Conference and Discussion

Technology, Innovation and Modernisation

Adopt. Accentuate. Accelerate.

By Dr Anxious Jongwe Masuka
Chief Executive Officer, Zimbabwe Agriculture Society

Our Challenge, Our Opportunity

From an antipodean perspective, the major problem in Zimbabwean agriculture is low productivity and low production, so urgent and sustainable intensification interventions are required. The challenge of poor funding and the absence of appropriate agricultural lending institutions suited to the risk profile in agriculture have been partially palliated by value chain financing interventions, and quasi-fiscal and fiscal interventions over the years, but for the long term, a return to a Land Bank, as an institutionalised lending platform, could be the best way forward. We have continued on plunderously nerdy funding models, while niggling over their impact, instead of setting up credible and long-term measures to support a sector at the core of our developmental aspirations. Mechanisation and irrigation development ; infrastructure, logistics and storage expansion; farmer capacitation by private and public extension; climate smart agriculture adoption in the face of unpredictable weather; and functioning markets and fair trade development, also deserve untrammelled urgent national attention.

Primacy of Agriculture to Industrialisation

According to the World Bank, GDP originating from agriculture is twice as impactful as GDP originating from any other sector. In modern history too, no country has transitioned to a successful economy without increasing agricultural productivity. Despite all this evidence, and the clear link between a strong agricultural base and increased manufacturing output, we have not responded with interventions for dirigible financing to this critical sector.

The Nexus for Development

A strong agricultural sector, together with a vibrant mining sector, are the twin engines for primary national growth that should feed into a growing manufacturing sector. These three sectors should then spawn opportunities for additional services, infrastructure, power and energy development. In the midst of all this, consistent and not nerdy policies should direct investments. There is a difference between looking and seeing and, indeed, between hearing and listening

Towards Agriculture 4.0

The ZAS theme for 2018 was "Field to Industry: Produce. Connect. Develop". We need to mainstream technology, innovation and modernisation in every aspect of the agricultural value chain, from field to industry, if agriculture has to grow at the desirable rate of 10°/o annually in pursuit of Vision 2030. We must do so conscientiously, consistently and persistently at every stage of the field to industry continuum. We perhaps should not "re­ invent the wheel" but rather seek smart opportunities to adopt, accelerate and accentuate any technology, innovation and modernisation idea or activity, thus the theme for 2019 is:

This seems a halcyon time for agriculture in Zimbabwe, indeed Agriculture 4 .0. At every stage of the field to industry value chain we must give succour to actors, to invigorate and motivate them for success and to engender trust, responsibility and transparency and to consolidate and strengthen the value chain. Technology, innovation and modernisation are the source, the cause, the multiplier, the influencer and the co-factor for increased, sustainable and profitable agriculture, from communal, small scale, commercial, to corporate agriculture.

Relevant Technology

Technology should be harnessed for improved efficiency, for enhanced effectiveness, for increased productivity, for more cost-effectiveness and for increased profits. An exploration of the dimensions of technological interventions required to bring our agriculture into the 21st century should start with communal agriculture introspection. Some 1.8 million households use ox drawn ploughs, and some of these households still consider an ox drawn plough a luxury. For the majority of these households, a hoe is still the "weapon of choice" for weed control. This is indeed enigmatic, for a country whose umbilical cord is in agriculture, and which wishes to use agriculture as the fulcrum to attain Vison 2030. Our minds should transit from being filled with audacious speculations about what tools are required for the 1.8 million households, to a practical, relevant and tangible "fit for purpose list of tools" to contribute towards accelerated agricultural transformation. It is difficult to exit the mental perturbation caused by decades of inattention in this important area.

In small scale,A 1,A2, and corporate set ups, similarly, there should be a deliberate intervention to transform agriculture through the use of modern technologies: from tractors, implements, drones, irrigation, dryers, combines, bio-fertlisers - the list is endless, but the result-, output- and outcome-orientation of this intervention is supreme and should never be compromised: to increase productivity.

Innovation as a Catalyst

Agile innovation directed at national goal-oriented outcomes is required, with government being an active player and catalyst for the change. This could take various dimensions, from innovation hubs at universities and research and development institutions, to providing an incentive framework for private actors to invest in innovative products and services, while adopting and adapting and then accelerating and accentuating innovation spread on farms from block-chain financing, crowd-farming, precision agriculture, artificial intelligence, satellite and drone digital analytics and other internet-based services. This should be value-chain based, for example initially targeting the cereals, oils seeds, tea, macadamia, horticulture and tobacco value chains for crops and, beef and dairy, for livestock . Prioritised innovation is required to reduce costs, increase efficiency and to produce a national dividend. Disruptive innovation with a stable core is required.

Modernisation as a Constant

Modern business thinking, modern farming methods and modern and rejiggered value chains for sustaining efficiency and productivity are a prerequisite to feeding an increasingly urbanised population, with changing dietary and nutrition needs. This is an imperative. This should be accomplished while adapting to the attendant threats of climate change.

Further and Beyond

As we traverse this journey, the Zimbabwe Agricultural Society, having been in existence for 123 years, and having held 108 successful Shows, and following extensive consultations, it has become imperative to truly reflect the national character of the Harare Agricultural Show, while priming it for international acceptance and competition. In this vein, the next Harare Agricultural Show (HAS109) will be held alongside the inaugural Zimbabwe Agricultural Show (ShowZim01), from 25 to 30 August 2019. It is expected that both the pitch and tone of the Zimbabwe Agricultural Show will be heightened, while retaining the character, content and diversity of the Harare Agricultural Show.