Developing countries need to increase agricultural innovation and the use of technology by farmers to eliminate poverty, meet the rising demand for food and cope with the adverse effects of climate change.
I had an opportunity to spend six weeks attending an intensive programme initiated by the United States Department of State, known as the Mandela Washington Fellowship Leadership Institute in Agribusiness at Purdue University, in Indiana State, in the United States.
I learned about the history of mechanisation through a visit to one of the farming families that grew from a modest farm nearly 80 years ago to the present day, million-dollar hybrid seed production company.
I saw a six-cylinder, 125 horse power historical John Deer tractor which has been used by the company that was bought in 1974.
My biggest question is for how many years have farming families been using tractors and other advanced technologies to farm in America?
Imagine a machine that is capable of doing work within hours that would take humans a number of days to do.
One word that comes to your mind is “efficiency”. No matter how hard we work, if the systems are not efficient, we can’t do much per unit time resulting in low productivity.
In examining modern forms of agriculture, we should be emphasising precision agriculture, the use of robotic sensors on the farm, precision nutrition application etc. All these technologies have been developed to enhance efficiency and provide a more conducive environment for increased productivity.
As a developing country we can only learn from countries like the United States. I don’t say that we should adopt their systems but we can adapt to ways in which these systems can best fit with our production environment.
In this quick and fast changing world, how do we give our smallholder farmers an enabling sustainable environment for their growth and development? How do we transform our farming systems from conventional farming methods to modern farming that is well adapted to the effects of climate change?
We can only go far in terms of agriculture development if we include young people and if we put young people at the heart of agriculture development.
However, how do we do that since agriculture is still perceived as business for the old people? We can do this by encouraging innovation and technology in agriculture. Young people are more attracted to technology so the modern farming term for young farmers is the “ dotcom farmers”.