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The potential to increase Africa’s agricultural yields through the strategic use of data could place the continents’ farmers at the heart of tomorrow’s global economy.
The potential to increase Africa’s agricultural yields through the strategic use of data could place the continents’ farmers at the heart of tomorrow’s global economy.

Digital footprint helps farmers step into future

ECONOMIC NEWS

IOL - Sep 22nd, 09:59

The potential to increase Africa’s agricultural yields through the strategic use of data could place the continents’ farmers at the heart of tomorrow’s global economy. 

This is according to Antois van der Westhuizen, managing director: sub-Saharan Africa, John Deere Financial. “New technologies readily available to Africa’s farmers mean that the continent is finally at the moment where Africa’s vast, as-yet-unrealised, agricultural opportunity can be made relevant to capital, mechanisation and new global markets,” he said.

The company said John Deere, through its work with aid organisations, confirmed what it knew, that if farmers are able to access mechanisation, fertiliser, and seed and are then guided to apply these correctly, they can dramatically increase their yields.

Farmers in Kenya and Tanzania, for example, are transacting on mobile phone-based money transfer, financing and microfinancing service, M-Pesa, and can access the formal economy by selling and buying goods online.

Since these previously economically excluded farmers now have a digital footprint, “we can start getting a picture of their inputs, suppliers, and costs, as well as their yields, off-takers, incomes and payments histories,” said Van der Westhuizen.

This data holds the key to revolutionising agriculture in Africa.

Without even having a bank account, “we now have a detailed view of the input, production and earning numbers of previously financially invisible farmers.”

With GPS technology able to provide accurate hectarage, “we can now quickly work out how certain inputs, and their cost, might be affordable to specific farmers given the increase in yield that we know these inputs will drive in that location”, he said.

Van der Westhuizen said with just a handful of data points, the ability to provide credit to a much broader segment of Africa’s farmers increases dramatically.

The next step will be to, “use the data from multiple farmers collectively, to develop new supply chains and markets”.IOL 

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