In the 21st century, agriculture is on the brink of a technological revolution. Excessive food wastage has created a food shortage, which has spiked the demand for responsible food production. Furthermore, after the pandemic, the rise in food security and traceability demand is also crowning. But the innovations won’t come with the single efforts of an organization or a farmer – it needs global collaboration, a large-scale union of organizations and farmers with diverse skills, and conducive competencies. The agricultural revolution has been due for a long time, even more so after the pandemic. In 2021, the time is just right for a new, innovative transformation in agricultural functions.
Farming with the help of digital innovation is the new normal. Modern farmers may not have the most advanced farming machines, but they definitely have access to smartphones or computers. With the help of Agri-tech companies, farmers are now going for precision agriculture – a technology-based farming method that helps each farmer individually by offering them custom solutions based on their farms and crops. It can include a fleet of drones for crop imagery, crop simulation software, farm management software, and much more.
Developing countries like Kenya, Pakistan, Nigeria, to name a few, are implementing precision farming and helping small-scale farmers go digital. Due to its low cost of precision farming is assisting farmers to adopt it quickly. The above bar chart represents the exponential growth in the market exponential of precision farming; from 2014, the market has grown almost by two-folds.
There are many barriers to internet access and usage in low and middle-income countries, including poor network coverage, device affordability, and low digital literacy. As a result, despite recognizing that closing the digital gap will be essential to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, 3.7 billion people, nearly half the world’s population, remain offline.
As governments prioritize internet access in their recovery stimulus packages, leaders from across sectors are calling for a rapid acceleration of efforts to extend meaningful connectivity and support models that can reach the last mile.
The World Bank has joined forces with the International Telecommunication Union, GSMA – the association of mobile networks and the World Economic Forum in a speedy action plan that brought together leaders in virtual roundtables to discuss what urgent measures were taken during the COVID-19 crisis and how effective they were for the long-term recovery.
Agricultural food chains are constantly being transformed with a wide range of cutting-edge technologies. Technology adoption has been the key to advancing the farms and the whole of the food supply chain. Technologies such as the internet, media, data analytics, to name a few, have been instrumental in changing the food chain.
For instance, automated farm machinery is transforming the farms, remote sensing and farm sensors enhance farm accuracy with precise farm monitoring, and traceability technologies are working favoring Agri-tech industries by offering reliable and trustworthy data to consumers. Thus, from farms to consumers, agricultural food chains are all set for a modern twist.
Digital technologies, in turn, could help facilitate trade in agricultural and food items by connecting private sector companies to new markets and creating new ways for the government to assure compliance with standards, as well as to facilitate faster and more efficient processes at the border, which are crucial for the transportation of perishable goods.
Technology advancements can help the objective of building more robust, productive, and sustainable agriculture and food systems that can better satisfy the demands of consumers. These benefits are realized both directly through the use of technology by those involved in the industry (including suppliers of services) and indirectly through the use of technology by government officials to help implement more effective policies.
Collective actions of consumers and farmers are essential to accelerating social and transformative changes to food systems. What have we learned from strengthening capacity and empowering consumers, farmers, and women, youth, and farmers to make a significant change to the food system? We need to inspire entrepreneurs, producers, researchers, investors, and policymakers to think of new ways that support gender equality and provide opportunities for young people.
Also, we must help empower strategies for both men and women farmers in the field, such as taking part in collective actions, like farmers’ associations (FOs) or self-help groups. Women can also be empowered and boost their resilience by allowing them access to the necessary information, inputs, and resources needed to implement the climate-smart agricultural (CSA) techniques. This can also boost the capacity of women to make decisions with males in the community and household.
Policies and implementation must be guided by gender-disaggregated information and evidence of gender-based trade-offs, benefits, potentials, and weaknesses to empower women and ensure a gender-inclusive change in agriculture. Different business models must be tried using digital models to determine what is effective for women with low incomes and farmers at the beginning of their agriculture-related enterprises.
We must move beyond simply tracking the gender of men and women in projects to understand the gender-specific effects of our research. This means taking an intersectional approach, considering religious affiliation, race, ethnicity, age, and gender. Additionally, we should draw on existing international commitments and networks to move the gender-inclusive agenda from small to global scales.
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