OPINION – African agriculture is ready for a digital revolution
April 08, 2021
Akinwumi Adesina, President of the African Development Bank and Patrick Verkooijen, CEO of the Global Center on Adaptation, believe that data provided by mobile phones can help African farmers adapt to climate change and boost the economy .
In an editorial published by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, Akinwumi Adesina and Patrick Verkooijen explain that African food systems must become more resilient to future shocks such as droughts, disease and floods. Food production must increase sustainably and counties must reduce their dependence on food imports. They believe that owning cellphones and smartphones in sub-Saharan Africa could be the key to strengthening the agricultural sector and reducing poverty.
Digital services like text messaging can reliably reach remote areas, and devices with smart features can connect to the internet. Ease of communication can foster prosperity at the local and national levels. In Uganda, SMS services that promote awareness of market prices have stabilized and increased the prices of key commodities such as coffee and maize. Ghana saw a similar increase in the wealth of farmers when digital services cut out middlemen.
However, improved farm gate prices are not the only benefit to be gained from the widespread use of mobile telephony. The authors claim that these digital services are the gateway to agricultural loans, crop insurance and improved economic security – which will help farmers become more resilient to climate change by adopting new farming methods or by experimenting with drought resistant crops.
The authors also point out that mobile phone data fingerprints can be analyzed to help assess risk when applying for a loan, making credit cheaper and more accessible.
The digital transformation of food systems is clearly having great results: the African Development Bank, which has allocated more than half of its climate finance to adaptation since 2019, has already helped 19 million farmers in 27 countries to increase their yields by 60% on average thanks to the application of digital technology.
This is why the World Adaptation Center and the African Development Bank launched the Africa Adaptation Acceleration Program (AAAP) to mobilize $ 25 billion to scale up and accelerate innovative adaptation to climate change. across Africa.
Once developed, the digital nature of these services often makes these projects easy to replicate elsewhere and at scale, even in large rural areas with little existing infrastructure.