Hope gleams in the form of digital transformation

As Kisii County and the broader African continent celebrate the International Day of Rural Women on 15th October, the theme, "Rural Women Cultivating Good Food for All", stands out prominently. Like their African counterparts, women in Kisii form the backbone of our regional food systems, ensuring food security and endorsing sustainable farming techniques. With the escalating impacts of climate change, including rising sea levels and shifting weather patterns, these women's challenges are becoming more pronounced, underscoring the critical need for a digitally inclusive agricultural shift in both Kisii and the broader African context.

Kisii County, echoing the more considerable African vulnerability to climate change, sees its rural women battling scarce resources, local market barriers, and socio-economic disparities. The increasing frequency of extreme weather events, such as flash floods, droughts, and pest outbreaks, further exacerbate their daily challenges. As the climate crisis deepens, Kisii's women are tasked with providing for their families and adapting to an ever-changing environment.

Nevertheless, hope gleams in the form of digital transformation within agriculture. Tailored software solutions offer avenues to bridge existing knowledge divides, present real-time agricultural insights, and foster adaptable farming approaches. Imagine a rural woman in Kisii utilising a digital tool to analyse soil quality, assisting her in selecting the best crops for a season or leveraging an app that connects directly with local markets, ensuring her produce gets its deserved value. Such advancements signify not merely technological progress but a transformative era where rural women from Kisii to the expanses of Africa are empowered, charting their agricultural paths.

This year's commemoration theme emphasizes the women of Kisii's vital role in the expansive African food narrative. From the fertile valleys of Kisii to the vast African plains, their roles extend from seeding to harvesting, upholding traditional farming practices, and embracing modern agricultural innovations. Beyond food production, they contribute to biodiversity conservation, water resource management, and resilience against climatic shocks.

Despite the apparent potential of digital agriculture, adoption among Kisii's rural women, much like in other parts of Africa, remains gradual. This digital divide presents a formidable challenge. As Kisii gears up to celebrate its rural women on this International Day, it represents the broader African drive to bridge this technological gap. A united effort involving local Kisii officials, national governments, NGOs, and the broader African private sector is vital. Strategies span from digital literacy drives to making innovative technologies accessible and affordable.

Dr Tombe's FAR-LeaF research project will arm them with digital tools, i.e. easier-to-use software solutions, to enhance their productivity and strengthen Africa's food system amid climate unpredictabilities.

Dr Tombe with a group of small-scaleholder farmer women in Kisii County, Kenya, during technology fact-finding on digital technology usage for agric-value chain related activities.

The intensifying ramifications of climate change serve as a clarion call for both Kisii County and the African continent. As we praise the pivotal contributions of Kisii's rural women and their peers across Africa, we must equip them with tools for success in a dynamic climate. Embracing digital transformation, rooted in inclusivity, lights our path. Through this digital shift, we ensure that the women of Kisii and all of Africa remain poised to feed their communities despite environmental challenges. Celebrating them means honoring their historical impact and championing a future where they remain at the heart of a resilient and nourished Africa.

Article submitted by Ronald Tombe


The Future Africa Research Leader Fellowship (FAR-LeaF) is a fellowship programme, focussed on developing transdisciplinary research and leadership skills, to address the complex, inter-linked challenges of health, well-being, and environmental risks in Africa.