Agriculture Business Community Development Health Science and Technology

Leveraging technological innovations in food systems transformation

Dr. Vine Mutyasira

Leveraging technological innovations with a focus on digitalization is essential for attaining increased effectiveness, efficiency, and competitive implementation of National Agricultural Investment Plans (NAIPs) in pursuit of the delivery of the Malabo Declaration on Africa Accelerated Agricultural Growth and Transformation.

This came to the fore during a panel discussion on the last day of a high-level policy discussion on building blocks for the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) that focused on the role of capacity building and technological innovation towards fast-tracking the achievement of food security on the African continent.

In his presentation, Dr. Vine Mutyasira, the Program Officer, Quantitative Policy Modeling and Data Analytics in the Policy and Advocacy Unit of the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA) said recent reports, including the African Union’s Africa Common Position and the 3rd CAADP Biennial Report, show that African farmers still lag behind the rest of the world in terms of technological innovations at the farm level.

The report findings show that the adoption of improved technologies among African farmers remains at 35%. On the other hand, African farmers use 10 times fewer mechanized tools than their counterparts in the developed world while only 33% of arable land in Africa is under improved crop varieties.

Using such statistics, the fundamental question, therefore, is how can we leverage technology and innovations to address food systems goals and address challenges in our supply chains?

“Technological innovations can help mitigate food safety issues. The latest CAADP BR report revealed that only 12 Member States met the overall target for the Africa Food Safety Health Index, while only 1 country (Mali ) met the Food Safety Trade Index. We need technological innovations that can enhance the traceability of food & help foster safety standards that guarantee food safety.

“At the production level, the challenge is no longer just about producing enough food. We need to produce the right way. At the farm level, technologies that can help a smooth transition to Regenerative Agriculture are critical food sustainable food systems transformation. Currently, only 0.2% of Africa’s arable land is under ecological organic agriculture. We, therefore, need appropriate technologies that are tailored to smallholder farmers’ contexts that can ensure that more land is brought under climate-smart production systems. AGRA is currently leading efforts to promote Regenerative Agriculture as a critical lever for food system transformation,” Dr. Mutyasira said.

Technologies and digital solutions can also help advance nutrition goals. Technologies for both bio-fortification and industrial fortification are critical in enhancing the nutritional aspects of our food. On top of that, digital innovations can help enhance the dissemination of nutrition-related information to consumers.

Overall, the continent needs to invest in data systems to enhance our monitoring capabilities and collection of data on the impacts of food safety on health and trade. Innovations at the farm level must be tailored to the realities of the farmers if we are to achieve widespread adoption and impact at scale.

To demonstrate the importance of digital technologies in the agricultural value chain, one of the participants gave an analogy of the work of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) in Ethiopia where the organization is working with the government to foster a food resilience system transformation.

CGIAR contends that research and innovation in food, land, and water systems are crucial for a sustainable, climate-resilient world free from hunger and malnutrition.

“Technologies on traceability of food and food safety are important. CGIAR is implementing the Digital Seed System at the national level in Ethiopia. It also developed an application that addresses nutrition message misinformation by giving food-based dietary guidelines,” the participant said.

About the author

Byron Adonis Mutingwende