Agricultural Information and the Quest for Sustainable Intensification – By: Nasir Yammama
JThe increase in agricultural production over the past 50 years has provided food for a growing world population. However, the performance of agricultural systems in Africa is still weak, especially in sub-Saharan countries like Nigeria, despite the abundant resources we have. While improvements in per capita food production have been possible in North Africa, significant declines have been recorded in sub-Saharan countries, only partly due to conflict and political instability.
Rapid population growth, land degradation and the fragmentation of agricultural systems are some of the challenges for food security in Africa. In Nigeria, insecurity takes center stage as various armed conflicts affect agricultural activity in some of the key areas of agricultural production. Nigeria and other countries must find ways to improve productivity and not only close the gaps these conflicts have created, but also leapfrog to catch up with an already advanced world and ever-increasing demand for food. and other agricultural products at home and abroad. .
Several agricultural productivity intensification projects with alternative approaches and techniques have been developed in different countries, and they have produced documented benefits for 10 million farmers and improvements on approximately 13 million hectares. Many experts have repeatedly established that the productivity of African agriculture could be greatly increased by improving farmers’ access to knowledge. This could include improved agronomic practices, soil, water and nutrient management, pest control and warning, improved and market preferred varieties, weather event warnings, etc., disseminated through enhanced support services based on proven information technology. work and improve productivity. As you know, smallholder farmers in Africa who manage 85% of arable land with few resources often have a wealth of knowledge on how to cope with adverse conditions, but generally have the least access to other necessary supports. To cope with anticipated climate change, increased innovation is needed with farmers and communities participating in science-based learning networks to complement existing local knowledge.
In African agriculture, innovative systems must ensure that science works with local knowledge rather than ignoring it, and that smallholder farmers are not only able to access knowledge but also shape the way it is developed. . Local knowledge is rich, relevant and above all reliable, especially when associated with local food processors who are key players in an adaptive economy capable of adding value to local products. Supporting farmers and rural communities with better technical knowledge and information related to agri-environment, market and other factors is the social and human capital needed for sustainable intensification in the face of the many challenges facing agriculture. Nigeria and much of the African continent. Innovative co-learning and extension platforms, supported by the wide spread of mobile phones even among the poorest, can provide information such as agronomic practices, climate, pest warning, etc., better in the current context underfunded, crippled and ineffective in person. extension system.
In the face of all that is happening with security and climate challenges, it is imperative to have an innovative and scalable system to increase the productivity of peasant agriculture, taking it from subsistence to profitability. My belief is that to unlock the potential of our agricultural systems, we must enhance traditional agricultural practices with scientific and quantitative information from various technologies ranging from satellite to digital services to increase agricultural productivity, regenerate precious resources, in particular soil, water, forests and biodiversity, and preserving the ecosystem services that are essential for life on which future generations depend.
We have demonstrated through projects, research and even social enterprise the need to apply an integrated farming systems analysis approach, which first identifies traditional farming practices, then assesses agro-ecological resources and potential. land of a given farm thanks to high-resolution Earth observations. This will also include analysis of the socio-economic basis of agricultural systems and the portfolio of ecosystem services that underpin the agricultural landscape. Subsequently, sustainable intensification strategies can be co-designed with farmers, so that they are market-oriented, and then demonstration pilots can be implemented. Providing specific technological solutions for sustainable intensifications to farmers only follows if you have this basic data, as does a well-designed dissemination strategy.
Any agricultural transformation project must work with the existing ecosystem to be successful. This is why local traditional agricultural practices must be given full attention and are always essential to the success of projects. From the outset, we encourage extensive consultation with stakeholders (individual farmers, agricultural extension service, farmer organizations) to be carried out. Stakeholder engagement activities throughout our project cycles have been mainly supported by international organizations and local groups, which has led to the creation of a very strong network with farmers. It cannot be overstated.
The truth is that without accurate information from the farmer, we can almost never achieve sustainable intensification of agricultural productivity. Farmers operate in a complex web of external factors, drivers (such as market, global trade, policies), site-specific and personal characteristics (such as farm size, soils, location agro-ecological zoning, infrastructure, machinery, human resources, expertise), resource inputs and outputs (such as labor, money, energy), all requiring decisions to be taken in the short term (how much to fertilize/irrigate where and when) and in the long term (eg organic farming) in order to achieve sustainable intensification. These decisions must again be based on accurate information on the state of crops in space and time and on the impact on ecosystem services in order to minimize inputs, maximize productivity and ensure the service delivery.