Kenya is one of the most severely affected regions in the world in terms of climate variability. Population growth is currently around 4.4 percent, which means that by 2050 the population will double from 40 million to 80 million. The government is still struggling to feed the population. But two thirds of Kenya’s land has never been farmed because there is no rainfall. This is set to change in the future. Large areas can be converted into arable land through new irrigation systems.
The expansion of arable land has boosted agricultural production in Africa in the past, but is associated with high environmental costs. In the future, the focus must be on the sustainable intensification of production on agricultural land without burdening the environment. Agricultural technology is expected to play an important role in agricultural growth in developing countries as many ICT solutions have proven affordable for small farmers and resource-poor farmers, who account for about 80 percent of the region’s agricultural population.
Through satellites that provide accurate climate data, combined with Internet-based communication systems, devices such as smartphones or innovations in blockchain technology* could play a critical role in increasing agricultural productivity. The biggest challenge for small farmers and livestock breeders has been the lack of up-to-date access to up-to-date expert agricultural information. In the past, smallholders relied on advisory services as the primary source of agricultural research information.
Smart Harvest, in partnership with the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organisation (KALRO), hosted the first ever East Africa Digital Farmers Conference. The next stage of agriculture should be based on data and technology. Despite the proven potential of digital tools to transform agriculture, it is interesting to note that smallholders are still using old, existing farming methods and practices in their craft.
With climate change and a growing world population requiring a stable food supply, one of the best ways for smallholders to access modern agricultural knowledge is through readily available mobile phones. One example is 2016, when KALRO and the Arid and Semi-Arid Lands-Agricultural Productivity Project supported the development of mobile phone applications for farmers to access agricultural knowledge and technology.
They enable smallholders to use digital technologies to strengthen their farms. This enables them to make informed decisions based on up-to-date expert information.
The good news is that digital technologies have made it possible to close this gap. The mobile technologies developed complement access to advisory services in Kenya and do not require special training for access to information. Mobile technology is an innovative and cost-effective way to disseminate knowledge and information from agricultural research. There are three mobile applications developed and published on the Google Play Store to facilitate access.
- KALRO Indigenous Chicken
- Dryland Crops
- Range Pasture Seed Production
These mobile applications were introduced and promoted on various agricultural field days and exhibitions in Kenya. The mobile applications provide important information on how to use KALRO’s expert agricultural information and technologies for price developments, production requirements, application and best management practices, harvesting and post-harvest treatment. The applications have a built-in social media platform that enables interactions between stakeholders in the value chain. These mobile applications are an innovative and cost-effective tool to better use agricultural research knowledge, information and data for food security.
The information provided on the mobile application is based on expert advice from KALRO scientists and their partners. A call centre and the social media platform facilitate interaction between farmers and agricultural researchers. The mobile applications do not require an Internet connection once they have been downloaded to the user’s mobile phone or tablet. All required information is available offline.