Zambia should digitalize the agricultural sector to increase information and maximize productivity, says Systems, Applications and Products (SAP) Head of Africa Agriculture Industry Frederic Masse.

Masse told News Diggers! in an interview that the agricultural sector could not develop if information on input, crops and cultivation was not readily available to the farmers who need them.

“There is need to launch out data and launch out widely. Very few of the farmers really use systems that use data, which can be used as source of information in the agricultural processes. It’s important to learn that data is vital towards developing the agricultural sector, even though governments have not made this data available to farmers. If farmers would make decisions based on data, their risks would be minimize during farming seasons. Data can be transformed into information, [and] then sent. Data can also be transformed into knowledge; that means that from an organization standpoint, we can do things based on this knowledge. Farmers can avoid mistakes based on the knowledge,” Masse advised.

“From there, we can have wise farmers who can know what to do when. That is why it is important for the government to digitalize that data and make it available to [the] farmer. Over 80 per cent of food is produced by smallholder farmers and three quarters of these do not have information on how they can best practice agriculture and benefit in the process.”

He added that the sector had been neglected by government, adding that it was poorly digitalized as a result.

“The agricultural sector is the most poorly digitalized sector, not just here but almost everywhere in the world. Yet in three quarters [of] the countries, this sector is the most employer of people. Government need to understand that it will be difficult to develop this sector if they cannot treat it with the seriousness it deserves. Digitalization would avail data to a lot of people and in the process improve data. But there is not enough data available to improve agriculture and better the lifestyles of people. The smallholder farmers are not digitalized, they are not availed with information on how to cultivate what crop. They do what they can do based mainly on what they hear. But if we could ensure that information is available to every farmer, then that would be an advantage, and such would help increase yields, help address challenges and ultimately improve agriculture,” observed Masse.

“Because we are aware that majority of people do not have access to information on inputs, how to cultivate, or what to do when faced with certain challenges. That is what has brought agriculture backwards. There [is a] lack of research, and there is lack of information as a result.”