Tech-driven agriculture way to Africa food security
One of the challenges facing Africa is food security. While many farmers still rely on traditional techniques to coax a living from the land, opportunities abound to use cutting-edge technology to drive Africa towards a food-secure future.
The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO), reports that over 2 billion people do not have access to sufficient food.
A steady increase in hunger since 2014, points to the need to scale up actions to strengthen food systems.
Accelerating innovation in agri-tech will enable data-driven farming that can optimise yields, boost farm productivity and increase profitability –while feeding a nation.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) in agriculture uses cutting-edge data, advanced analytics and machine learning, to bring centuries-old farming knowledge into the modern age, giving farmers the tools to optimise crop yields and mitigate the effects of climate change through tools like smart irrigation.
With agriculture sustaining 70 per cent of Africa’s livelihoods, Microsoft is committed to ensuring that all farming communities are equipped with the latest tech-tools and edge computing, to improve productivity and sustainability across the sector, leveraging the firm’s extensive partnerships in the process.
AI and cloud technology can be used to monitor soil, climate changes and make decisions on when and how much to plant on farms.
Precision farming, brought about by adoption of advanced technologies, will revolutionise food production.
In Kenya, SunCulture helps farmers improve their crop yields through solar-powered irrigation systems.
The Nigeria Incentive-based Risk Sharing System for Agricultural Lending recently signed a deal with Microsoft, to collaborate in helping Nigerian farmers become more productive, reduce costs and achieve better outcomes through the use of the FarmBeats platform, which harnesses sensors, drones and cameras for seamless data collection, helping farmers improve crop yields.
Particularly for smallholder farmers, it is a challenge getting reliable weather and market information in real time to help in decision-making.
A team of Microsoft developers recently built a platform, to democratise access to information using a feature or a smart phone.
Farmers can access information on pest and soil diagnosis, market prices among others, with an initial impact targeting 100,000 farmers.
Other agri-tech social entrepreneurs are effecting real changes for farmers and their supply chains.
Twiga Foods is a mobile-based business-to-business food supply platform that links smallholder farmers in rural Kenya to informal retail vendors in cities.
N-Frnds brings the power of digital via mobile to subsistence and smallholder farmers in Africa and other emerging markets.
Microsoft believes in increasing access to agricultural knowledge through collaboration.
Microsoft, through the 4Afrika initiative has collaborated with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, to co-create technology solutions in Africa, as it works to improve food security for 30 million farming households across 11 countries by 2021.
The partnership stands alongside investments such as Microsoft’s support of the World Bank’s 1 Million Farmers Platform, which aims to bring one million farmers onto a digital platform in the next three years.
Microsoft is also working with ministries across Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa and Egypt to drive impact in agriculture.
The Kenyan National Agriculture Platform is a key initiative to drive digitisation in agriculture.
Earlier this year, Microsoft started engaging with the Ministry of Agriculture, to collaborate in accelerating digital transformation in agricultural sector.
Across the continent, from South Africa to Kenya, Ghana, Egypt and beyond, Microsoft is working hard to enable agri-tech through various channels and partnerships. — The writer is Regional Director for Microsoft 4Afrika