Africa: Africa Must Embrace New Tech in Agriculture to Overcome Climate Crisis

Gaborone — The agricultural sector should embrace new technologies to overcome climate change-related challenges, panellists including Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa and Mozambique’s Filipe Nyusi at the US-Africa business summit said.

The two presidents, who have invited investors from the U.S. and across Africa to invest in the agricultural sectors in their countries, were participating in a high-level dialogue on enhancing Africa’s value in Agriculture value chains in the U.S.-Africa Business Summit held in Botswana’s capital, Gaborone.

“To investors who are here who would like to come to Zimbabwe, you are assured, barring in mind the issue of the impact of climate change, ease of doing business. We are fully aware that capital goes where it feels safe. Our economic reforms have addressed the issue of the ease of doing business. We must create a situation where you attract global capital where it can go in and out without any constraints and we have made those political reforms to achieve that and become attractive,” Mnangagwa said.

Mnangagwa also expressed pride that his country’s agricultural reforms had paid off, making Zimbabwe the biggest supplier of blueberries in the SADC region, supplying Europe, the U.S., and Asia.

The four-day summit brought over 1,000 participants including government officials, private sector executives, and international investors to foster new business partnerships and explore investment opportunities and meet investors.

The summit comes at a time when the African continent’s agricultural sector faces challenges related to the climate crisis but the agricultural sector continues to look for solutions in order to produce climate-resilient crops.

Mozambique is one of the Southern African countries that was hit by Tropical Cyclone Freddy in February 2023 affecting thousands of buildings, ruining crops, and displacing 27,000 people. Apart from natural disasters, Mozambique has for a few years faced insecurity that has displaced millions of people in the Cabo Delgado region. Nyusi said that these factors have slowed agricultural activities despite the country’s agricultural potential and fertile land.

Albert Anoubon Momo, Trimble VP, said his organisation uses the precision agriculture method which uses technology sensing techniques that help to monitor crop states at multiple growth levels.

Momo said in order to fight food security and maintain crop health, the precision agriculture method allows for an estimate to be added on the tractors which estimates the water, fertilizer, and pesticide will be needed. Trimble is an industrial technology company that provides technological agricultural solutions by providing connectivity and data analytics to improve productivity, quality, safety, and sustainable farming.

Another method Trimble uses is climate-smart agriculture which Momo said is a method used to collect data and allow people to be able to make better decisions when it comes to avoiding climate-related disasters. An example of where climate-smart agriculture was done is in Kenya where farmers face a climate condition called frost which affects tea production.

“We worked with small farmers in Kenya, there is satellite information that comes from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) in the morning and in the afternoon that allows farmers to predict when the frost is coming. The most important thing is not the prediction but what we are able to do with the information coming out of it. In Kenya, we were able to create crop insurance which is the real result.

He said having crop insurance has been a game changer for farmers as it allows them to have the cash flow for their daily operations throughout the year regardless of weather conditions with the support of banks.

The first Motswana woman to farm in the Pandamatenga farming area Basadi Molelekeng, an award-winning commercial farmer and Bicolor Holdings’ Operations manager, encouraged women and youth to take up farming.

“Women are capable, youth are capable. The largest number of farmers in Africa are women in terms of numbers but in terms of value the number is little and the reason is that women are at subsistence level where the hard work is. Women should be supported to move to the highest level of production. They need to be given the confidence because the capability is there.”

At the higher level of production, it is easy with organization and technology because there is little manual work and all of this is possible for women if they are sufficiently financed.