How Digital Technologies can Help Feed Africa

By: HAKIM FAIZ


posted on: May 21st, 2019

WHAT IS THE CURRENT PROBLEM IN AFRICA?

The Food and Agricultural Organisation of the United Nations has estimated that the world population will reach 9.1 billion by 2050, meaning that food production has to more than double to keep up with greater demand. Especially for Africa, which is expected to have about 2 billion inhabitants by then, it is essential to accelerate farm productivity (the output of the agricultural industry) as much as possible.

The problem is that as population grows, farm output falls. This is often due to factors like weather changes and migration from rural to urban areas meaning that there are fewer young people to work on the land. Governments in Africa have been using many policies to improve this situation but greater change is required to ensure that local food supply is secure. Most communities still use old farming processes like hoes and cutlasses. Meanwhile the few that would try to access new technologies face trouble with financing issues.

HOW HAS INVESTMENT IN DIGITAL TECHNOLOGIES BEEN A PART OF THE SOLUTION?

African entrepreneurs are now expressing an interest in how farmers work and how they can be helped to increase agricultural output. With financing sorted out, an entire continent of people will have the opportunity to grow their farm yields and businesses. Examples of the kinds of digital technology that has made it into Africa include satellites and drones, weather forecasts and soil sensors. Automated systems have also been installed to warn farmers before hand of changes in weather patterns, by examining soil temperature and nutrients. This also helps the farmers use the right fertilisers and pesticides, and irrigate their fields at the right pace. Other available technologies include drip-irrigation sets that allow a few droplets of water to constantly irrigate the crops using solar energy to power the entire system. This reduces water losses during regular irrigation, thus protecting a scarce natural resource.

WHAT DOES THE FUTURE HOLD?

These technologies, and many more are becoming more accessible to African farmers, and have confirmed increase in productivity. Additionally, major global corporations are trying to advance the digitalisation of African agriculture by launching payment schemes, credit platforms and digital insurance. These allow farmers to handle their earnings better, to improve standards of living for themselves and their families. Though language differences and use of old farming methods is still a hurdle to overcome, things are looking positive and Africa is moving in a progressive and environmentally sustainable direction.

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