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Food Security

Technological Innovations Improving Livelihoods

By Adjoa Osafo-Binfoh

  •  January 23, 2017
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This year’s Aid and Development Africa Summit is fast approaching! The Summit, which is due to be held between 28th February and 1st March in Nairobi, Kenya will provide stakeholders with an opportunity to engage in debate and knowledge exchange about topical development matters. The 2nd Aid & Development Africa Summit will focus on improving aid delivery and development strategy, with an emphasis on technological innovations and their impacts on aid and development in East Africa.

Representatives from the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Kenya Community Development Foundation will discuss building a culture of resilience and risk awareness.

In recent years, Kenya, which is susceptible to annual flooding in some parts and drought in others, has seen large swathes of its population devastated by environmental factors. From the displacement of an estimated 63,000 people in 2013 due to heavy rains and flooding, to the 1.3 million people who faced food insecurity in Kenya last year, it is clear that year after year, environmental factors pose a threat towards, not only human security in Kenya and the wider East Africa region, but to sustainable development also.  

However, for millions of people across East Africa who continue to grapple with the threats posed by the environment towards their food, economic and health security, advances in technology are helping to mitigate some of the threats that have previously stalled the progress of sustainable development. Short-term aid measures, such as, the provision of food supplies are often plentiful in the immediate aftermath of an environmental disaster.  However, such measures only serve to reduce suffering and hardship, not prevent it. Thus, establishing and up-keeping a culture of resilience and risk awareness is key to reducing the scope of devastation that environmental factors can bring to East Africa.   

Ensuring that people are well equipped with the tools necessary to sustain their own development is paramount to the notion of sustainable development. Although, in the past, this has proven difficult, particularly in areas prone to extreme weather conditions, nowadays technology can be used to improve livelihoods and build a culture of resilience. The use of solar powered farming, such as the AgroSolar Irrigation Kit produced by Kenyan NGO Sunculture, is allowing farmers to take back control; some of whom are discovering that their success or otherwise no longer has to be at the behest of weather conditions. Solar powered farming aids farmers in their irrigation of crops, helping them to sustain their own food supply and gain access to economic empowerment as their produce can be sold for profit. Therefore, during times of drought, where the sun is in abundance and the rain in small supply, farmers can use the weather to their advantage, rather than allowing it to hinder them in their efforts towards achieving sustainable development.

Improved water harvesting technologies enhance crop and livestock production, increasing household income and food security for Kenyan farmers. Drip irrigation (micro-irrigation) such as Netafim and Rivulis Irrigation provide farmers with easy access to water for irrigation purposes. The low-pressure distribution of water and nutrients directly to the plants helps achieve consistent growth of crops. Supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), farmers are harvesting water for agricultural use through innovative technologies and practices. Currently, less than 20% of the farmers have these structures, mainly attributed to the intense labour requirements for digging and high cost. However, there is huge potential for uptake of the innovation by over 50% of the households in the next five years. Thus, for some across East Africa, technological innovations are going some way towards breaking the barrier that the environment can pose against development, allowing people to instead use the environment to their advantage. 

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