WATCH: Jozi professor says ‘smaller farmers’ need different technology

With growing food costs, it’s becoming more and more lucrative for people to start producing at home and selling it

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Senior lecturer in Development Studies at the University of Johannesburg Dr. Naudé Malan believes “we need a lot more participatory design with smaller farmers in order to create technologies that serves their agendas. Once we do that, we will see the sector bloom and grow.”

Malan features in this week’s Farmer’s Inside Track video to discuss issues around climate change and agricultural technology in Mzansi’s agricultural sector.

In the video he highlights that “smaller farmers” need different kinds of technologies in order to farm effectively, and that they need to be part of the designing process of agricultural tech.

“Agricultural technology has been developed not to serve the small farmer, but to serve the retailers, right down to the level of seeds and the genetics thereof. The genetics of seeds and crops are often developed in such a way that they are easy to sell, buy and transport at large scale. Smaller farmers do not benefit directly from that kind of technology,” he explains.

In 2013, Malan launched a technology development initiative where technology was designed alongside urban farmers in Soweto. Years later this developed into the Izindaba Zokudla Farmers Lab. The project is aimed at creating change and opportunities for urban agriculture in a sustainable food system in Johannesburg.

READ: The township food revolution has started

On the topic of using biological production methods, Malan discusses and unpacks the benefits to farmers which include better water management, producing more than one crop and creating resilient food systems.

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In the video, the lecturer emphasizes the importance behind creating decentralized production and expanding opportunities for people to earn an income.

“The more expensive food gets, the more lucrative it becomes for people to start producing on a small scale at home and selling it. Research findings from my students indicate a minimum of R300.00 per day that can be earned with urban agriculture and that’s important to take note off,” Malan adds.

He encourages young people to seriously consider agriculture, and emphasizes the abundant opportunities, especially in digitizing agriculture.

According to Malan, young people don’t have to be farmers and some of the areas they can explore include “conceptualizing value chains, building apps, starting to retail in different ways and transporting with electronic delivery vehicles.”

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