FAO Harps on Human Capital Development to Unleash Digital Agriculture

Gilbert Ekugbe

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), has advised African governments to develop their human capital, in order to be able to appropriate the potentials of digital agriculture.

This advice was given by the Director General of FAO, Mr. Qu Dongyu, during a high-level conference tagged “Vision for the future: Transition to Digital Agriculture,” that was held in Azerbaijan.

Dongyu added that digital agriculture has great potential to foster the transformation of agrifood systems and promote rural development.

He described data, digitalisation and innovation as key accelerators to achieving this transformation and are the core of FAO’s actions across all its areas of work, in line with its mandate.

According to him, FAO is supporting several countries to develop national digital agriculture strategies, which he described as “the first step to ensure delivery of meaningful services and data to people in rural areas, and to promote bottom-up technology-driven innovations.

“Developing human capital is essential to unleash the potential of digital agriculture.” 

He pointed to the FAO virtual learning centres and targeted digital literacy initiatives to strengthen the capacity of farmers and other actors to respond to the challenges. 

He added that FAO has also helped member nations to develop e-governance tools such as identification systems for animal health and farm accountancy data networks.

Dongyu said FAO’s International Platform for Digital Food and Agriculture would soon be fully operational, stressing that other FAO initiatives include provision of digital public goods such as the Hand-in-Hand Geospatial Platform, the ongoing 1000 Digital Villages Initiative, the e-Agriculture Strategy Guide and other contributions to the UN Secretary-General’s Roadmap for Digital Cooperation.

“The challenges our agrifood systems face require our collective, efficient, effective and coherent action and response. We must do more, together,” the director-general said. 

He pointed out that in rural areas, digital technologies could be leveraged to address multiple market failures and facilitate smallholder farmers’ integration into markets.

“He added: “FAO’s aim is to ‘massify’ digital benefits to ensure no one is left behind, doing so through promoting the use and adoption of digital technologies and promoting a policy agenda and public investments. 

“The acceleration of digitalisation in agriculture must also safeguard basic human rights by ensuring affordable access to digital technologies, digital literacy and digital public goods for everyone.”

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