Agriculture plays a key role in Ghana’s overall development as the backbone of our economy. “The Agriculture sector expanded by 3.6% in 2016, exceeding its targeted growth of 3.5% for the same period. The Crops sub-sector (including cocoa) accounted for over 70% of this sector’s contribution to GDP and was on target with a growth rate of 3.3% in 2016. The Agric Sector contribution on the whole, however, to GDP was at about 20.1% for 2016 (source: mofep, Pwc)
There is no doubt about agriculture’s contribution to Ghana’s development and its effect on poverty reduction. For the sector to continue to experience growth, Ghana must use the power of ICT, technology and innovation as part of the solution. Why has Kosmos Innovation Center chosen to focus on harnessing ICT, technology, and innovation to transform Ghana’s agriculture sector?
All around the world, affordable ICT applications and devices have helped agriculture overcome a myriad of challenges affecting it. ICTs play an important role in agricultural value chains, with different types of ICT having different strengths and weaknesses when applied to particular interventions. The impacts of ICT are diverse, and they influence market competitiveness in different ways.
However, technology should not overshadow the people and institutions involved. Technology is a tool, and like all tools, it is only useful when people have the skills, processes, and contextual support to use it effectively. While the positive impacts of ICT are being catalogued and discussed, many rural farmers still do not have access to or the capacity to use ICT. There is also a gap for those currently using ICT applications and devices who have not fully benefitted from its use.
Though there have been many interventions using ICT to address numerous challenges affecting the industry, the use of these ICT applications and devices have not gained much of a foothold within the agricultural value chain. According to the Ghana Shared Growth Agenda (2010 & 2013), challenges within the agriculture sector fall in the follow categories:
- Reliance on rain-fed agriculture;
- Low level of mechanization;
- High post-harvest losses due to poor post-harvest management;
- Low level agricultural finance;
- Poor extension services due to institutional and structural inefficiencies;
- Low uptake of research findings by stakeholders;
- Limited availability of improved technological packages, especially planting materials and certified seeds;
- Inadequate markets;
- Poor management along the agriculture value chain, and
- Difficulties associated with acquisition of land.
An overarching challenge behind all of the above is a lack of young talent in the sector. Who drives the sector’s transformation is of upmost importance? KIC has recognized the need make agriculture more attractive to the Ghanaian youth, to this effect more needs to be done to make this sector as attractive to young entrepreneurs.
Given that today’s youth are more geared into entrepreneurship, ICT and innovation, the Kosmos Innovation Center programme is creating the right atmosphere and opportunity to excite youth into taking a second look at agriculture – boosting it up with ICT and innovation. Collaboration is key to KIC’s success – we provide the right mix of players within the agricultural sector and other related sectors to educate and inspire the youth and identify challenges.
We are confident that we are have hit the right chord with this program. In less than two years of launching the KIC and moving into action, the programme has created six startups companies, initially two in 2016 and another four in 2017. The startup companies are developing and providing exciting and innovative products that are addressing pain points within the sector. For example, there is Trotro Tractor Limited, a tractor rental and booking service that links up tractor owners or operators with farmers who wish to plow their lands. Ghalani, another startup, created a dashboard that allows farmers and agribusinesses to organize their workers, monitor the flow and use of money on their farm(s), and keep track of the yields and incomes, all from their mobile device!
AgroInnova created its product ‘AKOKOTAKRA’, an enterprise mobile and web-based management system that enables poultry farmers to record, monitor and track their operations in real time. Then comes QualiTrace, which has created Qualistrip labels designed to authenticate, track and trace crop protection products used by farmers to increase their yields. We also have Complete Farmer, which allows urban professionals interested in farming to easily set up, manage, and earn income from their farm using a web and mobile platform. Finally, AniTrack identifies and tracks the health status of individual livestock through RFID technology. For all these businesses, the products mentioned are their entry into the industry and they will continue to improve and where necessary pivot into products that are robust and demand-driven.
All six companies are in incubation at the Meltwater School of Technology and Entrepreneurship (MEST). Kosmos Energy provides funding for both Agroinnova and Qualitrace, Premium Bank is funding Complete Farmer, and Anitrack is funded by MEST, all for a period of twelve months.
We believe these companies will grow to become catalyst for change within the agriculture sector in Ghana using ICT, technology and innovation and will get the youth to look at more at agriculture as interesting industry to focus their innovations, touching on the entire value chain from the smallholder in Tamale to the big processor in Tema.
We are here to stay and believe we will make an impact!