December 14, 2022

A new policy guide, “The State of Digital Agriculture in the Commonwealth,” has cast light on how digitalisation is transforming the agricultural sector in different Commonwealth countries. 

With pressures on the world’s food system from the effects of Covid-19, as well as climate change and international conflict, it is widely believed that a sustainable approach to agriculture is important in the short and long-term. Digitalisation has been highlighted as an important tool to help the food industry meet demands across the globe, as well dealing with wider issues such as climate change and youth unemployment. Digitalisation has specifically been highlighted in the document as a method to position the Commonwealth as an “agricultural powerhouse.”

The policy guide cites digital innovations, data infrastructure and business development as three pillars for understanding digital agriculture in Commonwealth countries. 

“I am confident that this work will help to drive progress across the public and private sectors, deepen our shared understanding and impact, and bring us a step closer to a modernised, innovative, successful and sustainable approach to agriculture which can help the Commonwealth feed the world,” said the Right Honourable Patricia Scotland KC, Commonwealth Secretary-General, of the policy guide. 

A graph detailing the framework for widespread digitalisation of agriculture across Commonwealth countries. (Photo: The Commonwealth)
A graph detailing the framework for widespread digitalisation of agriculture across Commonwealth countries. (Photo: The Commonwealth)

The state of agriculture in different Commonwealth countries and regions

The economic importance of agriculture in the Commonwealth is felt to different degrees around the world. 

It is reported that 42.48% of the population of Commonwealth Africa is employed in agriculture, with the sector making up 17% of the region’s GDP. Furthermore, it is estimated that between 30% and 60% of all economic production is because of agriculture. 

The data infrastructure pillar is observed as being the most under-developed element when discussing agricultural digitalisation in Commonwealth Africa. “Developing this pillar would thus put in place the rails required for digitalisation of agriculture to thrive, governments in the region ought to avail operating environments that enable the collection, dissemination, updating of agriculture-related data sets,” the policy guide explains.

In Commonwealth Asia agriculture, forestry and fishing makes up 11% of the GDP, with 22% of the population employed in these industries. Commonwealth Asia’s rural population is a key driver of the agricultural industry in this region, while the continent as a whole is responsible for 19% of global food and agricultural exports. 

In Commonwealth Asia, it is said that general lack of awareness from consumers is an obstacle to digitalisation of agriculture. It has been reported that if more consumers adopted mobile internet, then there would be a more widespread use of digital agriculture solutions. 

Just 4.3% of Canada’s land is suitable for growing crops, yet the country is recognised as the world’s fifth largest exporter of agricultural and agri-food products. Over 50% of what is produced in Canada is exported, with total exports totalling around €52.7 billion ($56 billion) on an annual basis. 

Rural populations across Europe are thought to benefit from sustainable agriculture. The rural population of the United Kingdom is 16%, while in Cyprus that figure is 33%. In fact, it has been reported that up to 70% of Commonwealth Europe’s land is used for agriculture, with 71% of land in the United Kingdom used for this purpose.

Considering that 28% of Commonwealth Pacific countries are employed in agriculture, sustainable agriculture could be greatly beneficial, with the sector comprising 14% of the Commonwealth Pacific countries’ GDP. Fiji, Tonga and Papua New Guinea are just some of the SIDS (Small Island Developing States) where the agriculture sector contributes heavily to the GDP. 

Small Island Developing States in the ​​Caribbean are less reliant on agriculture, with it, along with forestry and fishing, making up just 5.6% of their overall GDP. Tourism is the key sector here, with 9.42% of the population employed in the agriculture sector. 

Join us at SIAL Paris as exhibitor Join us at SIAL Paris as visitor