CABI has told the African Green Revolution Forum (AGRF) 2019 that investment in agritech needs to double to at least $10bn a year if the world’s smallholder farmers are to help feed a global population expected to reach 10 billion by 2050.
Dr Dennis Rangi, CABI’s Director General, Development, speaking as part of a panel discussion on the subject of digital innovations to strengthen the resilience for smallholders in African food systems, said the financial burden must be met by the private sector if global food security is to be ensured and world poverty and hunger eradicated.
According to AgFunder, global investment in agritech – including technology such as farm robots to feed and weed, GPS and drones to map and monitor soil and satellite data to predict the spread of crop pests – was around $4.6bn in 2015.
However, Dr Rangi believes the public sector needs to more than double its annual investment in digital infrastructure and research – particularly in respect of making data open – to enable the delivery of digital innovations which not only help feed Africa but the world.
Dr Rangi said, “The UN’s Sustainable Development Goals have set us ambitious targets to achieve ‘Zero Hunger’ and ‘No Poverty’ set against a challenging period in history in which the perils of climate change are very real and threatening in its impact on global food security.
“Technological innovations in agriculture, in all its forms, presents us with genuine answers to extremely difficult problems. However, unless we can encourage more investment from the public sector and innovation from the private sector to deliver these solutions at scale, no amount of digital agriculture will help solve the world’s food crisis.
“The message is simple: we need to more than double annual investment in agritech to $10bn if we are to feed the world’s growing population projected to reach 10 billion by 2050.”
Dr Rangi told the delegates at the meeting held this week (3 to 6 September 2019) in Accra, Ghana, that CABI’s Plantwise programme is just one example that is delivering impact at scale – having so far reached over 31 million farmers in 34 countries with plant health information which, in respect of fighting crop pests and diseases, promotes adaptation and resilience.
He added that Plantwise’s open access Knowledge Bank, Factsheet App, e-plant clinics with data collection – which allows for real-time tracking of pests (plus linkage with the Pest Risk Information Service (PRISE) project) – are already putting data and knowledge in the hands of extension workers and farmers keen on growing more and losing less to crop pests and diseases.
Other projects CABI is also working in partnership to deliver to help improve the resilience of smallholder farmers elsewhere in the world include drone sensing of parthenium weed in Pakistan, the remote sensing of locusts in China and coffee borer in Colombia.
Dr Rangi added, “The public sector needs to invest in digital infrastructure and research, so that the private sector will be empowered to deliver digital innovations which promote adaptation and resilience across not only Africa’s but the world’s food systems.”