Information technology is a tool for African farmers to tackle climate change

books: Wael Al-Toukhi

Case studies conducted in Africa have shown the positive impact of access to the simplest types of mobile technology for small farmers and farmers, emphasizing the importance of promoting universal access to digital technology, especially mobile phone-based technology, for farmers in the African continent to help reduce it. the impact of climate change Vodacom Group, Vodafone, Safaricom and the United Nations Capital Development Fund support this study in the report they co-authored, Towards a Connected Climate.

This study is the third in a series of six sections published under the Africa.Connected campaign, launched to help bridge the digital divides that are holding back sustainable progress in key economic sectors in Africa such as agriculture.

The use of technology to enable smallholder farmers to increase their resilience is important as they make up a large part of the farming sector. The continent is home to about 250 million smallholder farmers, but even though sub-Saharan Africa contains a quarter of the world’s arable land, McKinsey points out, it produces only 10 percent of the world’s total agricultural output.

Sustainability in increasing agricultural productivity is essential, said Takalani Nchitenze, Director of Foreign Affairs at Vodacom South Africa. Technology plays a major role in this as a tool for development, and there is anecdotal and unconfirmed evidence of this development in the markets in which Vodacom operates on the mainland, where smartphone penetration remains low, with the proportion of small farmers not exceeding it.

Impact of climate change

Across Africa, climate change poses a major threat to agricultural development represented by extreme weather conditions such as increased severity and frequent droughts, extreme heat, erratic rainfall, severe storms and floods. Farmers in developing markets are usually more vulnerable to changing weather patterns than farmers in developed countries. Extreme and unpredictable weather conditions cause increased crop instability, impede livestock productivity, and increase the potential for pest and disease outbreaks, which in turn have a major impact on the economy.

To this end, Vodacom remains committed to reducing its carbon emissions by 50% by 2050 to contribute to the achievement of climate change targets set by the governments of the markets in which it operates under the Paris Agreement on Climate Change.

Ntchenzek added that the introduction of mobile-based technology should be complemented by access to low-cost devices, network coverage and affordable data, especially for people in underserved and underdeveloped areas. To this end, the government, the private sector and civil society must continue to work hand in hand to connect underserved rural areas to ensure that no one is left behind.

Vodacom has come a long way in answering the call for action by increasing network coverage in the rural areas of its market and providing affordable phones to millions of Africans so far. “The examples, where Vodacom operates on the mainland, show how simple mobile-based technology offers opportunities, even to farmers who use basic functional phones, no matter where they are,” Ntchenze said.

Inclusion also requires dedicated products and services to all market segments, in places where smartphone penetration remains low, with innovative data-driven solutions being developed and made available to anchor the development agenda. URL and USSD-based platforms that provide access to financial services and agricultural opportunities, for example, can easily connect smallholder farmers to the agricultural value chain.

The M-Kulima mobile platform in Tanzania connects smallholder farmers with a wealth of information and resources via SMS, USSD and IVR.

The platform provides real-time weather forecasts, helps farmers plan to deal with climate change and provides important market information to help farmers get the best price for their products. This platform is also integrated with the financial services platform M-Pesa to enhance financial inclusion by providing a mobile money transfer service and allowing payments and microfinance operations. In addition, Kenya’s integrated DigiFarm platform – available through unstructured add-on data or through the application – provides everything a farmer needs from basic farming advice to the most advanced automated support, in the same way that the M-Kulima platform works. .

Vodacom in South Africa has entered into a partnership with UN Women and the South African Women and Agriculture Organization (SAWIF) to develop and launch a program for women farmers with the aim of facilitating women’s work in agriculture and make them profitable by teaching them how to use applications to connect. with potential clients and enables massive economic growth.To date, more than 2 000 women are now available for the South African Women and Agriculture Organization (SAWIF) database of female farmers, digitized and easily accessible for women with business training and computer basics. This program led to testimonials from the beneficiaries about how their approach to technology adoption and agriculture changed after they adopted the technology. Examples like these demonstrate how mobile technology creates economic opportunities for farmers and even confidence in the use of technology and in helping student children to do their homework by using it.

The Covid-19 pandemic has proven that digital transformation is central to the development agenda, and therefore ICT companies need to accelerate steps to remove barriers to access to communications by focusing on both mobile and fixed broadband, affordable devices, digital knowledge and affordable data.

The Towards a Connected Climate report opens the door to urgent debate on the challenges facing the sector, and Ntchinzej concluded: “By identifying where farmers are struggling and proposing a way forward against a technological background , we can bring about sustainable and impactful changes that promote climate-smart agriculture on the continent.

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