Not nearly enough smallholder farmers in parts of Africa have fully tapped into the use of technology. Experts say they are concerned about the low and uneven rate of technology adoption by farmers. The solution, however, could lie with increased involvement from the private sector.
Despite amazing strides having been made over the last few years with technological advances, just under 30% of farmers in the northern, upper eastern and upper western regions of Africa are currently making use of scientific agricultural practices.
New research by the Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for Next Generation (Africa RISING) project revealed that smallholder farmers in certain parts of Africa have been slow in adopting the technologies.
The minority who do make use of scientific agricultural practices were introduced to them by the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR-STEPRI).
The initiative in Ghana focused on smallholder farmers in the three regions who raised livestock (small ruminants) and crops (maize and cowpea). Through the idea of “technology parks”, technologies developed in these areas were made available to farmers. Researchers are, however, concerned about the low and uneven rate of technology adoption by farmers.
According to Dr Richard Ampadu-Ameyaw, the head of the agriculture, medicine and environment division at CSIR-STEPRI, no smallholder farmer should get left behind as the global agriculture community taps into the fourth industrial revolution.
“For now, what we need to do is go after the 70% that are left and find out why they are not adopting the technologies.” he said.
Ampadu-Ameyaw pointed out another challenge with the low uptake of such technologies being the inactive involvement of the private sector.
“Elsewhere, research is sponsored by the private sector in developed countries, so the results go to them. But in our case, because it is a public institution we don’t charge, so when we finish, we have to give it back to our financier.”
Reflectometer, an affordable solution
For farmers to make use of technology in the day-to-day running of their agricultural enterprise, it can be a costly exercise, especially if you’re operating on a small-scale.
However, an introduction to an affordable scientific agricultural practice introduced to farmers is a low-cost reflectometer. These devices are used to determine the soil carbon levels and help farmers with soil management.
“Soil organic carbon varies at fine scales across fields,” said Sieglinde Snapp, a member of the Soil Science Society of America, who has been working on the project and closely with smallholder farmers. “Farmers require detailed information to better understand how crops will respond to nutrients and water management. Both processes are regulated by soil organic carbon.”
Collecting this data required minimal training of extension staff, he said. This enables them to carry out assessments of soil carbon in real-time with farmers in their fields.
“This represents a significant step forward in improving agronomic management in data-poor locations. Access to such immediate and locally relevant soil data can empower Malawianfarmers to make more informed management decisions based on their unique contexts,” he said.
This article was written by Lucinda Dordley and originially published by FoodForAfrika.com.
To read the full article visit www.foodforafrika.com.
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