Agriculture is a pillar of the African economy, the continent being heavily dependent on this sector. It contributes 23% of the continent’s GDP and 49% of the continent’s jobs.
But the covid-19 pandemic has disrupted agricultural activity on the continent to a dramatic effect as smallholder farmers, who contribute most of the food supply, face restrictions on movement, reductions in fuel consumption. purchasing power of people and other factors. The pandemic has strained food systems and African economies as a whole.
A new report concludes that engaging young people in agriculture will be essential for the continent to recover from the economic impacts of the pandemic. It highlights the need for investments to boost access to innovations to encourage young Africans to embrace agriculture to create jobs and repair food systems affected by the pandemic.
The report is written by Heifer International, a US-based nonprofit that works to end poverty and hunger through agriculture. Researchers interviewed 29,900 young people, 299 smallholder farmers and 110 agricultural tech startups, innovation centers and technology organizations in 11 African countries.
Agriculture is the engine of the African economy and has been affected by the pandemic
The Heifer International survey found that 40% of farm organizations participating in the research were forced to close at least temporarily due to the pandemic, 38% saw a reduction in the average purchase amount per customer, and 36% did not. still not have the financial capital to grow back up their businesses. Fourteen percent of those polled said that technological barriers have had a detrimental effect on the productivity of farmers.
But the report finds hope in youth and tech, as the survey found that many entrepreneurs are developing agro-tech tools and services that are useful for smallholder farmers on the continent. They use artificial intelligence, remote sensing, geographic information software, virtual reality, drones, application programming interfaces and other technologies to increase agricultural productivity and profits.
Africa has a booming agro-technological scene. Agro-tech startups raised $ 60 million in 2020, which is 8.6% of the total funding raised by tech startups on the continent last year, according to Disrupt Africa, a website that provides funding data. startups.
Hello Tractor, an example of an agro-tech company on the continent, offers an app that allows farmers to book tractors and another for remote fleet management. The company operates in 13 African countries.
“The vision is to continue to help our growers achieve higher yields, higher productivity through mechanization,” founder Jehiel Oliver told Quartz. “And finally, we want to see Africa and all countries become thriving economies based on its most important industry, which is agriculture.”
Africa is a young continent, with almost 60% of its population under the age of 25. The survey found that young people are interested in getting into farming, but lack access to finance and training to build sustainable businesses and generate sustainable incomes and rewarding careers. And among young people who engage in agriculture, only 23% of them use some form of agricultural technology, due to lack of funding and training.
The climate is changing. Things are never the same. Markets are more complex.
The report recommends that governments facilitate youth access to agro-technological tools to transform food production. He argues that small farmers would adopt advanced technologies if the tools were affordable; and agricultural innovations have a power of attraction for all stakeholders in the sector, as they can create opportunities for young people while sustainably increasing the productivity of small farmers. These in turn would improve their livelihoods and stimulate economic growth, he said.
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“Africa is not providing the funding or training to ensure its young people have easy access to the same agro-tech tools, such as drone technologies, precision soil sensors and digital services to farmers, that are transforming food production. around the world, ”said Adesuwa Ifedi, senior vice president for African programs at Heifer International.
Enoch Chikava, acting director of agricultural development at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, said innovation is fundamental to making agriculture on the continent productive, profitable and sustainable.
“The climate is changing. Things are never the same. Markets are more complex. So you need an innovation that will help you really turn all of these global technologies into impact on the ground, ”he told Quartz.
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