Africa, ERP and the Key to Global Food Security

As population numbers continue to rise and pressure continues to mount for global food production, the world is looking to Africa to step up to the challenge.

While many may simply assume that a shift to industrial farming methods is the answer for increasing production, the inevitable resulting environmental degradation where such methods are used suggests that this is not the best way forward for a sustainable future.

Industrial farming focuses solely on achieving maximum profitability at minimal cost – at the expense of food quality, smallholder farmers, and the environment. Instead, I believe a happy middle-ground between providing healthy, sustainable food while maintaining profitability can be achieved with the simple improvement of operational efficiencies through the appropriate use of technology.

Over the years, we have seen first-hand how technology can play a critical role in empowering farmers to improve agricultural productivity. To this end, ERP solutions actually have an incredibly important role to play in increasing both production and profitability while remaining sustainable.

Transforming Agriculture

To put the challenge facing global food production into focus, the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations has forecast that the global population will border 10 billion by 2050. This will directly translate into a need for a 70% increase in current food production levels.

With only 150 million of the 875 million hectares of arable land on the African continent actually being harvested, and only 4% of water resources being used, Africa offers great potential for increased sustainable food production. As noted by Kofi Annan, “By working with Africa’s army of smallholder farmers, the continent can transform its agriculture to grow enough food to meet its own needs, and produce a surplus to meet growing demands across the globe.”

For many years, SYSPRO has provided custom business software solutions to the agricultural industry and food supply chain, ensuring every aspect of the process is tracked, managed and acted on – from the soil right to supermarket shelves. The use of the right ERP software in the supply chain can revolutionise agricultural processes, ensuring ‘time to market’ deadlines are met. From the monitoring of the correct level of fertilisation of the soil to delivering food to people’s plates, ERP can solve the challenges of quality and perishability coupled with the demand for faster production and delivery.

ERP in Action

Tuinroete Agri in South Africa, is an excellent example of this in action. Tuinroete Agri offers an incredibly broad range of products and services – from agricultural outputs and home-baked goods to filling stations – which all need to be managed from an operational perspective. With the help of SYSPRO, Tuinroete Agri now runs a highly specialised software solution to optimally manage its 53,000 stock items from a large number of suppliers, across 70 warehouses with a total of 5,000 transactions a day.

Another example is the Githunguri co-op in Kenya which helps smallholder dairy farmers market their milk. The custom implementation of the SYSPRO ERP solution in the co-op has allowed it to efficiently manage its supply chain – collecting over 105,000 litres of milk per day from over 12,000 local farmers and manage more than 33 retail outlets.

Githunguri now boasts improved procurement efficiency, faster transaction speeds, and greater organisational responsiveness, and is recognised internationally as a model for a successful agricultural co-op that empowers local farmers.

The results of these implementations speak for themselves. Through the use of sophisticated inventory systems and ERP, the agricultural industry and supply chain can achieve optimum management of operations and production – and remain sustainable while doing so.

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