What are the specific constraints you have faced in the use of ICTs for sustainable intensification of horticulture crop base

What are the specific constraints you have faced in the use of ICTs for sustainable intensification of horticulture crop base

What are the specific constraints you have faced in the use of ICTs for sustainable intensification of horticulture crop based systems and do you have any recommendations to decision makers for the use of ICTs in SCPI of horticulture-based systems? (NGOs, civil society and governments)

Simone Sala
Simone SalaFAOItaly

ICTs can surely play a key role in promoting the sustainable production intensification of horticultural crop based system. At the same time, there are barriers preventing rural stakeholders from capitalizing the application of ICTs and challenges that can jeopardize the successful employment of ICTs to advance the horticultural sector – beyond the typical ones linked in ICTs for agriculture (e.g. digital divide(s), low adoption of ICTs, usability of applications, inappropriate and untimely content).

I would like to share some of these barriers and challenges, inviting all participants to the Forum to provide their remarks and add more of those – specifically focusing on horticultural production.

Among the main barriers, the financial investments needed to setup ICT-based infrastructures supporting horticultural production is the first and foremost. The use of in-situ sensors can positively help monitoring horticultural crop production, optimizing input management and reducing overall costs, though they require an investment to buy/rent the devices, installing them, setting up a wireless network to collect the data feeding the related databases and information management systems, and finally maintaining the infrastructure up and running. Investments are needed also to build or strengthen the capacity of farmers or their partners who will operate the sensor and analyse the measurements being taken to operationalize follow-up management activities. Clearly, the same applies with the use of remote sensing technologies used for monitoring horticultural crop production.

Decision makers can play a difference by incentivizing the adoption of ICTs at the farm level through grants, facilitated access to credit and tax incentives (wherever it is worthwhile). Moreover, decision makers can sponsor capacity building programs for both farmers and rural advisory service providers, so to create the conditions for increasing the feasibility of ICT-based initiatives.

Barriers and challenges exist at a broader level, as the infrastructure of rural areas often suffer from low investments and attention from both the public and private sector – lowering the quality of service of information and communication systems in rural areas that may help rural communities leapfrogging. For example, remote and underprivileged areas suffer frequent power and communication cuts, and lack the availability of technologies and capacities if compared to urban centres. As a result, rural areas do not present a favourable environment to make ICTs and the related innovations practicable for their communities.

Policy and decision makers have the responsibility to place rural areas at the centre of pro-innovation policies rather than at their peripheries, fostering the creation of smart rural areas as much as urban ones. Evidence shows that investments in rural areas prove to be good value for money, beyond the satellite positive outcomes of keeping farmers actively engaged in agriculture as custodians of local land and knowledge.

Another important challenge is the scepticism who farmers often show towards ICT solutions in agricultural production – including horticulture. Indeed, farmers tend to see these technologies as something too advanced and complicated for them, and understandably they do not place very much trust in impersonal digital system listing a set of operations they should perform on their own fields.

Policy makers and NGO should adopt technology stewardship models (as recently discussed with one of our colleagues active in this Forum, Mr. Keron Bascombe) to help farmers get familiar with these technologies. Tech-savvy acquaintances of farmers, such as younger members of households, can help bridging this gap and carve for themselves a new role as service providers in rural societies.

Furthermore, a useful approach is the one employed by Farmer Field Schools and Science Field Shops where farmers can test technologies and learn by doing. Such approach would also allow building ad hoc low-cost ICT solutions – such as hot-air balloon to take aerial photos of the fields for image processing – that can further facilitate the adoption of such technologies. As I stated at the beginning of my message, these are just some examples. I really look forward hearing yours!

Thembani Malapela
Thembani MalapelaFood and Agriculture Organization of the United NationsItaly

Thank your Dr Simone Sala for your introductory comments and we looking forward to yet another lively discussion this week.

May l take this opportunity to thank those who have provided their comments during the course of this forum discussion so far, this week presents yet also another opportunity of sharing your comments in this forum 'The Role of ICTs in Sustainable Crop Production Intensification (SCPI) of horticulture crop based systems'.

Allow me to re-state this week's discussion question which is :

What are the specific constraints you have faced in the use of ICTs for sustainable intensification of horticulture crop based systems and do you have any recommendations to decision makers for the use of ICTs in SCPI of horticulture-based systems? (NGOs, civil society and governments)

We are looking forward to your contribution to this question.

Meanwhile, kindly note that due to the enormous interests in the questions under discussion and for the benefit of new members who did not manage to share their contributions. The two previous discussion questions ( Question 1 and Question 2) are still open for contributions, to comment kindly refer to the respective question tabs on the platform.

We look forward to keep receiving your comments!

Thembani Malapela

On Behalf of the forum Moderators.

