The need for data
Debisi Araba, Regional Director for Africa at the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) once said that African agriculture needs site-specific solutions, noting that “…key to that is the collection, sharing, and analysis of farm data from all over the continent.”
He went further to stress the need on why African farmers must look out for their farms like never before. Statistics from the Food and Agricultural Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations, assessment of food insecurity through the lenses of “hunger experience”, reveals that 153 million individuals, about 26 percent of the population above 15 years of age in sub-Saharan Africa, suffered from severe food insecurity in 2014/15. Farming as the primary source of food and income for Africans, provides up to 60 percent of all jobs on the continent. Further forecasts indicate that food production in sub-Saharan Africa needs to increase by 60 percent over the next 15 years to feed a growing population.
For this reason alone, there is an absolute need for every stakeholder in the agricultural sector to be involved in its transformation, from research organizations to government parastatals, investors, various agricultural schemes, and farmers themselves.
Endeavours thus far…
Thumbs must be raised to the Kenyan Government for its combined efforts with GODAN Secretariat, G77 Secretariat, African Union (NEPAD) and the Platform of African Farmers’
Organizations (PAFO), towards:
• Increase financial, human and technological capacities in the global south for agriculture and nutrition data with an emphasis on SDGs and CAADP.
• Improve coordination of data for agriculture and nutrition across governments, private sector, and academia in the global south.
• Harmonize policies that improve collection, coordination, use, dissemination of agriculture and nutrition data.
• Provide a platform for peer-learning, co-creation and sharing of expertise and practices on proven success on the use of quality data and standards for agriculture and nutrition.
• Create opportunities for the adoption of youth driven agricultural innovations within the public sector.
• Facilitate networking and to showcase proven initiatives on open data for agricultural transformation.
FAO, on its end, has a mandate in Africa to “intensify its efforts to develop Food and Agriculture Statistics in countries of the region, particularly in the conduct of national censuses of agriculture within a common framework of definitions, concepts, standards and guidelines to help countries generate databases that are internationally comparable and the provision of basic statistics on food security in a manner readily adaptable to understanding the food security situation”.
It is encouraging to see that footsteps are being raised by certain bodies to place data as the frontrunner in bringing transformation to the agricultural space in Africa.
The Farmer’s perspective of data
While there is an outcry for more participation, there is a more urgent need for the “door opener”. For farmers to “look out for their farms like never before”, they need to be aware. Aware, in the sense that their decisions need to be influenced by the “truth”. The truth about crop performance, when to plant, weather conditions, etc. And in the age of decision making via technology, only data provides this truth.
The availability of data makes it easier for farmers to make decisions based on facts, rather than trial-and-error. The more farmers know about their farms, the better the chances to solidify their supply channels.
Although there is little mention of it, farmers have a yearning for data. When crops fail or when they realize they planted a crop under harsh weather conditions, they often wish they had known earlier. There is loss of money and time when the availability of data could have saved the day.
The stakeholder’s perspective of data
Stakeholders in the agricultural sector include outgrower schemes, agricultural finance organizations, researchers, and other government parastatals. outgrower schemes, when properly managed, are often a viable source of achieving sustainable agriculture. However, farmer data is often a challenge that these schemes encounter. It is therefore important to them to have robust solutions for collecting, tracking, and analysing farmer data. This data will then be used to facilitate the allocation of resources, as well as the continuous existence of the schemes.
BioRegistra: Finding a place for both stakeholders and farmers
The benefit of data isn’t limited to the collection of data, it lies in converting these data into powerful insights that will benefit all stakeholders, including the investors and the farmers. Hence, the need for robust solutions that make this possible.
BioRegistra is an indigenous data capture solution that can be used to collect and analyse any form of data, including textual and biometric information.
Farmers, for instance, can use the solution to collect crop data and analyse the yields in different fields within one farm. Those with multiple farms can compare the yields with same data from other farms, and what actions – such as the date of planting or fertilizer application levels – might be responsible for any differences.
Stakeholders in the supply and value chain and outgrower scheme would find it especially useful because of its flexibility, as it can be tweaked to accommodate any requirement, be changed at will, and customized to suit their needs.
The data of farmers is important to any investing scheme, including empowerment schemes like the African Development Bank (AfDB). BioRegistra makes it easy to capture these information from anywhere in the world, with features that let you create multiple capture agents in multiple locations.
On the financial side of things, it is a platform that suits everyone involved, seeing that it is a budget solution for both large and small-scale businesses.
Africa has an enormous task of feeding itself now and sustaining itself in the future. The journey to success therefore begins with data; it’s collection, distribution, and the endless exploitation of the insights that can be obtained from it.
Chibuzor Onwurah writes from Lagos, Nigeria. He is an Executive Director at SEAMFIX – email@example.com. Twitter- @conwurah1