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Tech Solutions Yield Great Results for Africa’s Small-scale Farmers

More than half of working Africans have jobs in agriculture, but poor infrastructure, inadequate tools and a lack of investment have left the continent’s mostly small-scale farms struggling to feed a growing population. Now, a wave of technological solutions is aiming to help. In Ghana, a company called Acquahmeyer rents out drones that help small-scale farmers check the health of crops and use pesticide only where it is needed, reducing pollution and health risks. Thanks to the reduced use of chemicals (pesticide use dropped 50 percent in some cases), it’s easier for farmers to meet EU countries’ regulatory limits. Diana Nambatya Nsubuga, who has a Ph.D. in public health, opened Kwagala Farm with her husband in their half-acre backyard in Kampala in 2010. She used her profits to expand and to begin providing affordable training on “urban farming” — with sessions on growing crops in spaces like tires, pipes, wooden shelves or apartment rooftops as well as classes on raising poultry. Babban Gona, a social enterprise acts as a farmers’ cooperative and offers small-scale farmers loans, credit, training and other support. It launched in 2012 with 102 farmers, and now works with 20,000. Field officers employed by Babban Gona photograph its farmers’ fields. An app reviews the photos, evaluating the germination rate and seeing if the soil needs nutrients based on leaf colors. Once the maize is harvested, Babban Gona stores it in sealed containers and aims to sell it in bulk at the right time to maximize the farmers’ profits.