Many countries in Africa suffer from food insecurity for a variety of reasons; most link back to unstable agricultural food sources. Traditionally, most farmers had no means of recovering from natural disasters, such as floods and wildfires. Other outside factors, such as a country’s political state and poor education, can also contribute to poor agricultural yields. Further, while these issues still remain, the creation of numerous digital solutions could help alleviate these problems. Digital solutions can benefit agriculture in Africa and positively impact Africa’s near future.
Digitalization for Agriculture
The use of applications has risen in Africa’s agricultural sector. This includes the use of text messaging to deliver economic advice to smaller farmers. Another way is through the use of interactive voice response to connect farmers with potential buyers and other farmers. These solutions allow farmers to expand their market, while also increasing the number of connections between farmers within a given area.
The digital solutions market in Africa is fairly new, with over 60 percent of the market established within the past three years and 20 percent started in 2018. However, the digital market has not been as beneficial to small independent farm owners. These small farm owners make up around 80 percent of Africa’s agricultural production. Despite this, digital solutions have proven to improve crop yields by up to 300 percent and increase income by up to double what farmers previously made.
How Digital Solutions Help the Economy
Digital solutions not only help farmers through increased market size, but they also provide helpful advice such as weather alerts or advice on which crops will grow well given a country’s climate or season. Additionally, technology can also act as a channel for farmers to innovate new and sustainable ways to improve yields and reduce crop loss in the future.
On top of this, with a new and expanding market for digital solutions for agriculture in Africa, this will inevitably lead to new jobs in the agricultural technology sector. While the amount of small, independent farmers who have access to a mobile device is currently low, Africa is nearing universal phone access within the coming years, which will further expand the digital solutions market.
Nonprofits for a Cause
Some nonprofits have also helped improve the livelihood of independent farmers, such as Self Help Africa. Self Help Africa specializes in creating business ties between distant rural farmers to markets and producer groups. These efforts help rural farmers adapt to the climate and cope with threats of natural disasters. Further, Self Help Africa assists in connecting rural farmers to microfinancing services, improving economic responsibility.
The group also specializes in providing aid for independent women who make up the majority of the workforce for agriculture in Africa. Women do over 80 percent of small scale farm work in Africa; however, these women also only receive a fraction of the support. Some of these benefits are growing increasingly more common due to Africa’s growing digital marketplace for agriculture. However, Self Help Africa’s fight for gender equality will always remain important for females working in small market agricultural systems.
Agriculture in Africa is crucial for providing African citizens with a stable and reliable source of food. With improving tools, more Africans can be successful in their agricultural endeavors. Issues such as flooding, poor connections and knowledge used to be major hindrances to some food suppliers. However, with increasing knowledge of agricultural techniques and increasing market connections, the future of agriculture is looking much brighter for small, independent farmers.
– Andrew Lueker
Photo: Wikimedia Commons