Africa must adopt technology to guarantee food security

Experts have called on governments and technology stakeholders to address hunger crisis in Africa by using breakthroughs in the tech scene.

Although advanced in technology, Africa continues to face problems with food security, an issue that was raised by farming app developers at the Social Good Summit Nairobi in Nairobi, Kenya yesterday.

The East Africa region has been fighting perennial food shortages for decades, leading to thousands of deaths. In July 2011 over 3.75 million Kenyans were facing starvation, a situation aggravated by prolonged droughts.

The panel at the Social Good Summit Nairobi, including Amos Thiongo, Su Kahumbu, Judah arap Bett and Anne Mitaru of Save the Children discussed how food security can be achieved using technology. The panel said that the onus had to be on government and other stakeholders to employ technology to combat hunger in the region and the rest of Africa.

Su Kahumbu, the developer of iCow, which gives weekly SMS updates to farmers on best practices to bring out the best in their dairy products, found it ironic that the Kenyan government has the capacity to build the 5,000-acre Konza Tech City but still fail to offer adequate infrastructural assistance to farmers.

Kahumbu said that one of the problems with farming in Kenya is the lack of good, quality information. Her product iCow hinges on this challenge and provides dairy farmers with vital information.

“If we have the wrong information, then this idea could flip over,” she said. She said that technology solution developers need to have the right information so that farmers make good choices on products to be grown, and which fertilisers are good for the soils.

In the absence of perceived governmental inaction, private campaigns and organisations, aside from iCow, have sought technological solutions to the continent’s food problems.

Last year’s drought brought about the Kenyans4Kenya campaign ,to raise funds not only to feed the hungry but to also come up with long lasting solutions. Some of the solutions that were implemented included adoption of easier irrigation methods and educating farmers on how to improve crop yields. This has seen improved food security for over 7,200 people in one of the affected districts in Kolowa and Mondi divisions of East Pokot district in Kenya.

Recently, MasterCard and the World Food Programme (WFP) announced a partnership that attempts to help break the cycle of hunger and poverty on the continent. The partners plan to have electronic vouchers for families around the world to buy food and also create an online donation mechanism.

Another application developed in Kenya to combat hunger is SokoHuru, which came into being because of the 2011 drought. “I started the service after I saw people in North Eastern [province] suffering and dying because of lack of food in North Eastern and somewhere in Kinangop potatoes were going to waste,” Ken Mwai the developer of the app told HumanIPO.

The app shows the areas where there is surplus of certain foods for it to be leveraged to areas in need.

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