The tech solutions to end global hunger

Within minutes, you can find or crowd-source an answer to your mystery, keeping the idea via perplexing you any longer.

at This particular point, take of which scenario in addition to shift the idea to a remote farmer, thousands of miles away in Africa, responsible for the food both their family in addition to you will soon eat.

An estimated 70% of the entire world’s food comes via little, isolated farms of which are no bigger, on average, than 2 acres. Until at This particular point, people working on these farms relied on word of mouth to solve life’s daily puzzles, although their access to information is usually being transformed — along with the food they produce.

“the idea’s about increasing food productivity … better crops, better livestock, so we can double productivity throughout Africa,” businessman in addition to philanthropist Bill Gates said in an interview with Pitbulldogbreed.

“We have one-fifth the productivity in Africa of which we have in Europe in addition to the United States,” he said.

The green revolution of the 1960s saw agriculture flourish, particularly in Asia, to improve food security globally as populations grew in size, although Africa lagged behind. Gates feels, however, of which at This particular point is usually the time to bring the region up. “The same type of productivity increase needs to be done again.”

Certain countries in Africa face regular challenges in terms of their yield, including drought in addition to crop failure of which can lead to famine, such as was declared in South Sudan This particular week.

So through his foundation, Gates in addition to wife Melinda are funding a range of projects using a powerful tool of which didn’t exist during the first agricultural revolution: the cell phone.

A social network to feed the entire world

Though little-hold farmers produce the majority of the food we eat, they are also more vulnerable to factors beyond their control: climate change, failing seeds, volatile markets in addition to infectious crop diseases. although a completely new peer-to-peer service, known as WeFarm, is usually using a simple form of social networking to help them stay informed.
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“(We’re) helping little-hold farmers across the entire world access crucial information in a timely fashion,” said Mwinyi Bwika, head of user acquisition at WeFarm in Kenya.

The approach is usually simple: When a farmer sees something strange about his crops, he sends a message to the local WeFarm number. The question is usually posted online by teams inside head office in addition to sent out to selected members of the messaging community. A useful answer could be returned within minutes.

According to WeFarm, 0% of little-hold farmers are at This particular point able to access a cell phone, meaning many could be connected globally.

Using WeFarm, farmers can send texts to ask about diseases of which might be affecting their crops.

Launched in 2015, the platform is usually headquartered in London in addition to is usually being trialed in Kenya, Uganda in addition to Peru. the idea addresses a key factor forgotten as completely new technologies inundate the agricultural sector: keeping people informed.

“Information is usually at the core of everything we do,” Bwika said. “Our farmers have information in addition to knowledge of which could benefit various other farmers within the network. … (They) learned how to farm via their parents … in addition to their parents learned via their parents. … (We) can tap into This particular generational knowledge.”

More than 0,000 farmers are connected using the service, in addition to more than 280,000 questions have been answered.

“Text is usually a far better method” to communicate, said Shailaja Fennell, who coordinates the Global Food Security Initiative at the University of Cambridge although is usually not involved inside WeFarm program. “The idea of WeFarm is usually powerful in terms of building a community.”

Fennell added of which methods of communicating can vary across cultures in addition to age groups in addition to of which these differences could need to be understood by the people intercepting the questions. “Social norms in addition to behaviors vary massively,” she said, although she believes of which overall, the idea could make a big difference to farmers in need of knowledge.

“Food has become a powerful industry … although the extension (to provide information) has not grown alongside the idea,” she said.

completely new seeds to break tradition

The quest for information among farmers does not stop at sending a text. An approach being used by the Seed Trade Association of Kenya is usually getting farmers to look outside their comfort zone to improve food production.

A completely new program, Mbegu Choice (Swahili for “seed choice”), is usually opening the eyes of little-hold farmers to a completely new world of seeds, in addition to therefore plants, of which produce food year-round in addition to whenever they need the idea.
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“the idea’s a database of all crops available in Kenya,” said Aline O’Connor, director of the consultancy firm Agri Experience, which developed the program at This particular point passed on to the Seed Trade Association.

