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Why technology will disrupt and transform Africa’s agriculture sector—in a good way

Simeon Ehui's picture
© Dasan Bobo/World Bank
© Dasan Bobo/World Bank


Agriculture is critical to some of Africa’s biggest development goals. The sector is an engine of job creation: Farming alone currently accounts for about 60 percent of total employment in sub-Saharan Africa, while the share of jobs across the food system is potentially much larger. In Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia, the food system is projected to add more jobs than the rest of the economy between 2010 and 2025. Agriculture is also a driver of inclusive and sustainable growth, and the foundation of a food system that provides nutritious, safe, and affordable food. 

Agriculture 2.0: how the Internet of Things can revolutionize the farming sector

Hyea Won Lee's picture
Nguyen Van Khuyen (right) and To Hoai Thuong (left). Photo: Flore de Preneuf/World Bank
Last year, we showcased how Vietnamese farmers in the Mekong Delta are adapting to climate change. You met two shrimp farmers: Nguyen Van Khuyen, who lost his shrimp production due to an exceptionally dry season that made his pond too salty for raising shrimp, and To Hoai Thuong, who managed to maintain normal production levels by diluting his shrimp pond with fresh water. Now, let’s suppose Nguyen diluted his shrimp pond this year, another year with an extremely dry season. That would be a good start, but there would be other issues to contend with related to practical application. For example, when should he release fresh water and how much? How often should he check the water salinity? And what if he’s out of town?
 
Nguyen’s story illustrates some of the problems global agriculture faces, and how they unfold for farmers on the ground. Rapid population growth, dietary shifts, resource constraints, and climate change are confronting farmers who need to produce more with less. Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that global food production will need to rise by 70% to meet the projected demand by 2050. Efficient management and optimized use of farm inputs such as seeds and fertilizer will be essential. However, managing these inputs efficiently is difficult without consistent and precise monitoring. For smallholder farmers, who account for 4/5 of global agricultural production from developing regions, getting the right information would help increase production gains. Unfortunately, many of them still rely on guess work, rather than data, for their farming decisions.
 
This is where agriculture can get a little help from the Internet of Things (IoT)—or internet-enabled communications between everyday objects. Through the IoT, sensors can be deployed wherever you want–on the ground, in water, or in vehicles–to collect data on target inputs such as soil moisture and crop health. The collected data are stored on a server or cloud system wirelessly, and can be easily accessed by farmers via the Internet with tablets and mobile phones. Depending on the context, farmers can choose to manually control connected devices or fully automate processes for any required actions. For example, to water crops, a farmer can deploy soil moisture sensors to automatically kickstart irrigation when the water-stress level reaches a given threshold.

Our food system depends on the right information—how can we deliver?

Diego Arias's picture
Celebrating World Water Day with the World Bank

Today, on World Water Day, we are humbled by the fact that over 663 million people on the planet still live without access to safe drinking water; 2.4 billion people lack access to basic sanitation services, such as toilets or latrines. With these challenges persisting around the world despite decades of hard work in the water and santiation sectors, are we at a point where we need to take a step back from current solutions and practices and do business differently?
 
The new Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Poverty Diagnostic (WASH PD) initiative suggests exactly that.
 
New findings from the WASH PD initiative (led by the World Bank Water Global Practice in collaboration with Poverty, Governance, and Health, Nutrition, and Population) for the first time advances our understanding in a systematic manner of the relationship between poverty and WASH at the country level. Our deep analysis of 18 countries—across six regions—provides us with new evidence of realities that must be acknowledged, and shows without a doubt that we must work together across sectors if we are to find solutions with sustained impacts on the ground.

Blog post of the month: Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs, and Lower Food Miles

Vivek Prasad's picture

Each month People, Spaces, Deliberation shares the blog post that generated the most interest and discussion. For May 2017, the featured blog post is "Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs, and Lower Food Miles" by Vivek Prasad and Iftikhar Mostafa. 

Millions of urban dwellers cultivate vegetables and fruit trees in home gardens, both for their families and for sale. In Dakar, 7500 households “grow their own” in micro-gardens. In Malawi, 700 000 urban residents practice home gardening to meet their food needs and earn extra income. Low-income city gardeners in Zambia make US$230 a year from sales. In cities like Bamako, Accra and Kumasi, depending on crop and season, between 60 and 100 per cent of leafy vegetables consumed are produced within the respective cities with employment figures ranging from 1,000 to 15,000 jobs. Even megacities such as Shanghai, with about 15% population growth per year, one of the fastest growing cities on the planet, maintains its urban farming as an important part of its economic system.

 

Farm plots amidst apartment blocks in Chaozhou, China.

Around 15 percent of the world’s food is now grown in urban areas. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), urban farms already supply food to about 700 million residents of cities, representing about a quarter of the world’s urban population.    

Most cities in developing countries are facing challenges to create formal job opportunities. Urban agriculture can play an important role not only in enhancing food security but also in contributing to the eco-system - improved nutrition, poverty alleviation, local economic development and job creation as well as productive reuse of urban wastes.

Cuba has a system of urban organic farms called Organopónicos, which provides a fresh supply of organic food to the community, neighborhood improvement, beautification of urban areas, as well as employment opportunities. Cuba has more than 7,000 organopónicos, with some 200 gardens in Havana alone, covering more than 35,000 hectares of land, which supply its citizens with 90% of their fruit and vegetables. In Havana, 117,000 jobs in Havana and income for 150,000 low income families were directly provided by urban and peri-urban agriculture.

