E-Agriculture

Question 2

Josh Woodard
Josh WoodardFHI 360Thailand

I'm a bit biased here since I helped to work on the guide. Rather than spoil the thread by sharing what we thought first, I'm quite curious to see what others think the guide should include.

 

In the development of e-agriculture guide, I believe key focus should be on:

i. Clear outlines of private and public sector institutional linkages 

ii. Technical constraints faced by key actors: farmers, livestock rearers, input dealers, processors, traders, aggregators, value chain financiers, etc

iii. Delineation of roles and activities expected

iii. Broad base consultation with e-agriculture actors ( such as this online discourse)

iv. Proposed technical approaches at country-level

v. Country-level implementation followup, financing and sustainability uptake

PS/ Drafting and development should not be left in the hands of local and international NGOs but should actively involve all relevant actors ( NGOs, private actors, public institutions, etc) to strengthen the case for uptake.

 

Lee Babcock
Lee BabcockLHB AssociatesUnited States of America

Thanks Josh and other contributors to the guide!

While implicit in Part 1 of the guide it might be worth thinking about pulling out 'farmer trust' to be more front and center.  There are so many types of digital functionalities (e.g. extension, payments, market pricing, etc.) and models (e.g. end-user based with basic handsets, field-agent based, etc.) with multiple stakeholders (farmers, input suppliers, cooperatives, etc.).  A worthy strategic approach to all these options/possibilities is to think about aligning farmer trust with the requisite levels of technical and partnership complexities.  In other words....the first roll out of functionalities  should ideally require the least amount of trust/commitment from the farmer (SMS public service announcements, ag extension, etc.).  After some months or more than a year (depending on harvest cycle, farmer demographic, etc.) -- after the farmer has seen the benefit(s) and their trust increases....we roll out the next phase of functionalities (e.g. field-agent, smart phone ag extension, etc.- that provides richer content)  that have more complex partnership (e.g. content providers) and technical requirements (e.g. devices, cloud-based data, GPS, etc.).  Thereafter.......financial inclusion functionalities (that have even greater technical and partnership complexities and a higher requisite level of farmer trust) can be the next phase.  And so on.......

This would not preclude an ICT insertion at Phase 3 or Phase 2, for example, but such framework in an 'e-agriculture strategy guide' will provide clarity and illuminate our thinking by placing farmers and farmer trust 'front and center'.   After all, any worthwhile target market segmentation strategy must have a focus on the 'end customer'.  

 

Mireille Nsimire
Mireille NsimireIITADemocratic Republic of the Congo

From my experiences of providing ICT support  and solution to farmers, I would suggest that the E-Agriculture strategy should go beyond web and android application development ( the real farmers even scientist remain behind the technology, few are those who are trying to catch up)

If I've have to propose something I would propose that the E-Agriculture should be focused on Farmers Market access. the National E-Agriculture strategy should define how farmers can make use of ICT through out agriculture value chain;( this includes natural resources management, soil management, production , transformation and market access).

below are few practical application and theirs advantages which might be used as strong point in E-Agriculture strategy guide.

Mobile payment systems: Mobile payment systems give farmers without access to financial services an inexpensive and secure way to transfer and save money using their mobile phones. By allowing smallholder farmers to save small amounts of money, receive payments quickly in times of need and pay for agricultural inputs via their phones, mobile payment systems replace costly traditional transfer services and the need to travel long distances to collect funds. They also provide a secure means for employers to distribute wages to agricultural workers, and for governments and NGOs to ensure agricultural subsidies go directly to farmers.

Micro-lending platforms:The Micro-lending platform aims to connect smallholders in Africa with individuals elsewhere willing to provide finance to help the farmers to buy much-needed agricultural inputs. Mobile access to micro-lending platforms provides a free and secure way for rural borrowers to be matched to potential investors and gives existing micro finance providers access to those who need loans the most. Mobile payment records can be used as proof of credit history.

Farmer helplines: Farmers call a helpline and speak to agricultural experts who can provide answers to agricultural queries. The experts and researchers can use information on the issues raised to improve their understanding of agricultural trends and the challenges encountered by farmers in Africa

Mobile management of supplier networks: Food buyers and exporters can use mobile phones to manage their networks of small-scale growers and help field agents collect information. Managing large numbers of small farms and growers requires networks of field agents, auditors and technical staff to gather a wide range of information. They carry out farm audits, check the quality and quantity of harvests, and report problems. Keeping detailed paper records for this information is inefficient, can be erratic and can lead to delayed decision making. Equipping field agents with mobile phones improves the supplier management process, providing a reliable, quick and cheap way of creating electronic records in a central database. Field agents visiting farms can use their mobile phones to input data on farmers’ locations, crops and expected yield. Farmers could also use mobiles to send information about their likely harvest date and other key indicators to food buyers and other organizations. Buyers and distributors could use this information to collect fresh food items more promptly and get them to market as soon as possible, reducing food waste and increasing agricultural incomes.

