Africa has the largest amount of arable land globally, (by definition: Arable land is land capable of being ploughed and used to grow crops. In Britain, it was traditionally contrasted with pasturable land such as heaths which could be used for sheep-rearing but not farmland.), current research shows from 50 to 60 percent of arable lands are on the African continent. Additionally, the world banks research show that the average age of the farmer is 60 years , and I will reiterate that, on a continent with an average age of less than 19 , there is real disconnect in growing a vibrant agriculture pipeline .
Its baffling for me that every time the future of technology for Agriculture in Africa is brought up, many begin to point to the block chain, cryptocurrency and drones, let me explain:
Honestly, I can imagine block chain in a produces market place to enable traceability and ease of payment between farmers and buyers or smart contracts that facilitates loans and other digital services to farmers and helps reduce transactions costs or again, block chain distribution platforms to enable identity verification and record keeping for credit scoring for the farmer to facilitate better access to loans
I believe however, the future of technology in Africa will be a solution to the more basic set of question like:
- How to entice a younger population into agriculture and the value chain of agriculture to build more large scale agriculture ventures
- How to enable the provision of the right input for the small holder farmers at the right time. (soil data, weather data, pricing data, farming implements like tractors etc. )
In the last two years I judged the Agrihack by CTA and in the last 3 years was judged the AppsAfrica Awards which awards apps with innovative solutions on the African continent. There are many technology startups that I met during this event that are trying to solve the basic agriculture problems that exist on the African continent.
FarmCrowdy, as already been discussed in the leap frog agriculture section of this book, is a remarkable startup with a portal that enables an average person to invest into a farm space, go through a farm cycle for a profit, ultimately leading busy professionals to start to take an interest in farming .
Lake view fisheries, even though not part of the awards event, has enabled fish farming by creating a micro franchise business complete with a patented temperature controlled fish transport box. The fish transport ensures fish stays at the right place during transportation and has included a GPS tracking system for verification of fish location and quality. The company facilitates young people to venture into the fish farming space.
In order to integrate the right fertilizer to increase farm yield, Kitovu a startup in Nigeria uses a data science enabled mobile based platform to provide soil and market demand data for better decision making in farms. In the same vein of requiring the right input, TroTro tractor out of Ghana, enables farmers on demand book tractors to plough their land.
I suspect block chain, drones and mobile technology will be the under pinning technology for the solutions to the basic problems in the agriculture space , however I believe the focus must be on the solutions to be solved than the bright new technologies available.