Global scientists root for digital tools to transform Africa's farming
INTERNATIONAL – African governments should enact policies that facilitate adoption of technologies and innovations required to transform small-holder farming, international scientists said on Monday.
Athula Ginige, professor of information technology at Western Sydney University, said that a digital revolution holds key to enhanced productivity of African agriculture amid rising demand for food.
"We need to connect African farmers with technologies that can improve how they produce food at a time when population growth and climate change have escalated hunger and nutrition deficiencies in the continent," Ginige said at a media briefing in Nairobi.
He said that access to a mobile device and higher internet penetration has proved effective in streamlining agricultural value chains to the benefit of small-holder farmers.
"Farmers who own a smart phone and have access to internet are able to access information about weather and markets for their produce," said Ginige.
He revealed that Western Sydney University has partnered with three universities in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa to develop an application that seeks to empower small-holder farmers through access to information on markets and crops that are ideal for tackling malnutrition.
"The application which is at the pilot stage in Kenya, Nigeria and South Africa aims to help farmers promote crop diversity to address nutrition deficiencies," said Ginige.
Ginige said the mobile application that has already been adopted in Sri Lanka and India, should be scaled up in Africa to help address knowledge and capacity gaps that have undermined agricultural productivity.
Andre Renzaho, a researcher at Western Sydney University, said that adoption of mobile applications will help African small-holder farmers improve on agronomic practices, value addition and marketing of their produce.
"African small-scale farmers should leverage on emerging technologies to address bottlenecks that hampered productivity like harsh weather, lack of diversification and poor linkage with consumers," said Renzaho.