ICTs and particularly mobile phones have the potential to transform smallholder farming in African economies especially among women who produce 80 per cent of the food. Technology is already being harnessed to improve efficiency across the value chain – from the farm to the consumer.
To achieve its full potential, smallholder agriculture must be transformed from a subsistence activity to a profitable sustainable business and ICTs play a vital role in the transformation by providing timely advice and information that can help farmers increase their production, make markets more efficient and increase incomes along the value chain.
There is a lot of information for farmers on weather and planting, agronomy and horticulture but post harvest losses are still a great challenge for many farmers. In Kenya, between 20 and 50 per cent of the crop is lost at post harvest.
A gradual increase in the number of women-led e-agribusinesses needs to come hand-in-hand with more inclusive policies for agricultural data usage and efforts to build women’s capacity to use this data to address food security and nutrition challenges.
While there is a great need to transform smallholder farming in Africa , many of the ICTs that are being advanced are donor-sponsored and target small groups of people which makes it difficult for the technology to spread and most of them tend to die off once the sponsorship is withdrawn.
Though digitalisation offers ample opportunities to improve rural livelihoods, women are in danger of being left behind. In fact, women are 14% less likely to own a mobile phone than men, which means that they have more limited access to the mobile phone-enabled services that are helping farmers to stay informed, receive financial support and reach higher-value markets.
There is need to ensure that the positive effect of ICT in agriculture is sustained. Global networks need to ensure that the lessons learned and challenges are being shared and addressed collectively. Governments also need to create enabling environments through policies promoting the use of ICT along with ensuring that they become disseminators developing digital and not just aggregators of information.”