Use artificial intelligence to boost agric: FAO

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THE Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) says the government must fast track the adoption and use of digital tools and artificial intelligence to improve food security and eradicate hunger, the Daily News reports.
This comes as the World Food Programme (WFP)’s recent projections indicated that by year’s end, the number of food insecure Zimbabweans will have surged by almost 50 percent, reaching 8,6 million, owing to the combined effects of drought, economic recession and the pandemic.

Speaking during World Food Day celebrations held online at the weekend, FAO representative to Zimbabwe
Patrice Talla said smart and systematic action was required to predict threats to harvests, automatically trigger crop insurance, cut climate risk and prevent crops from rotting in the field due to a lack of efficient supply chains.

“What is needed is action to turn smallholder farms into the farms of tomorrow. Action is needed by governments to implement policies that make healthy diets more accessible. “Action by agencies like mine to turn to think-tanks
and action-tanks rolled into one, linking up with the research community and the private sector to unleash the
power of innovation,” said Talla.

“Looking beyond the coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic, nothing less than a radical transformation of agri-food systems will be needed to bring us all closer to a hunger-free world.

“This, for FAO, presupposes a flatter, more agile and modular structure; a relentless push for digitalisation; joining
hands across governments, academia, civil society and the private sector; and a constant pursuit of innovation and scientific excellence,” she added.

Speaking at the same event, UN resident coordinator Maria Ribeiro said without big improvements in the food supply chain, many fragile nations, including Zimbabwe, were set to become increasingly vulnerable to financial volatility and climate shocks.

“The recently-released Zimbabwe Vulnerability Assessment Committee (ZimVAC) report states that the Covid-19 pandemic severely threatens an already critical and fragile food and nutrition security situation, arising mainly from the prevailing macroeconomic conditions and consecutive years of drought.

“So severe is the country’s food insecurity, for the first time ever, one WFP lean season assistance programme was immediately succeeded by another. “Moreover our efforts to respond to the Covid-19 pandemic have limited our
daily activities, including those who grow and deliver
our food.

“The Covid-19 pandemic risks further escalating millions of food insecure households,” Ribeiro said. “Our smallholder farmers need support to grow crops in a more sustainable way, then store and transport their produce to markets, and ultimately improve their  own livelihoods.

“When food makes its way from the farm right along the supply chain and onto people’s plates in a way that’s
effective and fair, then everyone benefits,” she added.

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