Precision Agriculture for Development: A Digital Revolution

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Society is increasingly dependent on technology. However, not everyone has equal access. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), people in developing countries are at risk of being left behind during the ongoing digital revolution. WEF insists that digital agriculture can substantially improve the lives of farmers in the long term, as access to information will allow them to sustain their businesses and remain self-sufficient. Precision Agriculture for Development is making that possible.

Access to Information and Expertise

In developing countries, agriculture remains the main source of income for up to 90% of the population.  However, many small farmers rely on traditional agricultural methods, resulting in inefficient and unsustainable practices. There is an urgent need for farmers to adopt development-friendly agriculture production systems that will enable them to increase yields and ultimately their incomes.

One of the biggest problems farmers face is the lack of access to knowledge that will allow them to improve their existing operations. In developed countries, farmers can invest in precision agriculture technologies that provide them with a customized solution in accordance with local conditions. In developing countries, small farmers do not have the means to access these high tech resources. Precision Agriculture for Development is using the latest advancements in digital agriculture to help small farmers improve their existing agricultural practices.

Digital Agriculture and Mobile Solutions

Precision Agriculture for Development (PAD) is a non-profit organization that delivers free crop-specific agricultural advice to millions of farmers through mobile phones. The organization’s approach combines the use of tools such as soil analysis and drone photography with Big Data and Machine Learning research. PAD currently operates in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, India, Kenya, Pakistan, Rwanda, Uganda, and Zambia.

PAD equips farmers with targeted agricultural advice through simple text or voice messages without the need for Internet access. In Bangladesh, PAD has partnered with mPower, a social enterprise that focuses on creating agriculture applications for small farmers. mPower has impacted 2.2 million lives, formed 50 partnerships, and is actively affecting change in more than 15 countries. PAD will support two of mPower’s projects: Agro360 and GeoPotato. Agro360 provides agriculture advice to rice and chili farmers through text messages while GeoPotato updates farmers through timely weather alerts.

PAD recently commissioned a survey on the COVID-19 pandemic’s impact focusing on developing countries and their agricultural practices. The survey reported that 59% of people could not fund their regular consumption due to a decrease in income. While the pandemic has exacerbated many inequalities, the use of innovative agricultural technology can allow vulnerable populations to recover.

A Work in Progress

There is still a lot of work to be done to ensure equal access to information for small farmers in developing countries. However, Precision Agriculture for Development’s innovative solutions to improving the livelihoods of farmers encourages an optimistic outlook.

Mariyah Lia

Photo: The World Economic Forum

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