Smallholder farmers urged to adopt digital tools in bid combat climate change

Sieka Gatabaki

Mr Sieka Gatabaki, Programme Director, Mercy Corps AgriFin Kenya addressing the media at the firm's 6th Annual Learning Event held in Nairobi.

Photo credit: Collins Omulo | Nation Media Group

Smallholder farmers have been urged to tap into digital technologies to access information to improve efficiency and boost crop yields.

Consequently, he said With the adoption of innovative digital tools, they will be able tol enhance the ability to grow sufficient food.

Mercy Corps AgriFin Kenya Programme Director Mr Sieka Gatabaki said communities are currently experiencing fallout from the climate crisis resulting in drought and water crises, volatile weather, unstable food production and loss of livelihood.

World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that production will decrease by 16 percent by the end of 2022, increasing the number of food insecure people in the East African region by between six and seven million.

"Already, the effects are being seen with the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reporting that the global food price index increased by 12.6 percent, the highest levels since 1990," said Mr Gatabaki.

He was speaking during Mercy Corps Agrifin's 6th annual event in Nairobi.

The event, with over 400 participants from around the world, seeks to address how smallholder farmers and the wider food and agricultural system can leverage the power of digital technology to address some of the sector's traditional and growing challenges facing smallholder farmers.

The event comes just a few days after the United Nations' COP27 Climate Conference, which called for urgent action to help smallholder farmers address the immediate and long-term implications of climate change, which is already having catastrophic effects in Africa and Asia, as evidenced by the current drought, the worst in the East African region in the last 40 years, which has left millions of people facing starvation and malnutrition.

The Mercy Corp’s AgriFin programme has so far reached over 16 million farmers with close to 40 percent of these being women.

Ms Hannah Reed, Programme Officer, Integration, Evidence and Learning- Agricultural Development at Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation said the programme would see more farmers supported.

She said that together with Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, Mercy Corps AgriFin have been running the AgriFin Digital Farmer (ADF) initiative that supports the expansion of high impact, digitally enabled services to millions of farmers across Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Uganda and Nigeria.

"Through the work and achievements of the ADF programme, we have learned about how bundled digital farmer services can help improve lives of farmers; how to support an ecosystem of agriculture tech actors and how to design digital services specifically for women and other marginalised users," said Ms Reed.

She called for adoption of more digital tools by farmers to address the challenges the global food system faces due to climate change and global conflicts.

"The situation is somewhat dire, with global undernourishment having increased each year since 2016, reaching 768 million in 2021," she said.

AgriFin is operational in nine countries namely Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, India, and Indonesia.

It has supported more than eight million smallholders registered for bundles of services developed through the program and 150 partners. It has also reached 16 million farmers with digitally-enabled Covid-19 and Desert Locust support.

The programme is funded by the Bill and Gates Foundation, Bayer Foundation, GIZ, Walmart Foundation and collaborates with the World Bank and associated government agencies.