As Egypt moves towards doubling domestic food output, its Agriculture Ministry is partnering with the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to develop a “digital agricultural guiding model” as part of a 2-year policy. Egypt has been looking at ways to maximize local food production by becoming a smart agriculture nation, according to Agriculture Minister Dr Ezzeldin Aboustit. This becomes the country’s second agreement with the UN agency following an agreement reached in February this year to update Egypt’s Sustainable Agricultural Development Strategy 2030.
At the time, Dr Aboustit said it was urgent to deploy digital technologies in the sector to increase farmers’ access to data and information, doubling their decision-making and in turn bettering the quality of what is produced on their farms.
All of that and more is what this agreement now seeks to hash out. For starters, the Agriculture Ministry’s proposed central information centre, there will be a database of food production facilities across Egypt, as well as listings for water resources and irrigation areas. The country will also be mapped digitally, providing food producers with relevant knowledge about where the food buyers (urban dwellers) are as well as what nature is planning in terms of desertification rates.
Also mapped is an animal disease monitor which doubles as an epidemic-control resource – basically encouraging farmers to take advance action before diseases can take hold. Farmers will be connected to newer markets, and they will see an improvement in profits as the government is also able to regulate prices effectively and monitor compliance with quality standard.
According to the FAO, the world needs to increase food production by sixty percent as early as 2020, if mankind is to have the slimmest chance of keeping up with ballooning birth numbers. And while there is no question that digital technology impacts efficiency in agriculture, where the blocks are traditional and stubborn, the old system is prone to recurring problems. Sometimes diseases, like brown rot, which costs Egypt as much as $2 billion in potato production yearly. Sometimes uncertainties in weather and climate, such as sudden highs or lows in temperature. Then there’s human ignorance, brought on by zero access to information and a certain familiarity with doing things traditionally.
Agriculture remains a key contributor to Egypt’s economy. Not only is it a provider of earning for fifty-five percent of the population, but it also creates direct jobs for thirty percent of the country’s labour force, adds seventeen percent to GDP, and brings in about twenty percent in forex earnings.
In addition, digital agriculture indirectly answers about nine SDGs, including SDG 14 (life below water), SDG 9 (industry, innovation and infrastructure), SDG 8 (decent work and economic growth) SDG 6 (clean water and sanitation) and SDG 2 (zero hunger). With a digitized agricultural sector that exports reliably, Egypt can expect to rake in heftier forex earnings and also eat well at home.
By Caleb Ajinomoh