Mobile management of distribution networks: Distributors of farming inputs such as seeds and fertilizer could use mobile technology to gather sales and stock data, improving availability for farmers and increasing sales. It can be difficult for companies supplying agricultural inputs to monitor and manage their wide network of rural retailers. Communications and transport difficulties lead to information gaps. Retailers could record sales using a mobile camera phone to scan the barcode, sending this data straight to a central system for analysis. Building up a digital record of sales across a region could help distributors avoid supply gaps. Improved understanding of supply and demand could also help identify new market opportunities and tailor products to local needs.

Micro-insurance systems: Mobile micro-insurance systems can safeguard farmers against losses when bad weather harms their harvest, encouraging them to buy better quality seeds and invest in fertilizer and other inputs. This can improve productivity and boost farmers’ livelihoods as well as enabling suppliers to expand their market among smallholder farmers. Delivering micro-insurance via mobile avoids challenges with conventional channels that can make insurance expensive. Remote monitoring of weather avoids the need for insurers to make farm visits. With mobile micro-insurance systems, farmers also benefit from quick, secure payouts using money transfer services.

Agricultural trading platforms: Linking smallholder farmers directly with potential buyers through a mobile trading platform could help them to secure the best price

Vikram Panwar
Vikram PanwarTirupati Soil Testing ServicesIndia

e-farming is a field of action identified with the utilization of cutting edge data and specialized apparatuses and advances to increment horticultural efficiency and make accessible data that is pertinent to rural exploration, arranging, augmentation, generation, observing, advertising and exchange. so Beleiving and trust as said above we be key measure.

Gerard Sylvester
Gerard SylvesterFAOThailand

The previous contributors have identified a range of e-Agriculture services, models and approaches. A few things to be considered -

Firstly, Who are the key stakeholders that needs to be enaged at the national level when e-Agriculture services are to be designed, implemented and made sustainable. Is it only the agriculture ministry?

Secondly, If there are various stakeholders - how do we engage meaningfully with them (with respect to implementing and sustaining e-Agriculture services)? Remember, expectations are diverse between different stakeholders.

Third, who "owns" the e-Agriculture service. We see mobile-lending platforms, mobile payment systems, financial inclusion functionalities being discussed as key e-Agriculture services. Do these services also have to be "owned" by the ministry of agricuture?

Mireille Nsimire
Mireille NsimireIITADemocratic Republic of the Congo

Hi Gerardsylvester,

I just wanted to this question Do these services also have to be "owned" by the ministry of agricuture? I don't think the ministry of agriculture of countries should be the owner of the application. I think the ownership should be giving to developpers.
But The ministry of agriculture might play the role of afvocate to the telecom or ICT operator. One more tough is the national telecomshould play an important role on developping these services if there are able.

Francis Korankye
Francis KorankyeMinistry of Food and AgricultureGhana

I support LeeHBabcock's view on 'Trust'. E-agriculture strategy does not have to be developed in isolation. The key stakeholders along the agricultural value chain need to be engaged throughout the process to ensure sustainability, value/return on investment, full ownership, ease of use, relevance of the initiative. ICT-enabled technologies/applications need to be deployed to solve issues/challenges or bridge gaps identified in the agricultural sector. But not to be used just for the fun of it. The goals of the e-agriculture must align with the agriculture sector goals. Roles and responsibilities need to be spelt out explicitly to ensure success.

Ashish Narayan
Ashish NarayanInternational Telecommunication UnionStub

The need for engagement of Agriculture Sector stakeholders is key and all players in the value chain should be considered. It is also important to take into account the synergies that can be brought into agriculture sector from programs in other sectors that have an impact on agriculture. e.eg. development in telecoms / ICT, banking, health, insurance, disaster management programs, e-governance, digital lietracy programs etc.

Early discussion with these stakeholders would avoid duplication and would add greater sustainability.

sisira kumara
sisira kumaraDepartment of Agriculture Sri Lanka

As our experience in the past, there are four main factors directly related to our success or failure of our projects. 

1. People factor; though we have initiated some important programmes it was not sustained due to lack of human resources/ skilled staff involved in. For example our cyber extension project was failed due to non availability of assigned staff for regular updating of the information systems. 

2. Resource factor; there should be minimum resources to sustain our initiatives. In some initiatives, we supplied relevant equipment to start the work, but there was no mechanism to maintain and upgrade the system whenever need. 

3. Process factor; Clear identification of our needs with the processes is more important when plan e-initiatives. In some cases, we failed to identify processes correctly. We should be able to reengineer government processes through ICT's. But in practice, it needs involvement of many stakeholders...   

4. Technology factor; when we start ICTs for agriculture in 2000, we thought ICT technology was the barrier, now we realized other three factors are more important than IT technologies.

I think the proposed strategy guide should address these problems, the policy makers and implementing agencies should be able to analyze and understand their situation clearly. The guide should easily communicate with them to solve their problem.