Urban Agriculture: Food, Jobs, and Lower Food Miles

Vivek Prasad's picture

Millions of urban dwellers cultivate vegetables and fruit trees in home gardens, both for their families and for sale. In Dakar, 7500 households “grow their own” in micro-gardens. In Malawi, 700 000 urban residents practice home gardening to meet their food needs and earn extra income. Low-income city gardeners in Zambia make US$230 a year from sales. In cities like Bamako, Accra and Kumasi, depending on crop and season, between 60 and 100 per cent of leafy vegetables consumed are produced within the respective cities with employment figures ranging from 1,000 to 15,000 jobs. Even megacities such as Shanghai, with about 15% population growth per year, one of the fastest growing cities on the planet, maintains its urban farming as an important part of its economic system.

 

Farm plots amidst apartment blocks in Chaozhou, China.

Around 15 percent of the world’s food is now grown in urban areas. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), urban farms already supply food to about 700 million residents of cities, representing about a quarter of the world’s urban population.    

Most cities in developing countries are facing challenges to create formal job opportunities. Urban agriculture can play an important role not only in enhancing food security but also in contributing to the eco-system - improved nutrition, poverty alleviation, local economic development and job creation as well as productive reuse of urban wastes.

Cuba has a system of urban organic farms called Organopónicos, which provides a fresh supply of organic food to the community, neighborhood improvement, beautification of urban areas, as well as employment opportunities. Cuba has more than 7,000 organopónicos, with some 200 gardens in Havana alone, covering more than 35,000 hectares of land, which supply its citizens with 90% of their fruit and vegetables. In Havana, 117,000 jobs in Havana and income for 150,000 low income families were directly provided by urban and peri-urban agriculture.

Helping Afghan farmers build better lives

Mohammad Hassan Ibrahimi's picture

I really don’t like indices, particularly those that claim to measure what are termed “social issues”. And they seem to be everywhere. Ok, the Human Development Index did a lot to push countries to do more on health and education, and its rankings serve to pit countries in good competition with each other.  Single measures are also intuitive and easy for monitoring purposes.

Just to stop my initial train of thought here, I have two problems with indices that measure “well-being”: first, they are often weighted and the weights assigned to individual components expose the subjectivity of their creators.  If you think primary education is more important than reproductive health, and you assign weights that way, that’s what your index will pick up. 

Measuring family farming is tricky business

Vellore Arthi's picture

 جيم يونغ كيم مع الأب جاك في بيرو

 جيم يونغ كيم مع الأب جاك في بيرو


هذه التدوينة جزء من سلسلة تدوينات يشركنا فيها ذوو التأثير فيما تعلموه من دروس في شبابهم. اضغط هنا لقراءة كل هذه القصص (e).

عندما بلغت الثانية والعشرين، واجهت بعض المصاعب. لم يكن قد مضى أكثر من شهرين من العام الدراسي الأول لي بكلية الطب بجامعة هارفارد، حتى وجدت أنني قد انتقلت من بيئة دراسية بجامعة براون حيث كنت ناشطا مع مجموعة متنوعة من النظراء إلى وضع عكفت فيه كل ليلة على حفظ مادة التشريح من أحد الكتب الدراسية. بدا الأمر محبطا للغاية.

وعلى مدى الشهور والسنين التالية، التقيت بزملاء من الناشطين، ومن بينهم بول فارمر الذي شاركت معه في تأسيس منظمة شركاء في الصحة، وهذا ما فتح لي آفاقا جديدة. وبعد هذا بسنوات قليلة، انخرطت في برنامج لإعداد رسالة الدكتوراه في علم الإنسان. وكلاهما ربطا بين الدروس التي تعلمتها من كلية الطب وبين ميولي الحقيقية.

عندما كنت في الثانية والعشرين، كان كل شيء يفضي إلى الآخر تلقائيا. ومع هذا، فقد تمنيت لو أنني أدركت آنذاك ما أصبحت أفهمه الآن بشكل أفضل بشأن إعداد نفسي للمستقبل. لدي ثلاثة اقتراحات أتمنى لو أن أحدا قد أبلغني إياها حينما كنت أصغر سنا.

Agribusiness can help to unlock the true potential of Africa

Teodoro De Jesus Xavier Poulson's picture
A woman farmer works fields in the Conde’ community of Morro da Bango, Angola. © Anita Baumann

The challenges faced by small farmers are similar across the developing world – pests, diseases and climate change. Yet in Africa the challenges are even greater. If farmers are to survive at current rates (let alone grow), they need to have access to high-yielding seeds, effective fertilizers and irrigation technologies. These issues threaten the region’s ability to feed itself and make business-growth and export markets especially difficult to reach. Other factors include the rise in global food prices and export subsidies for exporters in the developed economies, which leave African farmers struggling to price competitively.

Campaign art: Sounds of life in the forest

Roxanne Bauer's picture

People, Spaces, Deliberation bloggers present exceptional campaign art from all over the world. These examples are meant to inspire.

Satellites have been sending us all images of planet earth for decades. For many, photographs of earth at night are particularly enchanting as the cameras can detect natural and man-made light, showing everything from the night-time glow of the Sahara Desert to the light of a single village on an island in the Pacific Ocean. Through these photos, the bright lights of cities shine through the night sky, revealing where life is vibrant and populations are dense… and where it is not.  

However, a new video from POL, an agency in Oslo Norway, and the Rainforest Foundation reminds us how wrong that view is: It is not cities that house the most life, but forests.

Forests are widely known as the world’s largest source of biodiversity.  They are complex ecosystems that affect almost every species on the planet.  More than two thirds of the world's plant species and more than half of the world's animals are found in the tropical rainforests, according to California Institute of Technology. Furthermore, as the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations stated in the 2014 State of the World’s Forests report, forests also contribute significantly to food security and energy production for millions of people.  

Together, the Rainforest Foundation and POL went to the Amazon to document life there in terms of sound. They made continuous night-time recordings that 'illuminate' and show the life in the rainforest.
 

Sounds of life



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