Department and School: Department of Animal Science; University of Benin
The increasingly important role of innovation in promoting agricultural growth, food security, poverty reduction and particularly improvement in the livelihood of farmers in the developing world is documented and universally acknowledged (Akon-Yamga et al., 2011). In Ethiopia, farmer innovation is seen as a different way of doing agriculture and natural resource management through creating new practices or modifying existing ones; bringing additional value over the common practices of the community without affecting the broader environment (Wettasinha et al., 2006).
Some of the innovation that has firmly established its role in ensuring food security as explored by “NextGenAfricanFarmers” includes; Electronic Voucher System which was launched by the Federal government of Nigeria to give local farmers access to subsidized seeds and fertilizers. That innovation reached 1.5 million farmers in its first year, impacting 7.5 million people in those households.
African Risk Capacity (ARC) is a specialised unit of the African Union that provides crop insurance to AU member states in addressing climate risk and its impact on food security. The ARC is a pan-African approach in mitigating the climate risk.
Mobile phones are also assisting farmers in Kenya, by bringing market-related produce prices to their attention. The Kenyan Agricultural Commodities Exchange has partnered with mobile operator, Safaricom, in launching SokoniSMS64, a text messaging platform that provides pricing information to farmers. M-Farm offers a similar service. Mobile app, iCow, billed as “the world’s first mobile phone cow calendar,” allows dairy farmers to track the gestation periods and progress of their cows. It makes use of SMS and voice services to do so.
Weather apps such as FarmSupport, accessed through the Internet and mobile phones, are helping farmers across the continent by providing up-to-date weather forecasting. The app also collects crowd-sourced information from farmers on which crops they planted where, and their yields, as well as the types and amounts of fertiliser used.
The crowd- source feature uses a modified Geo-Wiki, promoting two-way communication between data providers and farmers. This data is then collated by researchers and could lead to the development of more accurate early warning systems for food security and to better estimates of the current yield gaps in Africa.
A recent development is the concept of “Vertical Farming” which grows plant upward thereby reducing the pressure on land resources. Also, Juma et al. (2013) summarized that “Inefficient processing and drying, poor storage and insufficient infrastructure are key factors in food waste resulting to food insecurity in Africa. Innovations along the supply chain which support farmers and investments in infrastructure and transportation have been shown to reduce the amount of food loss and waste”.
Conclusively, through these projects and many more, considerable emphasis have been placed on innovation because it sets the machinery of the pillars of food security which are availability, accessibility, quality, affordability and stability of food into motion through hunger reduction, improved environmental and agricultural sustainability, economically feasible for both farmers and the donor/investment community, improved nutrition boosting productivity and creating employment.