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Let’s harness the data revolution to promote agriculture and create jobs

Aidan Constantine Nzumi's picture



Agriculture is the backbone of many African economies, employing the most citizens in most countries, citizens who produce food for consumption and raw materials for industries. With the current data revolution, and the explosion of new data sources available in Tanzania, we can push for the integrated use of mechanization, fertilizers, and digital technologies to get more efficiency and productivity in our agriculture.

The sector also has great capacity to generate jobs for youth, both formally and informally for the educated and uneducated. Tanzania has a population of at least 50 million people, out of which about 36 percent are youth aged 15–35 years.
 
Youth is a time of transition from childhood to adulthood, and from dependency to independence through paid or self-employment. But the unemployment rate among youth is about 12 percent, with 7 percent [of them] moving from rural to urban areas in the expectation of finding opportunities for work and a better life.
 
This migration is caused by the stagnation of agriculture, the mainstay of rural livelihoods.
 
Some of the factors contributing to this stagnation are poor information concerning good agricultural practices, land tenure insecurity, and a lack of financing in agriculture. These issues can be addressed by utilizing local data and combining it with increasingly reliable satellite data, delivered via mobile phone. Climate and weather forecasts, combined with market prices and farmers’ associations, as well as social media networks, can transform knowledge.
 
Use of mobile phones for farming
 
Currently, Tanzania has about 42 million mobile phone subscribers, with a mobile network penetration of nearly 80 percent.
 
Current developments in this data revolution can be used to connect all stakeholders— the farmers, extension officers, agronomists, inputs and equipment suppliers, financial institutions, transport and market operators. Farmers would be able to receive real time, reliable and accurate information on farming techniques, as well as on required inputs, weather, soil, and markets. They could be identified uniquely (per land parcel) to ensure their security of tenure.
 
The agronomists and inputs and equipment dealers would then be able to cater in a special way to each farmer’s needs for fertilizer and other inputs for their farms. Using available geospatial information, farmers can be taught more accurately about mechanization techniques and irrigation that address their distinctive geographical attributes.
 
Young and well-equipped extension officers will find lucrative self-employment providing consultation to individual farmers, doing it faster and more accurately by using their phones. The financial institutions would feel more confident to identify farmers to whom they could provide affordable loans, both to improve their output and create other incentives for social wellbeing, such as health and educational services.
 
Farming data synchronized
 
All these will be synchronized using available GIS applications, mobile money transfer systems, and other technologies whose cost and complexity is gradually dropping. This integration will attract more youth to take part in agriculture that is modern and effective.
 
This level of coordination in the sector will not only yield more produce but also contribute to the development of off-grid, clean energy, such as wind and solar as the demand for it grows from more mobile users, storage facilities, and the development of small industries. Each sector will be creating new and more secure job opportunities for the youth, while promoting sustainable development.
 
So … Let’s embrace the data revolution and harness it to transform agriculture and create new jobs while diversifying the Tanzania economy.
 
Aidan Nzumi, 25, recently graduated from Ardhi University in Tanzania with a Bachelor’s in Geomatics. As one of two finalists in the Blog4Dev Tanzania competition, he wins a trip to the World Bank headquarters in Washington, DC. “I am excited to win this contest because it is an opportunity for me to put into action my ideas on addressing the challenges young, aspiring farmers like myself are facing in terms of accessing important information,” he said.


You can read the blogs of our other winners: