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Moving towards digital agriculture, radio and TV platforms lead the way

AGRF 2020

September 5th, 2019

Radio and television have been identified as the most powerful tools for passing information to smallholder farmers in rural Africa.

During an event to discuss digital agriculture infrastructure on the sidelines of the Africa Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) in Accra, Ghana, several experts observed that internet access remains a challenge for the rural poor especially for African women, making it quite difficult to digitize agriculture. It is estimated that 82 percent of households in Africa are not connected to the internet.

“We have seen television and radio programs that have transformed agriculture in different communities,” said Zhang Junqi, the Chief Executive Officer for Star Times Nigeria. “Internet would have been even better, but access is still very limited to many due to costly gadgets and poor network coverage,” he noted.

Junqi singled out ‘Shamba Shape Up’ a practical television program run by Kenya’s Citizen television, educating farmers in East Africa about livestock, poultry, crops, soil fertility climate change, agribusiness among others using experts from each sector.

“This is a program that has changed lives of many smallholder farmers in the region, and other countries should learn from it,” said Junqi, also pointing out the important role played by community radio stations that broadcast in local languages and dialects to deliver agriculture and climate information services.

To solve the internet problem, BLUETOWN Solutions, a digital solutions company has come up with satellite supported internet access to serve the most rural communities. In Africa, the company has presence in Ghana and Tanzania.

“When you connect the unconnected, you also close the gap in terms of access to information, to markets, to education, to financial services, and to government programs, which are all becoming increasingly digital,” said Louise Kjaer, the Vice President for Strategy and Sustainability at BLUETOWN Solutions.

According to Kjaer, access to cheap and reliable communication – especially mobile telephony and internet – is a self-reinforcing enabler for creation of wealth and higher standard of living. In Ghana, the company has created about 1200 hotspots, most of which are supported by nongovernmental organizations.

Dr. Wanjiru Kamau-Rutenberg, Director, African Women in Agricultural Research (AWARD) and a Member of the Malabo Montpellier Panel noted that governments have a role to play in enabling digitization of agriculture.

“We need sound policies that will attract investors in the sector, we need financing, research, digital infrastructure and South South corporation,” she said.

The session was convened and hosted by USAID to explore some examples of some of the underlying components required to drive digital agriculture, and also to engage in a conversation about where governments, donors and private sector need to collaborate in order to achieve the promise of digital agriculture.