It Takes a Digital Village to Improve Smallholders’ Productivity and Resilience.

10th Sankalp Africa Summit

In the last 10 years, Sankalp rendered on a journey to effectuate lessons learned from the Indian ecosystem to East Africa and to build stronger corridors of South-South collaboration.

The idea was to link collaborations of the South-South, that create an environment for entrepreneurs to speedily build better and safer networking forces that will enable catch-up with rapid transformations in the entrepreneurial transformations.

There has been significant growth in the investment deals in Africa since the genesis of Sankalp which has enabled myriad collaborations that have made Sub-Africa become illuminant for impact investors seeking to support business-led development to make transformational impacts.

How does It take a digital village to improve smallholders’ productivity and resilience?

Data shows Agricultural productivity in Sub-Saharan Africa (SSA) is unable to meet growing demand. Current projections point to a two-fold increase in demand for food by 2050 (OECD).

The scenario of below-average production induced by traditional agronomical practices is among the pathway to low yields. This status has caused agriculture innovators to go far and beyond to create means that can reach a large number of farmers quickly to deliver services and advice to farmers in contextualized and responsive formats.

Speakers from Sprout Partners.

Additionally, Environmental shocks/stresses heightening and the disruption driven by COVID-19 caused a breakdown of a food system that is still struggling to gain normalcy.

FSPN Africa  took part  in  the session to deliberate on the digital developments in agriculture covering the following 4 themes:

  • What’s happening with Agtechs, science & infrastructure enables 80% of African farming (smallholders) to increase their yields
  • Gender inclusion
  • Climate-smart adaptation
  • What’s working, what’s not!

This session is hosted in collaboration with DAA GIZ, and Sprout in partnership with FSPN Africa and CoAmana.

Take home from the session:

The agricultural revolution is not an overnight task. It takes a lot of time, resilience, and patience to realize its impact. Much has been achieved on record and commendable work is still ongoing to make technology reliable and affordable to smallholder farmers.

Content for farmers

Contents for farmers are curated and contextualized for the farmers to interpret and implement. Farmers get prompts of information that match their regions’ farming activities and seasons. The info comes timely and has acted as a self-extension service provider to the farmers. Farmers have gained skills such as how to harvest water, store and how to install water management irrigation systems.

Digital informers

Platforms have been developed that connect farmers digitally and provide disaggregated information that goes beyond farm to fork. Weather information is sent to farmers in a short and simple. it has been guiding farmers on the best days to start land preparation, plant, and harvest. Through the platforms, more market avenues have been expanded and access to farm inputs made more reliable.

FSPN Africa’s Regional Climate Resilient Agriculture Advisor speaking on how FSPN Africa is Digitizing Agriculture to improve smallholders’ productivity.

“Weather forecasting gives the farmer information in advance about how things are going to look. Farmers are now not ambushed by events.” Mr. Arthur Wamani, Regional Climate Resilience Agriculture Advisor highlighted.


A continuous engagement of seasoned expertise has enabled continuous engagements around crosscutting issues that have collaborations that are the armor of solutions. Climate change impacts and conflicts are now sabotaging food production and distribution. FSPN Africa through voluntary carbon financing, is training farmers into being climate resilience ambassadors, where they earn from good agricultural practices, that sequestrate carbon from the atmosphere

Simplified communications

The use of a responsive USSD tool and WhatsApp has enabled two-end communication. They are convenient as the farmer can get instant replies. Extension messages are also sent to farmers during their active hours on the phone, like morning hours. Getting referrals for inputs from suppliers and customers via the groups has immensely saved time for them.

 Gender inclusion

Understanding human-centered approaches by embracing gender equity has scaled the participation of women in lucrative agriculture. This has a net web of benefits that include:

Technical Gender Consultant, Rhoda Maina highlights the importance of gender inclusivity.
  • Increased contribution to the household such as improving household income, and paying for other needs.
  • Sustainable food affordability and supply.
  • Forefront at decision-making.
  • Increased social protection.
  • Gender policy advocacy and implementing approaches.
  • Data-driven decisions

Digitally harnessed data continues to work right in the proper targeting of solutions for farmers. They are getting the right inputs depending on the frequency of weather data. Digital tools are making it easy to know planting data, and target markets and also improved mobile means of payment. Data helps farmers plan for production budgets and track expenditures which are pivotal in ensuring food and nutrition security.

Shared values

Working in groups has enabled farmers to uplift their farming potential. This is actually working as a quick turnaround for the women because of the shared vision and aspirations of elevating the living standards of their households through agriculture. During their weekly meetings, they are able to garner insights from their peers who are already making positive strides, courtesy of knowledge curated and disseminated through the Digital Agriculture Africa(DAA) project.

What is working, what is not!

  1. The challenge of extension officers; 1 officer serving 2, 000 farmers limits timely service access.
  2. Some of the technologies are not cost-effective especially, one that involves smartphones and USSD code.
  3. No data consolidated sets for contextualization of crosscutting issues around agriculture.
  4. One way information is not interactive is as it denies farmers the to make their remarks remotely.
  5. Poor network connectivity hinders operations that need internet.
  6. Overcomplicated technology as mentioned by Kelechi from CoAmana
  7. Timing and responses: Time-sensitive information may face delays in some platforms such as WhatsApp. another issue that came out loud was ownership of the phone, where phones are owned by men who have dominion over the phones. This brings discrepancies especially when a male officer calls to speak to the woman who is in the program or the message does not reach the woman on time.

Opportunities outlined

  1. Need for creating one stop market where information is converged for easy retrieval.
  2. Financial literacy to help manage income
  3. Market linkage and literacy on marketing skills.
  4. Gender mainstreaming; involving men in the projects since control resources in most households.
  5. Creating contextualized interactive information where farmers can register their challenges remotely.
  6. Offering consistent extension services in person.

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