13 May 2021

Consistent with its commitment to develop and enhance Women Agripreneurs, in April 2021 AFASA Women in collaboration with its main partner and sponsor Standard Bank held an Agri-Business Tech Savvy Solutions Webinar with the objective to provide an overview of how best to equip women with tech solutions in running profitable, sufficient and sustainable farming enterprises as well as solutions on the challenges faced by women farmers. The tech solutions focused on Beef horizontal value chain (veld management, grazing, breeding and producing quality meat) while ensuring efficient and active participation, thus opening up this commodity to women in agribusiness.

This solution orientated online seminar had 212 global participants ranging from women farmers, leaders, students and various CEO’s and HOD stakeholders who included; The Agricultural Research Council (ARC), the National Agricultural Marketing council (NAMC), the Department of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD), South Africa Meat Industry Company (SAMIC), Food Agriculture and National Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), UK / SA Export Trade Head.

The webinar programme was directed by Bonani Nyhodo a seasoned agricultural economist and a perfect match in assisting women agripreneurs to grow and flourish in the sector. Ntuthu Mbiko-Motshegoa Chairperson of AFASA Women Desk kick started the webinar by citing pro Women empowerment initiatives as prescribed by various global initiatives such as United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, Continental Initiatives under AU framework which is (CAADP) Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Program, Malabo declarations and Agenda 2063 aspirations and the very new kid on the block, Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement and the South African National Development Plan.

She then followed with the thought provoking statement on UN recent study showing that women account for 43 percent in the world, 50 percent in Africa, and more than 60 percent in the South African labour force of the sector. If all women in the continent can have better access to technology like farm machinery, drones and irrigation, production can be improved from 2,5 to 6% and reduce hunger by plus minus 6%. In South Africa alone, 25 percent of the population goes to bed hungry, on empty stomach that is and with covid-19 additional three hundred and eighty seven thousand households have fallen below poverty line, hence the urgent need and awareness to improve access of women to technology in order to increase our productivity, food security and sustainable well-oiled gender inclusive agribusiness, so today’s session seeks to introduce our AFASA Women tech savvy solutions that will be part of our programs going forward.

Mike Gcabo an Officer in the office of AFASA President encouraged women to let technology enhance their inherent abilities and humanity in order to set themselves apart and have a competitive edge in these changing and challenging times in business.

Keneilwe Nailana Senior Manager for Agribusiness at Standard Bank spoke about how the recent Covid-19 pandemic has propelled businesses to be agile, faced with an option adapt and adopt. Her concern is that if women businesses cannot access resources, how do we expect them to be able to adapt and adopt those new technologies? She was delighted to share Standard Bank’s group strategy that’s aligned to commercializing and making sure that women owned businesses are viable and profitable and said “It’s the right time to partner with women from AFASA Women and see how far we can take this partnership”. She also went on to raise the importance of water reminding the participants that South Africa is water scarce country and posing thought provoking questions; How do agripreneurs remain profitable while remaining viable at the same time without running out of our scarce resources? Which led to the first presentation by Nonhlanhla Rabede from AFASA Women and a PhD student in Agricultural Engineering at the University of Kwazulu-Natal.

Nonhlanhla Radebe spoke about technological water solutions with an emphasis on rainwater harvesting as one of the key contributions to technological water solutions. Her presentation touched on; water technology applications, examples of water technology as it relates to food production, rainwater harvesting, the stance of the national and local government with regards to rainwater harvesting, the national strategy on rainwater harvesting, the mean annual rainfall, as well as the rainwater harvesting potential, characteristics of rainwater harvesting, calculating rainwater harvesting, an example of how you can calculate rainwater harvesting potential for your farm, how to secure your borehole and how to grow orchards in the rain scarce areas.

The highlight of her presentation was to learn that AFASA Women in the process of developing an app which will be based on the specific needs in Africa, with an easy interface where people will be able to log in and input the different parameters related to their farm, for instance; a farmer is able to input how much livestock they have on their farm as well as which crops they’re growing. Another exciting element of the App is that the farmer will in put values where an automatic calculation of the volume of rain water they could get from your site will pop up. One of the participants Lizzy Igbine from Nigeria who works around Africa shared her interest in working with AFASA Women on the app especially in the sub-Saharan West Africa.

Dr Tshilidzi Madzivhandila CEO and Head of Mission – Food, Agriculture and National Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) was pleased that the App is timely and could help farmers. However, also cautioned on the affordability risks for the intendent beneficiaries who are women farmers versus the global access of the technology and its commercial implication for the women farmers. Dr Madzivhandila offered that after the technology has been tested FANRPAN will reach out to its network in the countries they operate in to showcase it and make sure that it scales for a greater impact. A number of participants engaged on the subscription fee, device compatibility and it’s reach in other African countries.

The second aspect of the webinar was on The Technology in Beef Value Chain presented by Mr Malcom Moodie and Mr Tanki Mokoena who are senior Judges from South African Meat Industry Company (SAMIC) promoting the Herdsy App Farmer App from Ireland, a turnkey management solution of animal health, animal husbandry, animal production, the Livestock breeding cycle, production quality management system and value chain programme to ensure their fair trade and production under human acceptable condition- relationship to meet industry compliance. The technology uses mobile technology and camera system with ultrasounds technology as an innovative animal tracking solutions and tracking platform. The webinar program made an impression on Maria Madisa a Mpumalanga AFASA Women Co-ordinator in and anticipated that it will assist women farmers. She echoed that in her province, Mpumalanga there are women in wildlife she was keen to know if the Herdsy App Farmer App is able to assist with wildlife commodity? The response Mr Malcolm Moodie was a resounding yes adding that the collar is going to be a winner for wildlife.
Given the success of this webinar focused on changing the dynamics for women in agribusiness using technology as a solution to maximise the value chain we hope that these technology solutions will attract the younger generation as future players to take the sector to greater heights.