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UNECA-GPSDD’s Data for Now to revolutionise Africa's agriculture

Agriculture is an industry which is already feeling the impact of COVID-19, including in Africa, which runs the risk of losing its per capita unit production in multiple markets, if an indefinite lockdown is implemented

Strengthening agricultural systems, while employing innovative means to carry out regular practices, without compromising public health, has become increasingly important for protecting GDP at this time. Technological advancements play a major role in keeping a steady supply of food crop in the market, as well as creating sustenance for farmers, and this is where engaging young people is important, according to industry leaders who were involved in a data programme spearheaded by United Nations Economic Commission of Africa (UNECA) and the Global Partnership for Sustainable Development Data (GPSDD). 

“We should engage the younger generation in agricultural production, to prevent the farmers, who are mostly 60 or above, from getting infected,” said Philip Thigo, technical advisor on data and innovation, at the office of the Deputy President, Kenya.

“Kenya experimented with a global partnership in the last five years. We have gone through motions in the last 4-5 years and wielding this capability towards fighting COVID-19,” he added. 

Oliver Chinganya, director, Africa Centre for Statistics, suggests some innovative ways through which technology can help agriculture. “An earth observation satellite can provide information on agriculture/food production via remote sensing technologies. It can determine the location and availability of a certain food crop in a particular location.” 

He added, “Some of the global partners, such as GRID3, Digital Earth Africa and Esri would make such information available to governments, and other partners, including the UN, to help them source and make interventions. Information on rain patterns can also be made available as part of early warning system for locust attacks.” 

Esri, for its part, offers visualisation and a free six months licence to users. 

While the Kenyan government has kept the door open for international imports for food, the prices may spike up, causing domestic production to remain active. As recourse, farmers have started using social media platforms to sell their produce locally and engage in home delivery. This can help prevent the wastage of food crops for the lack of buyers.