In the framework of the Global Forum for Innovations in Agriculture in Africa (GFIA Africa) planned in Durban, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), is organising a national edition of its AgriHack Talent initiative in South Africa, in collaboration with Durban University of Technology (DUT), the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and other stakeholders.
28 November to 02 December in Durban
The hackathon will be taking place at two venues:
- From 28 to 30 November 2015 (actual hackathon days): The Durban University of Technology
- From 01 and 02 December 2015: Durban International Convention Centre, venue of the GFIA Africa Conference. On 1st December, two public sessions of the hackathon will be held, during which teams of developers will present their applications and will be assessed by an international panel of judges. The announcement of winners and prize giving ceremony will be held the following day during the closing ceremony of the GFIA Africa Conference.
Agriculture in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries is generally affected by the weak and non-integrated information and intelligence systems. The role of new Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs) in that perspective is critical. They can be called upon to help address, in various ways, many of the climate change and food & nutrition security issues affecting these regions.
In parallel, young people are spearheading the development of ICTs in all regions of the world and can be encouraged to harness their innovations to support agricultural development. Youth constitutes a large share of ACP countries’ population. For example, two-thirds of the population of Sub-Saharan Africa are under 25. Young people are also facing serious unemployment conditions and need to be supported to develop their livelihood opportunities. This can be achieved notably via the development of relevant applications and the engagement in new ICT-facilitated jobs. The agricultural sector is one of the areas in which ICT applications are increasingly providing opportunities for youth, as it has been illustrated in the report “Digital opportunities: Innovative ICT solutions for youth employment” published by ITU in February 2014.
Youth also needs agriculture which is still the largest job provider in Africa in particular, and the first sector that could provide employment to the 10 to 12 million youths from Sub-Saharan Africa entering the job market yearly (African economic outlook, 2012). It has also been demonstrated that use of ICTs in agriculture improves its image for youth and also helps to engage them better. As it has become critical that more young people are involved in agriculture because of the ageing farming population and the critical food security issues facing ACP countries and beyond, linking ICTs and youth in agriculture has become a winning strategy.
The AgriHack Talent initiative is a key activity that contributes to those ambitions. Youth targeted are aged between 15 and 35 years old, as defined by CTA’s youth strategy and in many ACP national and regional policy frameworks.
The overall objective of the AgriHack Talent Initiative is to promote youth ICT innovations and entrepreneurship in agriculture, in view to contribute to the transformation of the sector and to the development of youth livelihoods.
The AgriHack programme encompasses a series of activities at the heart of which a software coding competition (which usually takes the form of a hackathon) is organised. It is followed by an incubation process through which capacity building on ICT entrepreneurship in the agricultural sector is provided to young Talents. Best products developed are also promoted. Before the hackathon, awareness is created among all participants on the opportunities that the agriculture offers to ICT developers. Finally, multi-stakeholder collaboration between ICT and agricultural stakeholders are ensured from the onset and throughout the program.
This activity is different from most hackathons. Its key features of the AgriHack Talent initiative include multi-stakeholder collaboration, agricultural awareness creation, entrepreneurship capacity building, the improvement and promotion of best prototypes following the hackathon. So far, activities have been undertaken in East Africa and the Caribbean, in collaboration with various partners.
AgriHack is implemented as part of activities of the CTA’s “Youth, ICT and Agriculture” project ARDYIS (Agriculture, Rural Development and Youth in the Information Society)
The Durban AgriHack event
The Durban AgriHack Talent event will involve only residents of South Africa. It is launched to the attention of students and young professionals who are invited to form multi-disciplinary teams and take part in it. Apart from ICT specialists, teams created will necessarily include one agricultural specialist or one person who has proven expertise in agriculture.
During the hackathon, experts acting as mentors will provide advice to teams of developers.
After the hackathon, best participants will benefit from incubation or other opportunities to improve and promote their prototypes.
Three challenges/categories have been designed for the hackathon:
- Climate change category, in collaboration with the Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR).
- Magazine category, in the framework of which an app will be proposed for the CTA’s international free magazine, Spore
- Start-up category
Key activities and dates
- 20th October: Launch of online registration (until 08 November)
- Week of 09 November: Announcement of Teams selected to take part in the AgriHack activity in Durban;
- Week of 16 November: AgriHack and the Global week of entrepreneurship – Information session and Awareness creation on via Hangouts/Webinars or e-forum open to all potential participants; exchange on key elements and requirements for developing and providing ICT services for agriculture – two sessions or webinars may be organised; one on general information and the second on specifications for each of the categories of the hackathon
- 28th November in Durban: Exchange and training from mentors: Meeting with all hackathon teams and organisers, to prepare the hackathon and relevant data; training/exchange sessions on developing mobile applications; features of agricultural stakeholders and markets; ICT4Ag business models; pitching skills – coding launched;
- 29th and 30th November: Intense coding and initial assessment; prototypes will be judged (first part of the assessment) from the second day in the afternoon, while the teams continue to develop their apps. Tips on developing mobile applications received now and then from mentors;
- 1st December at the GFIA venue: Pitching session : Second part of the assessment of prototypes – Five to seven minutes per team + questions and comments by judges;
- 2nd December: Announcement of winners and Prize Giving ceremony at the closing ceremony of GFIA Africa
- Early 2016: preparation and launch of the incubation and/or consultancy services for relevant winners.
 A hackathon is an event during which computer programmers (and development stakeholders when required) collaborate intensively to develop an ICT application or platform addressing a specific challenge. Hackathon or software coding events are increasingly being organised to address specific developmental issues.