African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services

Focus on digital solutions for rural under development with AFAAS Hackathon 2021 in Madagascar

As part of the continental Hackathon organized by AFAAS, Madagascar – through FCA Madagascar and AVANA HUB – launched its qualifier heat from 28 to 30 September 2021. 

About 20 teams, composed of over 70 developers, participated in the Hackathon at the national level. The first 6 teams, at a rate of two per theme, will be qualified for the continental competition.

Participants to the coaching session at Nexta before the launch of the Hackathon

More than expected

The AFAAS Hackathon 2021 was the first hackathon organized by FCA Madagascar. 26 teams registered for the event by the closing date representing more than 90 developers. A total of 20 teams, with more than 70 developers, and representing four provinces of Madagascar, officially participated in the marathon 48 hours event to develop the best digital solutions for rural and agricultural development.

To prepare the hackathoners, a coaching workshop was conducted on Monday, September 27, 2021 at Nexta Andranomena. The workshop presented the goals of the event and expectations of the Hackathon. Participating teams took advantage of the workshop to engage the coaches and exchange information on the technological aspects of the competition or on thematic issues.

The Director of Support for Agricultural Training and Professionalization of Producers and Fishermen, Mr Andriamahefa RAKOTONDRAZAKA officially launched the AFAAS Hackathon 2021 in Madagascar online after a series of speeches by AVANA HUB through its President. 

After the official launch participating teams battled for 48 hours, until Thursday, September 30, 2021 their talent and creativity to find solutions and respond to various issues raised in the thematic challenges imposed on them.

Virtual launch of AFAAS Hackathon 2021 by the Ministry of Agriculture and Ministry of Digitalisation with FCA and AVANA Hub in Madagascar

Themes to meet the challenges of rural and agricultural development  

The 20 participants were presented with various challenges and responsibility to find digital solutions that can significantly contribute to rural and agricultural development, especially in the Malagasy and African context. 

The first challenge theme of the event was “Management of AEAS actors’ database and their activities”, the teams that chose this theme had to use all their know-how to propose the optimal digital solution to provide concrete solutions to the problems of agricultural extension. 

The teams were expected to develop digital solutions that are accessible and easy to use so that agricultural producers can easily find extension workers to address specific issues. The proposed solution needed to allow extension workers to update their profiles and gain visibility. The other expectation for this theme was an ability to provide statistical data on agricultural extension. To collect and provide data for policy makers and development projects to identify gaps and analyze noted needs in agricultural advisory services. Among the data needed was on agricultural topics such as lack extension workers and which regions lack extension workers. 

It is undeniable that the consequences of climate change affect agricultural producers in a considerable way due to their lack of adaptation and knowledge related to climate-smart agriculture (CSA). However, it was clear that there were already many techniques, approaches and knowledge on CSA. The concern was that they are scattered and not always easily accessible. 

The teams that chose the second challenge theme were tasked to develop a solution with an intelligent and intuitive interface that is easy to use. The solution was expected to be able to offer different content and suggest content according to the user’s profile (geographical region, practiced culture, agroecological context). Thus, the application will guide and facilitate the navigation of users even if they are illiterate.

The third challenge theme was also articulated in the same logic: “Meteorological information and crop calendar”. Climate change is completely disrupting farmers’ cropping calendars. The latter, accustomed to traditional practices, are surprised by climatic variations because they do not have the means to receive timely weather warnings and updated crop calendars. This has consequences on their production. The competitors were asked to develop easy-to-use and accessible solutions that can provide weather alerts and a  cultural calendar  updated weekly, monthly and quarterly. The application needed to be built with a possibility to allow users to access regional and even municipal crop calendars. It was also expected to propose different crops and taking into account micro changes during the season.

FCA Madagascar as an actor of the agricultural digitalization in the country is always in search of ideas and innovative solutions to better face the challenges of the rural world. Organising the Hackathon was part of the AFAAS mission that we have set for ourselves. It allowed AFAAS to identify innovative solutions. Nevertheless, to have a maximum of results, FCA Madagascar cannot carry this project alone. We are in an era where sharing and cooperation are essential to face the challenges of our century.

Some of the teams