Importance of Traceability Technology for Agriculture in Africa
Many economic, social, and environmental problems stem from a lack of transparency within supply chains. Contaminated food, counterfeit medications, and product shortages caused by supply chain disruptions can damage public health, brand reputation, and availability of natural resources. The intense and wide-ranging effects of supply chain failures can be aptly demonstrated by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. When COVID-19 spread globally in March 2020, national lockdowns decimated many organizations’ operations, stopping the regular cadence of supply chains. However, this severe disruption of global operations didn’t cause any new problems; it just highlighted existing ones. Visibility at every stage of the supply chain can help prevent-- or at least mitigate-- the damaging effects of unprecedented events like pandemics or even just blips in the system.
Traceability technology allows companies or individuals to track an item from its state as a raw material to the final product. End-to-end visibility can help enterprises make better decisions, financially, environmentally, and socially. Some supply chains are so expansive or unchecked that a company, despite intentions, may not even know their product’s journey is unethical or damaging to their brand.
Blockchain, artificial intelligence, collaborative platforms, and the Internet of Things (IoT) have all been adopted to solve traceability problems. In particular, blockchain technology has the ability to record digital transactions or interactions in a “secure, transparent, highly resistant to outages, audible, and efficient” manner. IoT technology, like sensors, can take extrinsic measurement of conditions in an environment. For example, a sensor can track the temperature on a farm; that farmer can then use that data in their decision-making process. In the context of supply chains, IoT and blockchain technology can be used to share information between stakeholders, access information to leverage the massive amounts of data produced, provide data linked to the physical matter, and detect fraud and violations of human rights.
In a post-COVID world, it’s essential to build more resilient supply chains to ensure disruptions won’t have impacts as severe. As expected, traceability technology can be an invaluable tool for farmers and agro-processors. In our next post, we’ll dig deeper into its application in food systems, particularly in Latin America, Africa, and India.