By BUUMBA CHIMBULU
ZAMBIAN farmers are missing out on AgriTech innovations that can supercharge the agriculture sector with opportunities for the youth.
The country’s agriculture sector continues to grapple with low productivity, lack of access to financing, innovation and technology even as the Covid-19 pandemic continues to exert toll on social and economic activities nationwide.
This is according to a report survey conducted by Heifer International, a global non-profit organisation
The report surveyed 29,900 youths, 299 smallholder farmers and 110 agriculture technology startups, innovation hubs and technology organizations in Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
“While there are a wide range of agritech innovations that could propel Zambia’s (and African) farmers to profitability, only 23 percent of youth engaged in agriculture are using any form of agricultural technology,” the report stated.
Commenting on the report, Adesuwa Ifedi, senior vice president for Africa Programmes at Heifer International, said Africa was not providing the financing or training to ensure young people have easy access to the same agritech tools.
Ms Ifedi said the tools included drone technologies, precision soil sensors and digital farmer services that were transforming food production around the world.
“As a continent with a thriving young population, Africa’s agricultural sector must provide the investments in agritech innovations that will encourage youth to embrace agriculture-related endeavors, because they are the key to revitalizing Africa’s food system.
“Youth engagement in agriculture will be essential to recovering from the economic impacts of the pandemic, both to rejuvenate the continent’s agri-food system and develop economic opportunities for young Africans,” Ms Ifedi said.
The study also provides new insights into how the pandemic is affecting African farmers.
Some 40 percent of agriculture organizations featured in the survey report that they were forced to close at least temporarily due to the pandemic; 38 percent experienced a reduction in average purchase amount per customer and 36 percent still do not have the financial capital to grow back their businesses.
It identifies challenges faced by smallholder farming communities and potential areas for innovation and growth.