The Role of Agriculture in Global Survival
According to the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), nearly 60 percent of the global population, equating to around 4.62 billion people, rely on agriculture for their livelihood. With women being pivotal contributors, particularly in small scale farming, agriculture remains a pillar of survival, despite various challenges such as land ownership issues, especially in Africa.
Contributions of Agriculture to National Economies
Agriculture significantly impacts national economies. In the United States, the sector contributes approximately $1.053 trillion to the GDP. In Africa, agriculture accounts for an average of 15 percent of the total GDP, with variations as low as 3 percent in countries like Botswana, and exceeding 50 percent in nations such as Chad. This sector is a substantial employer, particularly for women and youth in rural regions.
Country-specific policies often influence the agricultural sector’s contribution to national production. For instance, in Kenya, agricultural products constitute about 65 percent of total exports, with over 80 percent of the workforce involved in the sector, primarily in micro, small, and medium enterprises.
The Impact of Policies and Climate Change on Agriculture
The development of the agricultural sector is intertwined with national policies and environmental changes. Policies encouraging irrigation over rain-fed farming can significantly enhance farming practices, particularly in the face of global warming and climate change, which drive potential investors away from farming.
Simultaneously, ensuring food security should be a government priority, supporting local farmers who often sell raw materials at unattractive prices. Access to free or subsidised agricultural extension services facilitated by the government, and climate change mitigation measures, can enhance the sector.
The Perception of Agriculture and the Role of Technology
Despite agriculture being the backbone of many African economies, the sector remains unappealing, particularly to the youth. This perception is primarily due to the view of agriculture as traditional crop and animal farming, practiced for lack of alternatives.
However, leveraging information and communications technology (ICT) could transform the sector, making it more attractive and profitable, especially for young entrepreneurs. ICT can reduce information acquisition and exchange costs, enhance market transparency, improve decision-making, and ultimately increase farm productivity and product demand.
Connecting Agricultural Practitioners to Capital Goods through Technology
Modern technology, especially mobile technology, can improve access to farm inputs through credit and boost mechanisation. This approach could attract more young people to the sector, facilitating access to finance – a significant challenge for entrepreneurs. Government incentives, such as grants for women, youth, and people living with disabilities (PLWDs), could further encourage participation in modern farming.
With the aid of mobile telephony technologies and other accessible tools, extension services can reach farmers more efficiently. Farmers can receive early warning signals about impending risky weather and climatic conditions, aiding risk mitigation.
The Future of Agriculture: Big Data and Modernisation
The use of technology in agriculture extends to data collection, which can be crucial for government planning and for promoting scientific farming, manufacturing, and export. Big data modelling represents a significant opportunity for agricultural advancement.
Modernising agriculture is vital for transforming it into a serious business in Africa and reducing youth unemployment and social vices. Policies that encourage and support young people’s involvement in agriculture could ensure this economic sector contributes significantly to GDP.
In conclusion, agriculture is the backbone of many economies, and it is the responsibility of every stakeholder to promote its growth and sustainability.
The Necessity of Agricultural Education and Training
Aside from financial support and technology, education and training play a crucial role in developing the agricultural sector. To change the perception of agriculture from a traditional fallback to an innovative and profitable sector, it’s essential to provide education on agribusiness and sustainable farming practices.
In many developing nations, farming is often seen as a last resort, typically associated with poverty and struggle. Shifting this perception requires targeted education and mentorship programmes aimed at inspiring a new generation of farmers who understand the economic potential of agriculture.
Training programmes can introduce modern farming techniques, agricultural technology use, crop rotation, soil management, pest control, and irrigation methods, among other vital skills. Through such programmes, farmers can increase their yields, improve the quality of their produce, and become more competitive in the market.
Encouraging Investment in Agricultural Infrastructure
In addition to education and training, investment in agricultural infrastructure is crucial. Improving road networks can ease the transportation of produce from farms to markets, reducing post-harvest losses and ensuring farmers get their produce to the market in time.
Moreover, investing in irrigation infrastructure can promote year-round farming, reducing dependency on unpredictable rainfall patterns and increasing resilience to climate change. Additionally, better storage facilities can also prevent post-harvest losses, ensuring farmers benefit fully from their hard work.
Strengthening Agricultural Cooperatives
Agricultural cooperatives, which allow farmers to pool resources and share knowledge, can be significantly beneficial. These groups can negotiate better prices for inputs like seeds and fertilisers and help members access markets and services they might struggle to reach individually. Cooperatives can also help farmers increase their bargaining power when selling their produce, ensuring they receive fair prices.
In conclusion, the agricultural sector is a critical pillar of the global economy, supporting billions of lives and contributing significantly to GDPs worldwide. As we face the challenges of climate change, population growth, and food security, it becomes increasingly important to promote and invest in this sector, ensuring it remains sustainable and resilient for future generations.
This mission calls for stakeholder collaboration in introducing advanced technologies, providing education and training, investing in infrastructure, strengthening agricultural cooperatives, and implementing supportive policies. With such measures, agriculture can indeed be transformed from an underappreciated sector to a vital component of economic growth and development.