital literacy side,” Jean Philbert Nsengimana, Minister of Youth and ICT said.

Paul Sinclair, The Global African Investment Summit says that agriculture poses a greater potential towards driving the continent’s economic growth but needs both governments and private sectors to take up the initiative.

But the private sector and the governments in Africa need to collaborate to make this happen,” he added.

The Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) report released today (Wednesday), says, “It could require US $315 billion to US$ 400 billion over the next ten years in public and private sector investments in all aspects of food production, processing, marketing and transport.”

The report shows that farmers are losing US $68 million in income opportunities due to lack of inputs and technical knowledge.

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