Take hoes to museum and get machines to farm

A Woman heads home after working on her farm. [Getty Images]

There used to be this small jembe with a pointed blade people would use during planting. Different ones with wider tips would suffice during tilling and weeding.

They still hang in a store that shares a wall with our suit-coated kitchen in the village. My long deceased grandparents used such hoes. Decades later, things remain the same, except that the amount of produce harvested per acre has diminished owing to worsening soil quality and effects of climate change. Another change is in number of mouths fed, while a lot of what was initially agricultural land is now residential. A lot of problems bedeviling Africa, including climate change, affect food systems. Increased temperatures causing deaths of humans and livestock with prolonged droughts and heat waves have dire effects on production of crops such as maize, millet, wheat, rice and sorghum, and other foods the continent relies on. Livestock rearing for pastoralist communities and fish farming are also at the mercy of climate change.

One solution is to change the way we farm, compete against an advancing climate crisis and a growing population. Dire effects of the worst prolonged drought in 40 years in the horn of Africa was witnessed in 2022. Yet the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change reports show possibilities of increased drought frequencies, especially in East Africa.

Africans embrace change in many aspects. For instance, the pin-hole camera, telegram or the ‘you-look-familiar’ kind of matatu, the radio cassette, walk-man, and many more, have succumbed to technological advancements. We are trendy, but not in the farm.

Now that the continent is always borrowing, part of it needs to go to improving technology in farming, even if it means some policy change. This does not leave out the adaptation money expected from the big carbon emitters. A lot is changing environmentally, making food production more difficult, and we must cope.

Meanwhile, a hungry man is easy to incite to riot and be destructive because reason evaporates when pangs of hunger won’t let you rest. Some dictators known to cling to power to death control their electorates by ensuring plenty of food, albeit produced the usual way. Other than conflict, migration to refugee camps is fuelled by hunger.

Many are refugees who have crossed to Kenya from Somalia and elsewhere, not because of conflict but hunger. Things get worse for those who end up in host countries that are also at the mercy of climate and with little to offer.

Using improved technology to increase food production will help increase adaptation to climate change, tackle poverty, hunger, poor nutrition, gender inequalities, and even forestall conflict. It will reduce Africa’s dependence on food imports, and create more jobs, especially when value addition, transportation and more is required to reach good markets.

Changing perspectives on mechanised farming will also help have inclusivity in plans geared towards attaining desired change. Several local banks already offer loans for agriculture, which can include mechanised farming.

Our leaders going for benchmarking outside must not forget this area. Local institutions can spur this growth if well-funded. Knowledge sharing within the continent is also key to know the downsides of improved agricultural technology, for instance.

We cannot expect change if we keep doing things the same way for another decade. As a woman being, I cannot wait for the hoe to go to the museum to invest in time saving and more productive mechanised agriculture.

The writer is communications manager at GreenFaith. @lynno16