What’s Tech Got to Do With It?

Innovations for climate-resilient agriculture

Photo © CGIAR

With little access to improved inputs, climate information, formal markets or finance, smallholder farmers’ yields too often fall far short of their potential.

Digital technologies are strengthening traditional responses to these challenges and enabling new solutions to better manage the impacts of climate change through the provision of vital information or financial services. They are both key enablers of emerging climate resilience solutions and catalysts for existing services, such as agriculture advisory, early warnings and agricultural credit[1].

The Fund International Agricultural Research (FIA) supports the global partnership for a food secure future (CGIAR) in developing and scaling out agricultural research innovations for tackling climate change, food security and sustainable resource management.

Technology tools and innovation platforms are one way the CGIAR can reach a wider network of farmers and policymakers. The following examples were highlighted during this year’s hybrid SNRD conference in Accra in a session on Agtech innovations for climate-resilient agriculture.

Knowing where to invest: feasibility mapping for solar irrigation

The impacts of climate change on rain-fed agriculture, which accounts for over 95% of the farmed land in sub-Saharan Africa, are increasingly felt through increased incidence of crop pests and disease and more frequent extreme weather events.

An online knowledge management tool developed by the International Water Management Institute provides open access geospatial information that can be used by development banks, private sector companies, agriculture, water and irrigation experts to improve the identification of suitable areas for solar-powered irrigation systems (SPIS)[1].

By specifically incorporating environmental sustainability, the tool ensures the availability and sustainable use of water. Furthermore, the tool helps mitigate the effects of climate change using clean and affordable solar energy sources.

Responding to threats: monitoring crop disease

Banana Xanthomonas wilt (BXW) is a devastating bacterial disease of banana and plantain which is widespread in Central and East Africa, and a major threat to livelihoods and food security in the project implementing country Rwanda.

In an effort to help smallholder farmers fight banana disease, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture ICT4BXW project developed a geospatial modelling tool and website to enable early warning systems that provide georeferenced data on the incidence of banana disease. It can guide options for effective policies and measures to combat further spread of the disease in the region.

Through citizen science, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture developed a cost-effective, co-validated and scalable mobile phone application for advancing the prevention and control of BXW. Over 3000 farmers have already used the tool, accessing banana agronomy and disease prevention content.

Effective management: scaling out improved rice

The COVID-19 Response Rice Seed (CORIS) Project[2] — coordinated by Africa Rice, and supported by the cross-country rice working group of Green Innovation Centres (MAP4Rice) — supports the production of high-quality seeds in line with the demand in Benin, Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire, Nigeria and Mali, ensures higher crop yields and makes West Africa less dependent on global supply chains and expensive rice imports during an economic crisis.

So far, the project has benefitted 10 million consumers, two million rice farming family members and 80,000 seed farming family members.

In its second phase, focused on scaling out CORIS further, the project aims to use the online platform e-prod[3]. E-prod can be used not only for effective monitoring but especially for bundling services such as access to credit status and farmer profiles.

By also managing input distribution and enabling traceability, e-prod can help improve productivity. Thereby the platform is to contribute decisively to the broad impact of CORIS in the future.

To sum it up

The problems that the International Water Management Institute, the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture and CORIS are solving through ICT tools and innovation highlight the importance of demand-driven and technology-enhanced development solutions in an increasingly digital, and climate-affected world.

Photo © CGIAR

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