Over the last 20 years, ICT Update has followed and reported on the rapidly changing landscape in ICTs for agriculture and digitalisation of the sector. The definition of digitalisation for agriculture, according to "The Digitalisation of African Agriculture Report, 2018-2019", “is the use of digital technologies, innovations, and data to transform business models and practices across the agriculture value chain, including production, postharvest handling, market access, finance and supply chain management".
In this edition, which unfortunately will be the last, recent work of CTA in promoting digitalisation for agriculture are featured, as well as the associated impacts.
At CTA, we are applying ICTs to agriculture to address the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), whilst ensuring there is a solid business case to support the costs of using the technology. We have taken existing problems expressed by our partners and sought solutions. The ICT projects that we have worked on show a need to combine the areas below, where orange indicates areas of support, blue indicates areas for action and green, areas for change:
Through partnership, we identify the areas of agricultural transformation that can help achieve the SDGs, and support actions where digitalisation can assist. For example, our work with the Pan African Farmers Organisation identified farmer profiling as a common issue in aggregating farmers to deliver benefits in production and value chain management, and access to markets and finance. To address this, we have worked with farmers associations across Africa to facilitate the digital registration of farmers.
By building capacities in digital literacy and bringing in expertise, CTA has used new technology, such as drones, to put more information in the hands of the farmers' organisations to improve yields and has worked with local technology operators to develop sustainable business. Insurance applications have been bundled to address climate risks and new software has been developed to provide farmers with forecasting and agronomic advice. In order to maximise the use of new technologies and develop applications, the efficient exchange of data is required. We have worked with partners to look at how data sharing and exchange can be equitable so that smallholder farmers can also participate in the benefits of open farm data.
This issue of ICT Update describes new technologies and approaches to using ICTs in agriculture. We are often asked about project results, so here we present a series of cases from our own experiences.
Based on his experiences working with young digital ‘agripreneurs’ and agribusinesses, Ken Lohento presents key strategies to help start-ups achieve business success. Ben Addom describes one of the key findings from the Digitalisation of African Agriculture Report, 2018-2019 – the development of ICT super-platforms – and his experience of the Market-Led User-Owned ICT4Ag-Enabled Information Service (MUIIS) project. Giacomo Rambaldi shows how new technologies have been applied to support agricultural transformation, and how this has resulted in new businesses and services. Chris Addison and Chipo Msengezi discuss the importance of data management in support of digitalisation, as illustrated through their projects studying data use in the field, capacity building in data use, and improving policy to ensure data is more effectively shared. And the role of applying applications to address one of the biggest threats to smallholders – climate change – is illustrated by Olu Ajayi and Mariam Kadzamira.
We have not only applied digitalisation to our partner projects, but to our own practices as well. The management of our agricultural projects is now supported by a series of dashboards and our IT systems have been ramped up to handle and visualise the data. Ibrahim Khadar explains how this has been achieved. To capture and analyse this data, we have worked with external partners, as explained by Martine Koopman and Claudia Ayim, who detail some of the evaluation work of our digitalisation projects.