Agriculture is an area of tremendous opportunity in Africa. It is also a sector that needs substantial investment, so that Africa can feed itself and lessen the reliance on foreign imports. In a time where climate change is threatening to make farming even more challenging in Africa, and urbanisation is taking the labour force away from rural farm land, innovation is needed to increase productivity and give incentivise the labour force into getting back into farming, and developing their businesses.
We have featured many agricultural innovations on Inventive Africa, many of which continue to flourish, like Farm Drive, who have recently been features on the IPA 2017 shortlist, and have won various other awards across the continent. It seems that every year, there are many more inventive ideas around the sector, and today two more will be features.
Over the past few years, Kenya have been a leading force in African innovation. Safaricom have driven innovation with their introduction of mobile money service M-Pesa, which has changed the outlook of the Kenyan financial sector, connecting many with banking services. There are many spinoffs such as M-Kopa and M-Tiba, which both aim to combat the social issues of health care and demand for electricity.
Now they are venturing into the agricultural sector and aim to help agricultural processing businesses in production planning by opening a communication line with farmers. Connected Farmer, and app, enables farmers across Kenya to digitise their entire end to end operations. It includes, farmer profiling, communication, collection of produce, management of stock and payment.
Agricultural businesses are often distanced from their farmers, and processes can take time, with lots of paperwork, and confusion through the different communication avenues. Paper receipts, and cash payments slow the process down and leave it open to mistakes. With the app, absolutely everything is digitised, produce reports are available on the app or via text message, and farmers can even book in for artificial insemination of cattle! The process is faster, more efficient and saves money. Agribusinesses ban communicate directly with the farmers, and help them to increase their yield.
Another exciting element of the app, is that because there will be a lot of data collected on each farmers business, a precise credit score will be able to be calculated. That means, farmers will be able to use the data to be able to get credit when purchasing supplies. Creating credit scores in Africa has been a challenging problem, but now more and more solutions are there to enable people to get credit and develop their businesses. For example, check out this service we wrote about called Lending Square.
Urbanisation is another problem. People simply do not have the space to farm widely in the cities. Getting fresh produce to cities is also often a problem. The bad road infrastructure often means it take a long time for produce to reach the city from the rural farms. An inspiring Nigerian woman, Oluwayimika Angel Adelaja, has developed a simple, but effective solution for this.
By using containers to create farming space, Adelaja has created a way to farm in a 3d manner. Containers can be stacked on top of each other, and by utilising the space well, each container can be the equivalent of 1.5 acres of farm land. The planting method, hydroponics, which is half of the aquaponics system we described previously, uses no soil, and therefore, much less water is used, which is perfect for Africa. These container farms can be put anywhere in the city, which means that the bio produce can easily reach the client quickly and very fresh.
Containers are being utilised for so many things in Africa, people have created homes, shops, bars and restaurants out of them. One of my favourite bars in Ghana was actually set in quarter of a container, was air conditioned and well decorated with football shirts and flags, the perfect place to watch the English Premier League on a Saturday afternoon. Utilising their stack-ability for farming, and other things is a clever and inexpensive way of efficiently using urban spaces.
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