Smartphones and mobile gadgets have revolutionized many sectors in Africa, and recently, fueling innovation in agricultural activities in Africa. This has led to the coinage of the term “digital farming” to describe how farmers are solving problems using their mobile phones.
Digital farming, though new, has fast-gained prominence in a larger part of Africa. It is the use of data to make better agronomic decisions. A more detailed emphasis by Yara defines digital farming as a means of applying new technologies such as data science, advanced sensors in the field and from space, digital communication channels, and automation on the field. This way more farmers have access to better insights to take more optimal decisions, drive up yields, reduce waste, particularly in emerging markets.
The relevance of digital farming has led to its adoption in several countries in Africa especially Sub-Saharan Africa including Ethiopia, Nigeria, South Africa, and also in Morocco.
In a bid to improve productivity and reducing farming costs, advisory messages are received by farmers on their mobile phones and in some cases, drones and Artificial Intelligence (AI) have even come to play in improving agriculture. However, the bigger issue lies in if these technological devices can help solve famine in Africa in the long run.
A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2018 revealed that the numbers of hungry people in the world are growing, reaching 821 million in 2017. This annual UN report found that climate variability affecting rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, and climate extremes such as droughts and floods, are among the key drivers behind the rise in hunger, together with conflict and economic slowdowns.
The report highlighted the primary cause of famine across Africa, to which digital farming is looking to proffer adequate solutions.
How Digital Farming will assist Farmers in Practice
Experts believe that this technology included in farming can multiply yields, boost income and improve subsistence farming, thereby providing for millions of household who depend on agriculture.
The need for government, private sectors, and individuals to invest in digital agriculture will cause a growth at every level of the food chain including small farmers in the rural areas and urban economies to increase productivity and generate income.
Digital farming as a tool for curbing famine will assist farmers to forecast favourable weather conditions, help farmers pick the right sowing time and avoiding uncertainties related to climate change. Digital farming will help farmers make observations of atmospheric conditions, and hence predict the most beneficial crops to sow, by paying attention to the soil and its nutrition.
In turn, farmers can increase their production by applying precise quantities of inputs such as agrochemicals at the most appropriate time, while at the same time protecting the environment.
When atmospheric conditions are suitable, digitalization creates room for statistics and adequate management. This way farmers and distributors can channel the required food crops to a stated population, without fear of a shortage that could be created by famine.
Tech-based farming will promote transparency, timeliness, and diversification and in the long run reduce famine, gradually from individuals to households than the society at large. Digital farming helps to quantify production, make adjustments where necessary and measure the results; hence it’s a very practical predictor for preventing and halting famine on the continent.