By 2050 Africa’s population is expected to double from 1 to 2 billion and there’s growing concern about how the world will feed itself. Much attention is focused on Africa where production remains at about 20% of its potential. To try to harness this potential, dozens of technical innovations around mobile have been built both to help farmers produce more and make more money and for businesses to find African agriculture a more attractive investment. But the space remains opaque. To help the local community understand some of these innovations and learn the ins and outs about their rollout and challenges to scale we hosted the second mobile for agricultural development workshop – ‘mAGRIC Showcase 2013’ this May. GIZ was our trusty co-sponsor.
The one day event brought participants from the software, agribusiness, NGO and mobile industries together. There was several presentations – the Centre for Remote Sensing and Geographic Information Services (CERSGIS) showcased an online GIS platform to assist in locating farms, warehouses, and weather stations. Farm Radio International shared how they are using radio programs to reach out to farmers, sharing information to help improve their production. They also have radio on demand services where farmers who missed a particular program can call a number and listen to a recorded version of the program.
GIZ COMPACI showcased progress made with the African Cashew Initiative who are using radio programs to push forward new extension technology, as well as headway made in cotton production in Africa through the Competitive African Cotton Initiative. MOFA (Ministry of Food and Agriculture) presented the e-Extension project and its adoption, calling out the the ratio of extension officer to farmers and the rapid explosion of mobile phone usage in the country.
We had an opportunity to showcase the Esoko Helpline, which farmers in Ghana reach by dialing 1900 and getting assistance in a local language of their choice. The British based Geotraceability Company walked through the geo-traceability and data collection services they provide. The service consists of a low cost but large scale data collection system that creates a link between small scale producers and brands, helping brands know who and where a product is coming from so customers can make informed buying decisions. There were presentations from IMAGE-AD, showcasing their agro profiling platform MiPAD which is used to collect prices of input (Fertilizers, Seeds, Insecticide) from over 17 African countries every month as well as to profile agro dealers. Grameen Foundation talked in depth about their Community Knowledge Worker (CKW) initiative, an ICT enabled agricultural extension worker program.
Participants of the showcase were engaged, sharing experiences, raising questions, and not shying away from healthy debate. Each year this showcase is held we have the opportunity to see the progress in mobile for agriculture. In 2014, we hope to see services that have been able to scale and begin looking at questions around the magic word: profitability.
Thanks to all who attended and made the day a success!