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Digitalisation

Increasing profitability and productivity for smallholder farmers through digitalisation and innovative business practices

CTA, in partnership with PAFO, supported representatives from four farmers’ organisations to attend the SIA held during 24-28 February, 2019 in Paris

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Technological innovations and advances in digital farming continue to evolve at a rapid pace, increasing efficiencies in farming operations globally. However, the adoption of these new technologies by small-scale farmers is still low due to poor data infrastructure and a lack of business partnerships, limiting farmer organisations from capitalising on market opportunities.

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The case of MUIIS project is an epitome of digitalisation for agriculture in which access to digital solutions by smallholder farmers and other value chain actors has led to more efficient operations within the agricultural innovation system, resulting in equal access to finance by women, men, young and old; increased resilience; improved production and income.

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Founded in 2015, BenBen is a Ghanaian-based land tenure and property tech start-up. BenBen leverages distributed ledger technology (DLT) in building digital platforms for securing land-based assets and financial transactions in African land markets. BenBen’s vision is to build the digital infrastructure to enable African economies to fully unlock the socio-economic potential of their land and create ethical land markets.

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Since 2016, CTA has been working with farmer organisations in Burkina Faso, Fiji, Kenya, Lesotho, Samoa, Swaziland, Trinidad, and Tobago and Uganda, to implement their Data for Agriculture (Data4Ag) project. The aim of the project is to investigate how the collection and effective management of farmer data can be used by farmer organisations to improve the livelihoods of their members.

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With decision EX.CL/Dec. 986-1007 (XXXII), the African Union (AU) has established one of the most important incentives for its member states – to use drones to boost Africa’s development and accelerate transformation on the continent. Indeed, drones have been used to solve many development problems in the fields of agriculture, health, infrastructure monitoring, surveying and soil mapping, among others, and have the potential to find further application.

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Data-driven services have the potential to effectively propel agricultural innovations and contribute to the sustainability of food systems. But despite a continuous increase of initiatives facilitating common data exchange in agriculture, a lack of legal and policy frameworks continues to hamper ownership, control and access of data.

Agricultural transformation is a priority in the policy agenda of African governments in their quest to meet the challenges of food and nutrition insecurity, climate change, youth unemployment and overall economic growth. With the right policies, innovation and investment, the continent’s agriculture could be transformed into a powerhouse not only to feed a growing population but to create decent employment for millions of young people.

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The increasing buzz on blockchain technology has, in recent times, drawn attention to its application within the agriculture sector. The technology can be leveraged upon to improve agriculture efficiency, effectiveness, and transparency in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, including intra-ACP business transactions and transactions between ACP and international business stakeholders.

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Agriculture accounts for 70% of employment on small farms and occupies half of all land area in Uganda, providing half of all exports and one-quarter of the country’s GDP. It is considered a leading sector for future economic growth and economic inclusion in the current National Development Plan. Coffee remains the leading agricultural export commodity in the country and is expected to greatly contribute towards the realisation of the 2040 national vision.

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The Pacific region is facing a huge decrease in fisheries revenue – its principal source of income and employment over the last decade. Reported by Stop Illegal Fishing, the Fijian government states that, “About 306,440 t of fish were harvested illegally in the Pacific region with an estimated cost of $616.11 million from 2010 to 2015”.

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"Digitalisation is crumbling all sorts of borders and African agriculture will be deeply impacted. Technologies can help stimulate innovation for sustainable agri-food systems and produce better and safer food while preserving natural resources and biodiversity. But we need to be conscious and support solutions that are sustainable and that are tailored to countries’ needs, and embedded into conducive and broader innovation systems." Leonard Mizzi, Head of Unit at the European Commission, DG for International Cooperation and Development

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One of the first applications for the incentive system of blockchain: ‘cryptocurrencys’ was its use in remittances. A digital currency without borders could be used to transfer money across nations at a faster rate and lower cost than conventional methods. Crowdlending platform, EthicHub, has explored and implemented these possibilities to provide smallholder farmers in developing countries with financial services. Jana Petkanic, from the Benelux office for EthicHub, talks about the company’s innovative blockchain project in Mexico.