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Shaping the move to next generation farming

Opinion article

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With another 2 billion mouths to feed by 2050, ‘business as usual’ in agricultural production simply will not suffice. Feeding close to 10 billion people will require 59–98% more food than we currently produce. Land is already in short supply, so this extra food will have to come largely from increased yields. This can only be achieved through ‘sustainable intensification’ – producing more food, which is more nutritious from the same area of land – with environmentally-friendly, climate-smart production systems and smart farming, such as advanced irrigation technology .

Harnessing the power of data and new digital technologies will play a pivotal role in achieving increased productivity and transforming the agricultural sector – and, at the same time, making farming and agribusiness attractive for young people.

CTA is leading efforts to promote greater use of digital technology to make agriculture more productive and profitable, especially for small-scale farmers. Technology that, just a few years ago, was accessible only to wealthy, large-scale farmers is now within the reach of smallholders and rural service providers – innovations such as satellite-derived weather data, drones used for crop surveys, up-to-date market prices and customised agronomic advisory services – all of which can now be delivered through a mobile phone. This technology is also creating new markets, allowing producers to link to consumers – from individuals to hotels, restaurants and other big buyers. These developments enable users to tap into new markets, like the growing demand for fresh, healthy foods among urban populations and the tourism sector.

Transforming business models

The digitalisation of agriculture offers young entrepreneurs the opportunity to create disruptive business models that accelerate modernisation of the sector. For example, low-cost, hand-held devices like smartphones and tablets equipped with GPS locators are helping to profile farmers – recording the exact location and nature of their land, the crops they grow and size of their farm. Farmers are then able to receive the information they need to manage their farms more efficiently, as well as helping them to gain access to credit and other financial services. These data also help to provide farmers with tailor-made services, such as targeted weather forecasts, agronomic advice and crop recommendations, and to connect them to local and wider markets. New technologies like blockchain are being employed to improve the functioning of value chains, tracking produce from farm-to-fork and helping to meet the traceability requirements necessary to enter international markets.

Achieving this kind of transformation requires that young people engage in agriculture; we need their capacity for innovation, for doing things differently, for harnessing the exciting developments we are seeing within and outside the realms of agribusiness. This is why CTA has centred on fostering youth entrepreneurship as a key strategy to drive modernisation of the agricultural sector in Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific.

Fostering innovation

CTA’s AgriHack Talent Initiative, for example, has supported over 700 young e-agripreneurs with business training, mentorship, incubation and networking opportunities. At least 1 million users in the agricultural sector have been reached with application-based services developed by alumnae of CTA’s Pitch AgriHack programme, who have themselves raised more than two million euros from investors and partners.

At the beginning of September, and as part of the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF), nine winners of Pitch AgriHack 2018 were awarded prizes in the presence of African leaders: President Paul Kagame of Rwanda, President Nana Akufo-Addo of Ghana, Deputy President William Ruto of Kenya, and Prime Minister Emmanuel Issoze-Ngondet of Gabon. This is an experience that these young entrepreneurs, 50% of whom were women, will not forget and it underlines the importance that African leaders attach to youth entrepreneurship.

These are entrepreneurs who have been inspired to make a difference – to help transform agriculture for future generations and to encourage young people to see the potential in farming and agribusiness.

The combined benefits of CTA’s focus on youth entrepreneurship and the digitalisation of agriculture will greatly improve rural lives, and make agriculture attractive and profitable to youth who, too often, migrate to cities in search of better opportunities.

There are many examples of how CTA is building on its long-established strengths in working with youth, ICTs and agricultural knowledge to bring next-generation farming to smallholder producers across African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. As the European Union and ACP member states begin negotiations on their future relationship , CTA remains poised to serve ACP farmers and agribusinesses in the drive to modernise and transform agriculture – to achieve food and nutrition security, create jobs and help in meeting the Sustainable Development Goals.

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