Ethiopia and the prospect of machine learning in farming
- Published: 30 October 2020
- Law Firm: Bonelli Erede Lombardi Pappalardo
A new machine learning tool under development is intended to help Ethiopia and other African countries in the increasingly strategic sector of livestock. It will make it possible to monitor animal diseases, mainly livestock diseases, allowing them to be better treated, to prevent problems and to make decisions based on statistical and scientific evidence. Farmers will thus have an extra chance to continue their business, which has already been severely tested by climate change. And they could rely on a rigorous basis of data and elements on the prevalence and mortality of diseases in animals from sub-Saharan African countries.
The news came from NewBusinessEthiopia.com, which cited Theodora Tsouloufi, a Supporting Evidence-Based Interventions (Sebi) researcher at the University of Edinburgh. Sebi is conducting research in collaboration with the International Livestock of Addis Ababa (Ilri). "The mechanism will focus on under-studied and underestimated diseases," he said, "in the hope of allowing everyone to run for cover." Using an algorithm, the tool will scan veterinary databases and reports to extract hard-to-obtain data, providing insights into specific animal diseases. “We expect this to really speed up the search process and bring results in hours compared to the three months it takes when searches are done manually,” Theodora Tsouloufi explained. “We will initially share the tool with Ethiopian researchers studying animal health. But the ultimate goal remains to provide all decision makers with better, more robust and more reliable data ”.
Ethiopia is the first country in Africa for the number of livestock, but has faced heavy economic losses due to serious epidemics among animals. Currently, the sector accounts for 45% of agricultural GDP and this percentage is set to increase in the coming decades. Livestock farming is one of the main sectors of the Ethiopian economy: the country produces over 3.8 billion milk and one million tons of beef every year. A large chunk of the population depends on livestock farming for their survival. Farming, in fact, generates income through the production of milk and its derivatives, meat and the sale of animals. Herding is based on individually managed ruminants (not in stables).
Today, just over half of Ethiopian citizens consume products of animal origin, because they are more expensive, and the poorest families prefer to sell their animals and derivatives rather than consume the products of animal origin they obtain. The population is estimated to grow from the current 105 million inhabitants to 190 million in 2050. A larger population, increasingly affluent and urbanized, will require more high-quality food, including meat, milk and other animal products. This will contribute to massive growth in demand in the industry. The change in farming systems could have far-reaching effects on society, providing food and income for the population. And it will offer the country a new growth opportunity.