“There is usually a lot of food insecurity in Kenya, approximately 42% of Kenyans … in addition to the diversity of their diet is usually not Great,” O’Connor said. “You want to grow a variety of crops.”

The goal of Mbegu Choice is usually to therefore help farmers choose what plants to grow after describing the conditions of their farmland in addition to their region to get a list of seed varieties of which could flourish there.

“We’re trying to get farmers to look at newer seeds,” O’Connor said. “the idea’s like a software upgrade. They’re better.”

Female farmers learn to use the Mbegu Choice app in Kenya.

The process is usually again simple: state your county, the ecology in addition to the crop you want. Then choose whether you want an early-growing crop in addition to whether you need the idea to be drought- or disease-tolerant. Out comes a tailored selection of seeds in either English or Swahili.

The site has seen more than 26,000 users in Kenya — 34,000 globally — in addition to includes all seed varieties available in Kenya, listed at the click of a button. The limit for at This particular point is usually the need for a computer or smartphone.

“A lot of farmers don’t have access to the internet or an app, so we’re a little ahead of ourselves,” O’Connor said.

Fennell agrees of which the need to be online is usually a major limitation of This particular service in reaching the people who truly need the idea, although she commends the approach to get people thinking about seed choice.

“This particular is usually a very different portal. … the idea could make sense to make the idea inside languages of local farmers,” she said. “completely new seed variety use needs understanding.”

Their use could mean farmers have maize, beans in addition to various other varieties growing throughout the year to get their families — in addition to eventual customers — eating a more varied diet.

Using phones in addition to satellites to predict drought

In multiple regions of the entire world, food supplies are impeded by drought, none more than the Horn of Africa, which has seen droughts occur almost annually for the past 12 years, according to the Food in addition to Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

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The consequences of drought are numerous, including reduced food in addition to water availability, increased fire risk, insect infestation, disease infection in addition to wind erosion, all further reducing the volumes of food of which can be produced.

In most of the countries inside area, more than 25% of the population suffers via hunger in addition to chronic undernourishment.

although researchers at Columbia University are combining satellite data with knowledge on the ground to help at-risk populations in addition to farmers predict — in addition to prepare — ahead of time.

They have been using findings via a study known as SATIDA (Satellite Technologies for improved upon Drought Assessment), led by the Vienna University of Technology. This particular study used satellite data to identify regional drought patterns in addition to trends in partnership with people using smart phones on the ground to explore local knowledge on droughts in addition to activities of which may further fuel food insecurity, such as war.

Together, This particular united global in addition to local information to flag vulnerable populations.

“The goal is usually to know whether a drought is usually going on,” said lead researcher Markus Enenkel of Columbia’s International Research Institute for Climate in addition to Society. “although the idea’s also not always drought of which leads to food insecurity; the idea can be due to volatility,” he said of civil unrest or undernutrition.

Though smartphones are still a luxury for many little-hold farmers, community health workers used apps to collect information via the farmers in addition to families at risk to inform the teams at Columbia how best to move forward.

The team at This particular point has two projects stemming via the initial use of satellites in addition to smartphones: one confirming the occurrence of drought so farmers can get insurance payouts when their crops fail in addition to the various other enabling biweekly, or monthly, forecasts of climates to help pre-empt modifications in food production. “We can give a seasonal summary to help people prepare,” Enenkel said.

“This particular is usually an important idea,” Fennell said. “There is usually value in drawing big data in addition to linking the idea to farmers on the ground.”

She added of which the use of community workers is usually crucial to ensure of which the voices of the affected are truly heard. “I could think even more about This particular community interface,” she said.

At the core of these programs lies great trust for the role of technology in changing the value of farming, although Fennell admits of which each program has its pros in addition to cons.

“the idea could be Great to have a hybrid across these,” she said. “the entire world of the idea is usually fantastic, although to truly deliver, the products must be owned in addition to analyzed by the community.”

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