Mobile Application: Promoting Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA)

By Gedion G. Jalata) /CEI/ ABN

It has been much-trumpeted that Africa is endowed with abundant natural resources. The continent has about 12 percent of the world’s arable land, of which 60 percent is uncultivated. Moreover, only 7 percent of the arable land is irrigated, compared to 40 percent in Asia. In 2013, 183 million hectares of land was under cultivation in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA), and approximately 452 million hectares of additional suitable land was not cultivated.

Smallholder farmers account for most of the cultivated land and a sizable share of agriculture production. For instance, more than 75 percent of the total agriculture output in Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, and Uganda is produced by smallholder farmers with an average farm size of about 2.5 ha.

As SSA countries are heavily dependent on agriculture, the sector has a positive relationship to national gross domestic product (GDP). The contribution of agriculture to GDP in SSA, however, varies widely. Agriculture accounts for an average of 30 percent of Africa’s total GDP, while agriculture contributes less than 8 percent in Southern African countries.

Moreover, on average, about 65 to 70 percent of Africa’s labour force is employed in the agriculture sector. Figure 1 below shows GDP, employment and the relative productivity level of the agriculture sector for 11 African countries (1960, 1990 and 2010). The countries included in this survey are Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Mauritius, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia.

Source: De Vries, Gaaitzen, Timmer and De Vries. 2003. Structural Transformation in Africa: Static Gains, Dynamic losses, p.6, 11.

Source: De Vries, Gaaitzen, Timmer and De Vries. 2003. Structural Transformation in Africa: Static Gains, Dynamic losses, p.6, 11.

As shown in Figure 1, the agriculture sector’s contribution to the 11 African countries surveyed declined over the period (– 37.6 percent, 24.9 percent, and 22.4 percent in 1960, 1990 and 2010 respectively), while the productivity of the sector declined from 0.5 in 1960 to 0.4 in 2010. The sector also lost labour incrementally from 72.7 percent to 61.6 percent and then 49.8 percent in 1960, 1990 and 2010, respectively.

Agriculture, however, still has the potential to contribute greatly to economic growth and transformation in Africa. It remains the key sector for food security, employment, growth, and development in most African countries. Agriculture can increase incomes in rural areas, increase exports and the foreign exchange needed to import machinery and inputs for the industry as well, by releasing labour from agriculture to the manufacturing and other sectors. It can also expand the markets for inputs and consumer goods and services for other sectors of the economy.

Agriculture-led growth has the largest impact on reducing the depth and breadth of poverty. Growth in food staples is considered generally as pro-poor, as export crops may have higher value and growth potential. Africa’s big development agenda is to achieve an agriculture sector annual growth rate of at least 6 percent and meet the time-bound targets set in the previous Millennium Development Goals, the current Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the Agenda 2063 ten-year plan.

Nonetheless, only 8 African countries are able to achieve the 6 percent agriculture sector annual growth rate. These are Angola, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, The Republic of the Congo, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Senegal, and Tanzania. The impressive economic growth and rapid improvement in rural poverty in Ethiopia, Rwanda, and Ghana have been fuelled by growth in the agriculture sector. Productivity in the sector yet is low in Africa and lags behind that of other continents.

Africa’s rural population seems unable to transform its productivity rate significantly, which means the rural population continues to live in poverty. This is a major barrier to development on the continent. Rapid agricultural transformation through increased productivity, income growth, and competitiveness, with good natural environmental stewardship for sustainable development, is needed to actualize this economic growth agenda.

Furthermore,agriculture is highly dependent on the climate in most African countries. Climate changes make it more difficult to consistently grow crops,raise animals and conduct other farming activities.So the effect of this climate should be highly considered along with other evolving factors that affect agriculture such as changes in farming practices and technology.

The Government of Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia (FDRE), in its national development plan, seeks to accelerate broad-based economic growth and development and is taking various measures to minimize the negative impacts of environmental degradation. It also sets the scene in the country to attract significant investment and encourage economic growth and job creation.

The role of climate and market information within this, in informing interventions aimed at building the resilience of communities/ households vulnerable to the impacts of extremes of climate such as drought and flooding is gaining popularity worldwide. Availing and sustaining climate information that is strong enough to inform livelihood decisions in context, however, requires a mechanism for production, dissemination, application, feedback from users, and learning in the process.

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Discussions on How Best to Use the Mobile Application to Disseminate Weather and Market Data

In this context, Farm Africa has embarked a project called “Accelerating the Uptake of Climate-smart Agriculture for Improved Agricultural Productivity of Smallholder Farmers in Halaba, HaderoTuntu and Damot Gale woredas of the SNNPR of Ethiopia”. ‘Climate Smart Agriculture’ (CSA) has been developed as an approach to attain “triple wins” in agriculture through increased agricultural productivity, adaptation (supporting crops to grow in changing climate conditions), and mitigation (reducing greenhouse gas emissions where possible).

The project aims to improve agricultural productivity and adaptive capacity to climate uncertainties for smallholder farmers through accelerated field uptake of CSA practices using ICT tools. Providing these services will enable targeted farmers with area-specific (woreda level) weather forecasts and market information through Mobile App and acquaint them to use the information to make decisions in their livelihood activities.

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Presentation of the Mobile Application

The envisaged Climate Information Dissemination Platform coordinated climate information producers – National Metrology Agency (NMA), Intermediaries – Media and end-users- Listening groups and woreda exchange platforms to deliver decision-relevant climate information.

 In recognition of the benefits gained from working in partnership, coordination and collaboration to achieve their common objectives of supporting the provision of climate information to inform interventions aimed at building the resilience of communities/ households vulnerable; the project needs to upgrade the service through piloting the climate information with market information by using mobile phone as a platform. 

In this context, the Center of Excellence International Consult won a bid from Farm Africa and successfully developed a mobile application as well as provided successful training for selected farmers based in Halaba, HaderoTuntu, and Damot Gale woredas.  The Firm is providing weekly market information and ten days of weather information with agro-advisory to the farmers.

 The Consultancy Firm is working to replicate this practice to other regions of Ethiopia including with SMS and local radio programs. Any interested farmers associations, government offices, development partners and private sector may contact the Consultancy Firm for more information.

(The writer is CEO, Center of Excellence International Consult)

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