In the context of climate change, the agricultural sector is confronted with a number of challenges. These relate to the expectation to produce more food to feed a growing world population while overcoming the negative impacts of climate change on the various types of agricultural enterprises. In addition, as a significant contributor to greenhouse gases, the sector is expected to reduce emissions to achieve the goal of limiting warming to 20C.
Achieving these targets through conventional farming methods will be difficult as agriculture is no longer a ‘simple’ process of producing food and fibre consistent with the image of the industry’s humble origins. Therefore, a transformation in the agricultural sector is imperative. But is transformation feasible without digital agriculture?
This is one of the contemporary issues that were discussed in the side event hosted by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), in collaboration with the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU), and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) at the 48th session of the Subsidiary Body for Scientific and Technological Advice (SBSTA) on the 30th of April 2018 in Bonn, Germany. The motivation of this subject was linked to the omission of digital agriculture as a key component in the current edition of the Koronivia Joint Work on Agriculture (KJWA).
Dr Majola Mabuza (first from the right) at the side event during SBSTA in April in Bonn, Germany
Climate change adaptation is knowledge intensive, necessitating the use of different types of technology innovations to make farming more precise, efficient and rewarding. Research evidence has shown that adaptation can be site specific, hence segmenting data and information according to specific geographical areas can increase the relevance and applicability of farming tips, for example, enabling producers to increase productivity through efficient use of inputs, including land.
Efficient input use, particularly land, can help resolve the global challenge of deforestation, which is one of the major contributors of emissions. Therefore, data-driven farming practices create site-specific smartness that should inform longterm farm plans and provide farmers with tools to adapt and reduce the sector’s carbon footprint.
Despite the notion that digital or ICT-based interventions are not in sync with the dominant smallholder sub-sector in Sub-Saharan Africa, recent evidence has proven otherwise as small-scale farmers in the region benefit from various services (e.g. farming tips, weather-based index insurance, credit, funeral insurance cover, etc) that are offered through mobile phones.
The proliferation of digital agriculture also creates the right incentive for the youth to participate in various levels of the agricultural value chain. With access to better education, increased connectivity, and an appetite for technology and ICT based information, the young generation is better positioned to take advantage of the vast opportunities that Africa’s resources and global markets present.
Engaging the youth in climate risk management activities, will help create an environmentally conscious generation with considerable power to transform society towards a low-carbon and climate resilient future. The youth will become a new generation of ruralbased employers, hence contributing towards reducing climate-induced migration, which currently creates challenges of social cohesion and stability in host cities and/or countries within and beyond the continent.