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IBM’s Digital4Agriculture supports African agricultural start-ups

Read time 3min 10sec

IBM has introduced the Digital4Agriculture Initiative (D4Ag), a digital skills development platform that aims to foster African start-ups in the agricultural sector, by increasing their crop productivity and quality.

With the help of digital expertise from IBM Services and access to accurate weather-related data provided by IBM’sThe Weather Company, D4Ag is helping over 36 African agricultural companies become better prepared for the digital future, according to the tech giant.

Small agricultural enterprises on the continent not only lack Internet access and suitable hardware, but existing data is often unreliable or difficult to process.

By making high-resolution weather data available to agricultural start-ups in Africa, DG4Ag is providing valuable data analytics information to small farmers that can help them make important decisions.

For example, historical weather data from a tea plantation participant served as training material and showed how data analysis can be used to increase yields, as well as to determine the best time to harvest or the optimal use of fertilisers or pest control.

"We want to help local start-ups to reach more customers and develop new markets. To this end, we provide them with basic knowledge in the areas of data analytics, interoperability and business modelling,” says Desiree Winges, consultant at Make-IT in Africa, an affiliate for D4Ag.

”We also want to promote cooperation between start-ups and platform operators to fully exploit the opportunities of the digital world."

IBM joined the Make-IT Alliance in 2017 as part of its #GoodTechIBM programme.

The programme is active in 13 countries, including Kenya, Ghana, Tunisia, Nigeria, SA and Rwanda.

On behalf of the Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development, the German Society for International Cooperation is implementing the D4Ag programme within the frameworkof the "Make-IT in Africa" project.

The project is designed to promote the start-up scene in the digital sector of developing and emerging countries together with European technology companies, start-ups, associations, research and science, and non-governmental organisations.

"Small farmers are the backbone of Africa's food supply and their success and quality of life depends upon having reliable weather forecast data and insights," says Florian Scheil, account executive public sector, IBM.

"We’re proud to provide African farmers with weather information and services access to help them better manage and improve their crop production."

Experts from GIZ and IBM Services have been working together on the project for about three years and have developed a digital coaching concept for start-ups offering agricultural services to African farmers. The high-resolution weather data, which serves as a basis, is provided by The Weather Company.

To achieve this, IBM Services and GIZ have created a three-stage, interactive training concept consisting of individual e-learning, workshops on business modelling, interoperability and data analytics and detailed materials with tips and suggestions for future projects.

The virtual training lasted several weeks and showed the participants how to use high-resolution weather data and up-to-date alerts to help smallholders grow their products more sustainably and healthily.

In the first edition of the training sessions, more than 36 start-ups from 13 countries such as Côte d'Ivoire, Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana and Zimbabwe took part.

"This course came at exactly the right time for my company. We are currently considering integration into a larger digital platform and this week has really opened my eyes," says Fred Zamblé of Seekewa, an agri-fintech firm that identifies promising agricultural projects and promotes them with the help of third-parties.

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