About 2.5 billion people around the globe depend on Agriculture for livelihood, with Africa constituting a large percentage of that figure. However, obstacles positioned by climate conditions have often undermined the growth of agriculture on the continent.
With over 80 per cent of agricultural produce sourced by local subsistent farmers with little or no access to data which will help check and predict occurrences such drought, rainfall and flooding, pest invasion and disease, crop production and general agricultural activities are left at the mercies of fluctuating climate elements. The result of this is usually devastating with these farmers recounting their numerous losses most time. Availability of meteorological data for real-time decision-making has become more crucial with imminent food crises looming over the continent.
Statistically, climate extremes such as drought have been on the uptrend in recent years and have proven to be the most destructive factor undermining agriculture production and crop yield (ultimately becoming the leading cause of food insecurity around the globe) with agriculture in developing countries incurring USD 29 billion in losses between 2005 and 2015; Africa’s losses stand at USD 10.7 billion as a result of this. Based on this and losses incurred from other fields of threats such as high temperature, flood, pest and disease infestation, Africa is already facing exacerbated food crises. Predictably, the situation may scale in the future as food demand is likely to increase by more than 5 per cent by 2050.
However, a better knowledge of such weather conditions, such as drought and how it will impact agricultural productivity is crucial to countering such adverse effects. In fact, the importance of access to weather data and prediction cannot be overemphasized; It is a prerequisite to projecting solutions to cushion effects.
Acting on this strategy to provide and empower small scale farmers, who generate more than half of Africa’s agricultural produce, with the data needed to combat the negative effects of drought, ITIKI Drought Predictor,( an acronym for Information Technology and Indigenous knowledge) a mobile platform that combines meteorological data with traditional farming knowledge, and utilises an app and SMS messages to send farmers forecasts on drought, was created in 2016.
With over 15,000 small-scale farmers in three countries, including Kenya, Mozambique and South Africa currently subscribed to ITIKI, the innovator, Muthoni Masinde, a professor at the Central University Free State, believes that delivering up-to-date data solutions to local farmers at low costs and in their indigenous language will enable them to take proactive steps towards decision-making and cultivation. She also stressed that investment in these types of solutions would lead to growth in the continent’s Gross Domestic Product(GDP). Prof Masinde hopes to sign up over 100,000 local farmers on the platform by the end of the year. Noteworthily, the project has received funds from the South A African and United States governments to accelerate and ramp up its operations in Africa.
Suffice to say, farmers subscribed to ITIKI have recorded an 11 per cent increase in crops yield.