ACCORDING to a 2017 report by the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the continent’s food system requires an agricultural transformation that is focused on more than just agricultural production and encompasses the entire food system.
The report further points to promoting the growth of smallholder farms and SMEs involved in Africa’s food systems and providing assistance to smallholder farmers that commercialises viable farm business prospects and capabilities.
In essence, one view to a smart agricultural sector involves establishing a sustainable and inclusive agricultural model that promotes equitable value distribution across the value chain; creates jobs; allows the increase of productivity and improvement of logistics and storage capacities while remaining cost-effective and respectful of the environment; and implementing and monitoring effective and efficient public policies.
The bedrock of such a model is the capturing in real time of all relevant data produced by each of the different stakeholders within the agricultural value chain so that their decisions are as rational and efficient as possible. Here, technology has a clear role to play.
The African agricultural sector particularly also the Namibian sector is dominated by smallholder farmers. According to the International Fund for Agricultural Development, there are an estimated 500 million smallholder farmers in Africa and South-East Asia, providing as much as 80percent of the food consumed in these regions and supporting up to two billion people financially.
For Namibia, many of the difficulties these smallholder farmers experience are directly or indirectly related to the availability of quality information and data mainly because of infrastructure. Such data includes information about buyers and exporters, information about inputs such as soil types, growing best-practice, weather, and pest control; information about markets such as pricing and local, regional or global demand; traceability information related to food safety and certification to increase the market value of goods produced; information regarding storage and logistics; and access to financial services in the form of micro-loans or insurance.
In many instances, the lack of information has a direct impact on Namibian smallholder farmers’ outputs and, by effect, livelihoods.
On a larger scale however the situation is worse. Only 5percent of cultivated land in Africa, for example, makes use of irrigation, compared to 38percent in Asia, leading to lower yields and limiting their income-earning ability.
While agricultural performance has improved over the past decade, it is not yet sufficient to meet the demands of a Namibian population that is expected to grow. A technological intervention is needed.
The solution to this may be rooted in technology. By providing our smallholder farmers with technology tools designed to improve their day-to-day farming operations, we are creating an ecosystem of benefits across the agricultural value chain that will take the country one step closer toward realising a brighter and more food-secure future for generations to come.
Confidente. Lifting the Lid. Copyright © 2015