By Joyce Ojanji

To increase productivity and sustain resilience in food systems and nutrition security across Africa, technologies including digital solutions, data management systems, climate smart varieties, hybrid seeds and agricultural mechanization need to be adopted, agricultural experts say.

They were speaking during a jointly organized global event by African Agriculture Technology Foundation (AATF), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Tony Blair institute for global change on the side line of the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF2022) held in Kigali, Rwanda.

They noted that the successful utilization of these technologies require political will and the enactment of policies and regulations that facilitate their sustainable deployment to change the lives of smallholder farmers in Africa.

“Digital agri-tech is a strategic compliment for product development and deployment that has proven to maximize on farm productivity in diverse production ecologies,” Dr Emmanuel Okogbenin, director of programme development and commercialization at AATF.

He noted that digital technologies are crucial to enhancing critical mass reach to farmers and end users for impact. Giving an example, he said that three hybrid rice varieties recently released in Kenya are giving farmers over 10 tonnes per hectare under irrigation, compared with four tonnes that commercially available hybrid varieties are offering.

Moderating the discussions, Dr Canisius Kanangire, Executive Director of AATF observed that population growth and climate-related shocks are major threats to agricultural productivity in Africa. But he regretted that while African farmers are beginning to innovate to increase productivity and drive growth across entire economies, climate change and a surge of new pests and diseases threaten to reverse these gains.

Addressing the panel, Yves Iradukunda, Permanent Secretary in Rwanda’s Ministry of Innovation and ICT, underscored the need to build the capacity of farmers to understand and use the technologies and break the barriers in knowledge transfer.

Ken Lohento of FAO emphasized the need for collaboration, saying no single technology can solve farmer’s challenges and that technology should be deployed in packages.

‘’Successful models for technology deployment, including the Digital Villages Initiative (DVI) that FAO is implementing to support agricultural productivity, market access and other complementary services, can be enhanced through mobilizing people, businesses and capital towards positive impact,” he said.

According to Philip Gasaatura of Katapult Africa, startups have great potential in advancing technology in Africa and therefore they require support to take away risk from their operations and facilitate expansion.

In addition CEO of Oneagrix, Diana Sabrain, called for establishment of sustainable private-public partnerships to facilitate the transfer of technologies on the continent.