By Prossy Nandudu
Agriculture Minister Frank Tumwebaze has challenged researchers and promoters of agriculture technologies to tailor them to different stages of the value chain. This will make such technologies more relevant to the farmer.
“For example if I want to plant coffee, I need a machine that will only dig specific holes for coffee seedlings. For livestock, my rural farmer wants a technology for milking cows but it is easy to use and should be affordable,” said Tumwebaze.
He made the call on Tuesday during the official opening of the Five Day African Conference on Agriculture Technologies, taking place in Nairobi. The aim of this conference is to address barriers to access, delivery, and uptake of technologies.
The conference is aimed at sharing technological advancements and achievements in the implementation of innovative technologies, targeting smallholder farmers across Africa.
According to Tumwebaze, technology is in two ways one is physical like machinery for agriculture mechanisation, needed by large scale farmers and then technologies for precision farming (farming system based on observing, measuring and responding to inter- and intra-field changes in crops). According to him for the said technologies to work there must be enablers for the technologies to used by farmers.
“That is why I must challenge this conference; what are the requirements of these technologies so as to becoem effectiv.We need appropriate machinery and the IT or agritech technologies” Tumwebaze said.
He explained further that although efforts have been made by various agricultural ministries to deliver physical technologies to farmers, there is a need for a focus on how E- technologies in agriculture can be enhanced.
According to him, some E-agriculture technologies require electricity and internet, so discussions in this conference should be on how electricity can reach rural areas .I want to hear from the meeting on increasing internet connectivity, he added.
He explained further that current internet connectivity footprints are in towns and yet farmers who need services such as weather information, extensions, and markets are in rural areas, where internet connectivity is still poor.
Tumwebaze’s call was re-echoed by Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock Mithika Linturi, who said that although the agriculture sector plays a vital role in the economies of African countries, it has not been developed like it is in other developing regions such as South-East Asia, China, and Latin America.
He blamed the slow development of Africa’s Agriculture challenges such as climate change, pests and diseases, weak market linkages, low mechanization, and post-harvest losses, among others.
But despite technological advancements, challenges remain in making the innovations relevant and accessible to the targeted beneficiaries. Access to affordable inputs, knowledge transfer through agricultural extension services, and market linkages are pivotal in this endeavour,” Linturi added.
Goodluck Jonathan calls for adoption
At the same event, the keynote speaker , former Nigerian President Good luck Jonathan, also the AATF Goodwill Ambassador for Agriculture Technologies in Africa said that in spite of its endowments, Africa is vulnerable to food inadequacy.
This heightened high food imports which in recent years were threatened due to global shocks associated withCOVID-19 and the Ukraine- Russian war that disrupted the global food supply chain.
According to Jonathan, the world’s population is growing, and with it,is the demand for food, of which climate change poses threats to traditional agricultural practices.
“We need innovations that will ensure we continue producing what we like in good volumes by making our production systems more efficient, sustainable, and climate-smart,”he added.
But for these to work, he said that technologies should consider the needs for all farmer groups including small and medium scale farmers who make up the backbone of our agriculture.
“ Innovations should be tailored to suit the needs of these farmers and address their concerns. Resources, both financial and technological, should be made accessible to these farmers to also allow them to innovate, to invent and to participate in economic development more usefully” Goodluck Jonathan added.