Experts on agriculture say digital technologies could be a game changer for Africa, but only if policies are well aligned to ensure these technologies are put in the hands of smallholder farmers. Apart from food security, these technologies can create employment in Africa according to Dr Agnes Kalibata of the Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA).
Young farmers, however, want governments and civil society to invest in practical solutions that make these technologies useful to them.
At just 33, Caleb Karuga was declared redundant by a local media house in Kenya. He did not mourn; instead he took his cheque and fell back into his hobby; farming. Things were different for him in business.
“I got into pig faming I failed miserably. I got into dairy goat farming it failed miserably. I got into rabbit farming with a promise that I will make a lot of money from selling urine; I didn’t make a single coin, my rabbits died out of pneumonia.”
It is then that he turned to the internet reading and researching about agribusiness. With the benefit of hindsight, he decided to train those like him who may want to start agribusiness, but have no prior knowledge on the trade.
He started talking about his farm on twitter and then he created a website where farmers could book training online. He says it has been overwhelming.
“It’s been overwhelming; you find people coming from all corners of the country.”
Close to ten years since his agribusiness journey began, he has now settled on poultry farming and also trade in traditional vegetables. His business is now making profits and he has started a YouTube channel to fill the knowledge gap in the agribusiness sector. A week since he started his channel, he has just over 400 subscribers, a digital following that he believes will contribute to changing Africa’s agribusiness scene.
The Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) indicates that digital technologies in agriculture may help contribute to ending global hunger by 2030, though the transformation of the current agrifood systems. Expert Dr Agnes Kalibata of AGRA agrees.
“Digitisation provides a different opportunity; it makes it easier to reach, it takes advantage of things that are already in the hands of farmers like mobile telephones, it overcomes infrastructure. So it is an opportunity that we need to take advantage off.”
Policies in some African countries have hindered an uptake of digital technologies. This among the issues that experts meeting in Ghana this week will discuss at the annual African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF)
“Let’s not build a monument on ICT and forget the brick and mortar of what the man and woman in the farm is going through,” Karuga said.