Engaging farmers in innovation in Africa makes communities resilient to climate change – EURACTIV.com

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On the front lines of climate change, farmers across Africa face enormous challenges for their livelihoods. But EU-backed projects show what can be achieved when we match these farmers with the innovations of private sector farmers.

Rhys Bucknall-Williams is CGIAR’s Global Communications and Knowledge Manager.

The dust has settled on the COP26. Food and agriculture have been high on the COP’s agenda like never before, rightly taking their place among the key sectors that contribute to climate change, but also the most vulnerable to its effects.

Campaigns like ClimateShot have demonstrated how innovation is helping vulnerable communities create more climate-resilient livelihoods and feed growing communities as the world’s population is expected to reach 10 billion by 2050.

Nowhere is this more true than in Africa, and next year’s COP27 in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt is important.

Climate action for communities across Africa will be at the center of the debate in Sharm el-Sheikh, with a greater than usual focus on the role of agriculture, agriculture and food systems, which are at the heart of so many African economies.

It is It is essential that we better understand how farmers are actually adopting climate-smart farming technologies and practices on the massive scale needed to tackle the climate crisis.

Projects such as “Building livelihoods and climate resilience in East and West Africa” – funded by the European Union and supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) – are rolling out Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D) to answer how.

Matchmakers need to connect innovations to farmers

Many of us know how apps like Uber and Lyft have drastically changed mobility in major cities around the world.

In Kenya, a mobile application called hello tractor connects farmers to scarce tractors and related equipment that are often unaffordable for farmers.

the hello tractor The business model itself is innovative, making older business models suddenly viable by connecting geographically disparate consumers (i.e. the company literally plots delivery routes to minimize unnecessary trips.

Kenyan tractor owner Dominic Kimani told Africa News:

In the old days, we parked our tractors in malls and patiently waited for customers who sometimes didn’t show up. However with the use of this app I can get clients from all over and it was easy to find work.“.

hello tractor founder Jehil Oliver pointed out that:

“Almost all farmers in the Africa region depend on rain-fed farming systems… There is simply not enough labor available in these rural communities to ensure that farmers have access to the labor that they need. they need to sow on time and maximize their productivity. This is where Hello Tractor comes in ”.

Kenya-based researchers from CGIAR’s Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) met separately with both farmers and business leaders – including hello tractor and American tractor company John deere – in various community forums.

During this time, AR4D search by CCAFS showed that farmers would have to adopt new methods of tillage – namely ‘ripping’ – which required specialized equipment produced by companies like John deere.

The CCAFS team introduced tear-off technology into the hello tractor platform by connecting them to producers John deere.

The impact emerged by taking disparate innovations a step further and “bundling” them together, matching producers with farmers.

Bringing together innovations has a greater impact than the sum of its parts

In Africa, 85% of agriculture is rainfed, which means that rainfall strongly influences crop yields.

The problem is that precipitation is very poorly measured in many African countries, most of which have seen the number of weather observing stations decline in recent decades.

Satellites can help, but most farmers need “hyper-local” rainfall measurements to be able to plan their operations, and only ground-based rain gauges can provide the necessary granular data.

And without easily verifiable measures of the climate risks that smallholder farmers face – especially rainfall – it is often impossible to overcome the “risk aversion” that hinders the establishment of contracts between farmers and service providers such as farmers. bankers and investors.

This is where “frugal” innovations – simple and inexpensive technologies – can be combined with digital, data-driven platforms.

In West Africa, the agCelerant The platform deploys ‘physical’ agriculture – the combination of physical asset management tools with digital solutions – so that providers of banking or investment services for smallholder farmers can be extended to all markets .

Suppose a farmer has purchased drought insurance. If at the end of the season of low rainfall, farmers ask for a payment. How does the insurer know the farmer is telling the truth about the amount of rainfall on farmers’ land that year, and that they just weren’t complacent?

To meet this challenge, the CCAFS and its partners have developed prototypes of rain gauges, recyclable and equipped with “Internet of Things” technology. These affordable gauges cost just US $ 50 each.

These gauges provide essential data and information to other key players in crop value chains who can provide finance, insurance and investment services to farmers, who are themselves empowered to better exploit risk. climatic.

So far, these gauges have been installed in Kenya and Tanzania, with other units ready for field deployment in Ghana and Ethiopia. The purchase of several units is underway to support projects in Mali, Burkina Faso and Senegal.

Innovation must be demand driven

Awareness of new innovations inevitably leads to increased demand, making them more sustainable in the long run with better value for money.

In Ethiopia, the CCAFS team collaborated with the Ethiopian Ministry of Agriculture (MoA), the Ethiopian Agricultural Research Institute (EIAR) and the National Meteorological Agency (NMA) on a major public awareness campaign conducted by Fana Radio, one of the main media houses in the countryside.

Messages on climate-smart agriculture – and the innovations that open up access to these technologies and practices – were shared with 15 million farmers across Ethiopia.

Using this vast infrastructure (including 12 regional FM radio stations) and Fana’s reputation, the broadcast campaign provided specific and highly contextualized information in local languages ​​to farmers to support projects in different regions.

This EU-IFAD-supported project in Africa shows how, on the front lines of climate change, there are many opportunities to connect and capitalize on all the innovations that are already happening in communities vulnerable to climate change.

Aside from the major commitments of COP27, such ‘grassroots’ efforts can be an important part of the solution to the climate crisis, especially when guided by the best climate and social sciences and supported by investment. international partners.

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