How Can Technology Be Used in the Battle Against World Hunger?

Author : Odisha Today Bureau | Posted on: 2019-01-19

Farmers are not only our food producers; they are also guardians of our natural resources. They soil our water, they protect our biodiversity. They are, in addition, innovators also. Since the beginning of agriculture, farmers have had to change, adopt, adapt and create new ways of working the land, deal with difficult terrains and endure extreme climates and weather phenomena. Their survival and livelihoods are depended on it and since millenniums they also found many ways to make it work. Family farms make up 90 percent of the world’s farms and produce over 75% of farmland produces worldwide. Yet, paradoxically, those farmers are often poor and food insecure themselves. Recognizing the successful innovations that farmers have already used and helping to spread those to other farmers is vital for our future of food security and agricultural development. We need to scale up innovations in agriculture to be able to feed a growing and increasingly urbanized population. Innovation is not just good ideas, and it is also much more than technology. Put simply, innovation is the process of utilizing new or existing products in better ways. Innovations in agriculture cuts across all dimensions of the production cycle along the entire value chain-from crop, forestry, fishery or livestock production to the management of inputs and resources to market access. How Innovation is changing agriculture around the world: -     In the Dominican Republic, the Sterile Insect Technique (SIT) was applied to eradicate the Mediterranean fruit fly. In 2015 the outbreak of this pest forced the country to enact an immediate ban on it’s exports of fruits and vegetables and thereby severely damaging the country’s second most important source of income. SIT is an innovative technique in which male insects are sterilized in labs. When released in the wild they mate with females but do not produce any offspring. Over time, this brings the insect population down significantly. By two thousand seventeen, the Country’s Mediterranean fruit fly population was officially eradicated. SIT is one of the most environmentally friendly control methods available, as it does not require the use of chemicals on the insect’s native habitat. In India, the Government of Telengana State implemented a new insurance Scheme called Rythu Bandhu. This programme grants farmers in the State Rs. 4,000 per acre per per season to support farm investments and purchase farm inputs. Rythu Bandhu staff oversee distribution of the funds, collect data on the uses and outcomes of the grants and develop a close relationship with the farmers to ensure successful crop planning. This Scheme slows farmers to escape cycles of debt and poverty and establish sustainable and lucrative agricultural initiatives.    Similarly in Tanzania, where many rural people have difficulty earning a sustainable income, farmers are finding new uses for the indigenous Allanblackia tree, as it’s seed oil is rich in nutrients. Using this oil, farmers have developed new products, such as skin creams and lotions, which are very much lucrative in the market and have attracted international attention. The budding supply chains in the country are contributing to alleviating poverty and conserving biodiversity, giving local farmers a chance to increase their incomes through access to international markets. Another example is an artificial intelligence platform—Agriproduct—started by a company in Zambia, which was also the winner at the 2018 Hack against Hunger competition in Rwanda. It uses a simple photo from a phone to detect the presence of pests or diseases. It can also forecast the probability of invasions by pests, such as the Fall Armyworm, and predict the possibility of adverse weather patterns such as drought, floods and cold waves etc. Every year we are demanding and extracting more and more out of our exacting scarce natural resources. The number of hungry people is increasing and world’s population is growing. In this setting, innovation in agriculture is very much critical to help family farmers use resources in better and more efficient ways. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is hosting an International symposium on “Agriculture Innovation for Family Farmers” to prompt collective actions and to increase the understanding of what is needed to support innovation. The symposium will help stakeholders and decision-makers form new partnerships, exchange knowledge and seek out opportunities for scaling up agricultural innovations. We need to act collectively to remove the constraints (technological, social, organizational policy, or otherwise) that stifle the capacity of family farmers to innovate, while also encouraging the practices, products and tools. Innovation is one of our best tools for creating a “Zero Hunger World.”

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