For a long time, Agriculture in Africa has been functioning with the unknown. Farmers used to fertilize soil without knowing what nutrients were required. They planted based on the months they anticipated rainfall and assumed suitability of the soil. Unfortunately, due to global warming, the climate has been unpredictable in the recent past.
To avoid further disappointment and in a bid to improve food security, technology has been adopted. These innovations have helped farmers to understand the soil better. They have also been able to keep track of soil moisture level in determining if irrigation is necessary. Several innovations have been introduced to cater for every stage of food production. Technological innovation has made it possible for soil, previously assumed unproductive, to be used and it has boosted agricultural output.
Collection and retention of soil data
Just as efforts are being made to conserve the environment, the same is being done with soil. Data on the quality of land is being collected for future reference. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation funds the Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS) project. The aim is to collect soil data and make it accessible to everyone through the use of interactive maps. These can be obtained with the use of Google Earth. The main aim of this project is to encourage sustainable Agriculture and the management of natural resources.
Solar Powered pumps and irrigation systems
Many African countries have been unable to utilize some of the modern farming methods because of the lack of electricity. Those connected to the grid have been unable to implement some of these innovations because of the cost of running some of the machinery.
SunCulture, with the support of Energy and Environment Partnership Trust Fund (EEP), has offered support to small-scale farmers in Africa through the introduction of irrigation systems which use renewable energy. It provides favorable financial aid through their “Pay-as-You-Grow” initiative. With this model and the financial backing of EEP, SunCulture has supported over 600 farmers in Africa.
KickStart, a Non-profit Organization, has been supplying farmers in sub-Saharan Africa with low-cost portable irrigation pumps, commonly referred to as the MoneyMaker. It is popular with small-scale farmers in Kenya, Tanzania, and Mali.
The use of smartphones and apps
Farmers have for a long time suffered in the hands of middlemen in Africa. They relied on the price offered for their products without knowing the prevailing market price. The Kenyan Agricultural Commodities Exchanges has partnered with Safaricom, a mobile phone operator, in keeping farmers informed of the market price of their produce. This has empowered them to demand better pricing for their products.
iCow is an app designed to help farmers keep track with the gestation period of their cows. They receive regular updates on progress. This is done using message and voice service. FarmSupport is an app available to farmers in Africa. It provides a real-time weather forecast.
Drones to monitor Agriculture
Some of the Agricultural land in some parts of Africa are quite large. It is impossible for farmers to keep track of the growth of crops in every part of such farms. Investiv Group is a company based in Ivory Coast that helps in the monitoring of farms with the use of drones. The Aerial Monitoring Solutions, Aerobotics, ALTI, and FarmPin are South African based companies that offer support to farmers with the use of drones. In Ghana, the AeroShutter provides similar services. In Rwanda, Parrot-Airinov in Partnership with CTA is using drones in the fertilization of wheat.
Technological innovations are being embraced more today by the local farmers. The use of demonstration farms has helped to improve awareness, especially to farmers who do not know any other way of managing their farms. It is expected that technological advancement will boost production and improve food security in Africa.