Cultivate Africa Series: Partnerships Promote Resilient Agriculture

Dec 7, 2020 | All, Data & Tech Acceleration, Distribution Channel Logistics, Market Access

As a participant of Cultivate Africa 2020, AgriFin‌ hosted and convened four panels to ‌share‌ ‌key‌ ‌insights‌ ‌and‌ ‌learnings‌ from‌ ‌the‌ ‌AgriTech‌ ‌space. This virtual event‌, ‌organized‌ ‌by‌ ‌the‌ ‌Africa‌ ‌Union‌ ‌Commission‌ ‌in‌ ‌partnership‌ ‌with‌ ‌Hallpax, ran November 17-18, 2020.‌ ‌Its main objective is to strengthen partnerships to promote resilient agriculture and food systems on the continent in light of the COVID 19 pandemic. An overview of the sessions, with links to the video recordings and presentations, can be accessed below:

Scaling AgTech Innovation through Digital Platforms

Digital solutions have a huge potential to revolutionize the sector’s modus operandi, opening new markets that can be scaled quickly and offering “end to end” services at a cost-effective way, leading to improvement in the welfare of smallholder farmers. AgriFin and its partners have been working together to understand how young technology innovators can be supported in scale and operational viability by engaging with emerging models of digital platforms.

AgriFin’s Program Director Leesa Shrader moderated a panel discussion on Scaling AgTech Innovation through Digital Platforms. She was joined by Vinay Vutukuru, World Bank; Boniface Akuku, KALRO; Marisa Conway, Arifu and Naoko Koyama, Dalberg Advisors. They explored the key operational dynamics of emerging digital platforms for agriculture and gave recommendations on how to drive ecosystem data-sharing.

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Digital Technology & Data-Led Citizen Reporting: Emergency Response to the Desert Locust Crisis in East Africa 

Since April 2020, AgriFin has been deploying information campaigns across multiple platforms to inform response efforts in close collaboration with local partners, government agencies and research organizations to capture as wide an audience as possible. These platforms include WhatsApp backed by machine learning capabilities, SMS, IVR, Call Centers, TV shows & Facebook. These campaigns have provided vital ground intelligence of locust sightings to spur ground and aerial response as well as disseminating COVID 19 information. To date, we have reached 16 million farmers across messaging channels in Kenya and Ethiopia.

At Cultivate Africa, our resident Desert Locust expert John Mundy and David Hughes of Pennsylvania State University’s PlantVillage team shared how digital technologies and partnerships enable citizen reporting of desert locust sightings from rural communities. They also dove into possible broader applications of citizen reporting. 

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Riding the Digital Data Wave: Barriers and Innovation in Agricultural Data Sharing 

The global volume of data is growing exponentially, driven primarily by new data collection instruments and the increasing adoption of digital technologies. This wave of big data is supporting the development of new business models and services that can provide lower-cost solutions that can more readily reach scale and open new markets. Moreover, with the rise of platforms, more data is being created and shared between partners, allowing them to jointly innovate. Despite this innovation, many organizations are facing significant barriers in realizing the potential of data, particularly through data-sharing partnerships. 

Over the past five years, AgriFin has worked on over 130 engagements to support the delivery of digital services to smallholder farmers. Many of these engagements are characterized by complex negotiations about how data sharing can unlock service delivery and enable different social and commercial outcomes for different players.

Drawing on this experience, AgriFin’s Senior Technology Expert Victoria Clause led this panel in sharing key insights and learnings on maximizing the potential of data. Panellists include Christine Ribeiro, ISF Advisors; Rose Goslinga, Pula; Christophe Bocquet, Dalberg Data Insights and David Hughes, Penn State PlantVillage. 

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What it Takes to Develop and Manage a Digitally-enabled Field Force with Dalberg Advisors 

Over the past decade, organizations have shifted the way they engage with smallholder farmers: from manual data collection and service delivery, using highly-skilled agronomists in the field – to digital models where services are deployed only through mobile devices. Given the complexity of the services, a digitally-enabled field force that combines human interaction and digital tools enhances their service provision. AgTechs are now challenged to leverage the power of digital tools, blended with human touchpoints to optimize delivery and cost. Dalberg and AgriFin have engaged with several organizations in developing field force strategies and the supporting technology required to deploy a blended model.

In this panel our Technology Lead, Emmanuel Makau was joined by Abidah Ferej, Dalberg Advisors; Ann Kabukuru, Digifarm, Sriram Bharatam, Kuza Biashara Ltd. The session was moderated by Charlie Habershon of Dalberg Advisors. They discuss key considerations for successfully managing and deploying a field force to maximise impact for smallholder farmers.

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