African farmers urgently need government support to increase the use of digital tools. This is according to a survey conducted by Savanta ComRes and commissioned by Vodacom. More than 200 farmers from South Africa, Kenya, Tanzania and Egypt were asked how they feel about digitizing their farms, how they are managing various threats such as environmental challenges, geopolitical and social pressures as well as supply chain issues. supply that have caused an increase in equipment and material costs.
Climate change tops the list of threats facing farmers in Africa. Almost all farmers who participated in the survey (93%) said that climate change is affecting the financial viability of their farms. About half of the farmers said they have been greatly affected by climate change (45%). This number rises to 62% in Tanzania and 52% in Kenya.
Other threats cited by farmers include low market prices for crops and livestock, rising operating costs, and lack of support from the public sector.
War in Ukraine and availability of crucial resources
The study results also show the impact of the war in Ukraine, raising concerns among farmers about the costs and availability of key agricultural resources. African markets are most concerned about rising fuel and energy costs (52%) and unavailability of fertilizers (42%). Additionally, there was greater concern expressed among farmers in Egypt (51%) and South Africa (44%) about being cut off from existing markets.
This is where technology can help. The survey results highlight how digital technologies can help farmers manage with fewer resources and ensure the future success of their operations. About 89% of respondents in Africa agreed, and more than half of farmers said they were optimistic about the future of farming as an industry.
The use of digital agricultural tools is already widespread. The survey found that nearly half of farmers in Africa are already using digital tools to reduce water use (41%) and improve soil health (42%). There is also clear evidence that farmers are willing to invest more in digital technology to help them combat problems like climate change. Nearly all African farmers surveyed (94%) plan to invest more in digital tools in the next 12 months. However, there are some challenges.
While farmers are willing to invest in future digital technologies, adoption is not easy. The cost of devices and other hardware is a major barrier for 48% of African farmers surveyed: access to reliable mobile connectivity and the cost of apps and software are other challenges.
Sources and types of supply
With farmers expressing a clear desire to use technology to overcome the obstacles presented by climate change, the question is: what support is needed to help them do so successfully?
While the majority of farmers surveyed said they are already receiving help from the government, it was not enough. Around half (55%) of farmers surveyed in Africa say their government is taking steps to support them and 87% of African farmers want more government support.
However, they are not only looking for financial support. Some 54% of farmers in Africa want assistance with training to help them make better use of digital solutions, indicating that addressing barriers to digital technology adoption can start with addressing lack of confidence in use of these new technologies. Connectivity is also a key requirement; with 36% of respondents saying that better mobile internet connectivity is something their governments can do to enable them to use more digital tools and solutions on their farms.
Adopting digital solutions
“Our farmers are facing unprecedented challenges and they need help. It is incredibly encouraging to see that this community is already embracing digital solutions and that they understand the value that these tools and technologies offer. But more needs to be done to ensure African farmers fully embrace precision agriculture,” says Shameel Joosub, CEO. at Vodacom Group Limited.
“Our farmers are willing to invest in digital tools and are willing to use these tools to transform their operations. Governments working together with the private sectors must take note of the problems they face so that they can help these farmers mitigate the effects of climate change, use agricultural resources and inputs more effectively, and better provide for themselves and their families. and their communities.”
Vodacom has made great strides in heeding this call to action, increasing network coverage in rural areas of its markets and making affordable phones available to millions of Africans.
In Tanzania, the M-Kulima mobile platform connects smallholder farmers to a wealth of information and resources through short message service (SMS), ancillary unstructured service data (USSD), and interactive voice response (IVR). ). M-Kulima provides timely weather forecasts that help farmers plan around climate change and offers important market information to help them get the best price for their produce. M-Kulima is also integrated with the M-Pesa financial services platform, to foster financial inclusion by providing a mobile phone-based money transfer service and enabling payments and micro-financing.
Meanwhile, in Kenya, the end-to-end DigiFarm platform, available via USSD or through the app, provides everything from basic farming advice to more advanced and mechanized support, much in the same way that M-Kulima does.
The survey, commissioned by Vodacom, was conducted online in Europe and by phone in Africa by Savanta Comres in 13 countries: Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Turkey, as well as in Egypt, Kenya , South Africa and Tanzania. Fifty farmers were surveyed in each market, except in Romania, where 21 were surveyed. Respondents came from a representative sample of farm sizes. The field work was carried out in September and October 2022.