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Ghana forging ahead with e-agriculture

By Issa Sikiti da Silva in Accra, Ghana

Since launching an internet-based platform in February this year to enable agricultural experts, farmers and community members to exchange opinions and resources, the Ghana government has been forging ahead in its quest to digitise the sector, which constitutes the backbone of the economy.

Almost every month, an e-agriculture initiative is being brought in to speed up the process and disseminate digital knowledge that would probably enhance the sector's productivity.

Just recently, the country conducted nationwide tests of an e-agriculture project to help famers get to grip with technology. At least 35 000 farmers with access to smart phones with in-built voicemail in six local languages subscribed to the platform.

Last week at the African Union summit, African leaders have vowed to 'transform' the continent's agriculture sector by committing to spend at least 10% of their national budgets on the sector.

Annually, Ghana allocates just under 10% of its national budget to the sector, which experts said is very low.

"We have the land but we are lacking the resources and expertise," small scale farmer Grace Sarpong told Biztechafrica in the capital Accra.

"I heard on radio and saw on TV how technology can help improve and transform agriculture, and I wish the government can speed up the process of implementing this e-agriculture nationwide as soon as possible," she added.

"We have been relying too much and for too long on traditional methods of farming. Our productivity is not moving forward year in year out, and we experience serious difficulties in accessing reliable information," another small scale farmer, Cecilia Arimah said emotionally.

Women are the key actors in Ghanaian agriculture, constituting over half the agricultural labour force and producing 70% of the country’s food, according to the 2011 Curtis Research report.

The government has acknowledged that about 60% of Ghana famers were facing problems to access reliable information on agriculture, but said farmers could now access agriculture-based information through a designated portal address equipped with a multilingual interactive voice response system.

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