Wilbert  Johnsson
Wilbert Johnsson Independant consultant South Africa

 Thanks Dr Sala for such a detauiled and reflective share,

Adding on , we can generally group these constraints into three main categories which are :
A .poor-enabling environment
B. lack of access and 
C. dissemination of unrelated information
Main common specific constraints: 
•    lack of 'tailored' ICT applications, 
•    ICts s ever increasing sophistication which imposes enhanced human capital requirements,
•    Poor ICTs infrastructure development,
•    high cost of broadcast equipment, 
•    high charges for radio/television presentations, 
•    high cost of access/interconnectivity and electricity power problems. 
•    Adoption and adaptation to local needs are and the willingness of the targeted end user to accept ..
•    As highlighted by Allan Goodrich on the forum–issue of Trust ( the farmers and the ICT providers ) 
•     lack of confidence in operating ICTs
•     lack of awareness of the benefits of ICTs
Recommendation –policy makers.
As echoed by cmapfunde on the forum, . There is a need for more availability and openness in accessing data and information, making it ‘interoperable’ and development of relevant apps to effectively and easily process and present this information in a useful way
1.    Increased Dissemination of  related agriculture-related information
2.    Better infrastructural facilities
3.     More awareness-cum-training programmes on ICTs should be encouraged among farmers by agricultural state departments, research organizations and its allied departments in order to increase the confidence, competence and skill in using ICTs for development. 
4.    Use of renewable energy such as solar panels would be recommended in order to overcome erratic and fluctuating power supply in the state particularly in rural areas. 
5.     Increased engagement in social media among rural youths on farming in order to enhance the communication pattern among themselves and extension personnel
6.    ICT tools should be readily available and in close proximity to the users. The multimedia platforms  websites used should provide information that is well packaged, reputable and in the appropriate languages ,vernacular if possible.
7.    Introduce ICTs through FFS ( farmer Field School) 
8.    Develop the apps with the user.
9.     ICT tools need to be simple and affordable. Content should be relevant to targeted youth, valuable, treasured, localized and dependable. The use of YouTube, Twitter and WhatsApp in agricultural knowledge access by institutions and among the youth should be expanded and widely popularized.
10.     extension workers should learn how to manipulation all the ICT tools effectively so that they will be able to teach the farmers by creating zonal internet centres in  their respective communities
Thank you.


Minal Sawant
Minal SawantTata Consultancy ServicesIndia

The main challenges faced are,

  • Internet connectivity: This is the major problem we faced as in Rural areas of India the connectivity is not very good. The solution for this problem is the offline mode for system.
  • Literacy of farmers: Most of the rural population is not very tech savvy. This is avoided by hybrid mode of the system, the farmers can opt for IVR, SMS or mobile apps. Then gradually they can be trained about the use of mobile apps.
  • Cost of the system: If the number of farmers using IVR and SMS, the cost can be high due to the calls and SMS. The solution is to gradually move the system from IVR and SMS to 100% mobile app based. This will ensure that the cost will be minimal with all the benefits of the system.
DOSSE SOSSOUGAAmis des Etrangers au Togo (ADET)Togo

The same in Togo for farmers. They do not have money and ICT use education

DOSSE SOSSOUGAAmis des Etrangers au Togo (ADET)Togo

In Togo, internet connection is not available everywhere. In rural zones ICTuse is not an available.

Fadhili  Terri
Fadhili TerriRijk Zwaan LtdTanzania

I’d like to thank all previous participants(@simone_sala ,@thembani.malapela and @John-w-)in this subject. I believe that all of you here do agree that ICTs are making it easier for us to connect with farmers in documenting, packaging and understanding our agricultural needs. This is a very fascinating topic to me as an ICT practitioner, who has a great interest in linking my knowledge to the horticultural field. To my opinion the main constraints I have experienced are:

-Lack of demonstration sites and innovation labs -although there are ICT trainings in educational institutions, some try to teach lightly regarding topics in agriculture, for my case, I learned about hydroponic systems, which I never had hands on experience and didn’t even know how it looked like, but had to do an exam for it. By larger growers and successful farmers networking with educational institutions to create interest, It will really stimulate the future of ICTs to all.

-Poor Supporting Environment/Infrastructure-Horti-crop business doesn’t  get enough attention as it needs, especially in Africa. we are experiencing a lack of clear policies to support ICTs and linking them with agriculture, and also deficient innovative agricultural technologies investment projects.

-High Telecommunication costs-Setting up a new system to monitor crops can be a pinch to a small grower as it needs an extensive investment in setting up, operating costs and maintenance.

-Complexity of ICT systems-Sometimes we see older people and people with limited education  being scared of computers, illiteracy, or maybe they just lack interest…maybe, they just find them too complicated, but that same group of people find mobile phones very easy to use(especially for social networking),as the mobile phone market is making a tremendous revolution, developing of simple apps for these people can make things a lot more easier, and an interest in ICT’s can be very quickly built. e. g. creating a weather control app which gathers information from simple sensors installed in the farm.(small investment for necessary production results VS 'high tech' big investment for more professional results)

  However, the population of the developing countries is much higher than the developed ones. Thus, the use of simple and affordable technologies is undoubtedly the upcoming solution in making ICTS more efficient in sustainable intensification in Agriculture, especially in the developing countries context.

Lydia Kitonga

I concur with the discussed constraints and solutions by the participants. Some solutions lie within the goverment policies and implementation of the same. This can be achieved through goverment mandated institutions which oversee the horticulture sector.

I am explaining my view, which I faced during implementation in various ICT projects.

1. Organisations are highly technical to develop best solutions for any type of location, community or audience, technologies do not face any road block for successful implementation.

2. Farmers and SHGs are very acceptable for any new idea, they learn very fast.

3. Internet and Mobile network unavailability is an issue to some places but offline solutions help to overcome it, we did it.

4. Major issue is Government bodies, they take maximum time to accept and implement any project, inter Government organisation collaboration is almost impossible, unless there is not direct order from top bosses.

5. Officers attitude and line of reporting is big issue, they do not accept instruction from a junior officer, government procedures on payments aspect is very complex and slow.

Harris Moysiadis
Harris MoysiadisFuture IntelligenceGreece

Thank you Dr Simone and Thembani for the introduction. 

From my experience, I would summarise the constraints as the lack of partners' commitment to the required and emergent common bridging "organisational" layer. This layer is a prerequisite to be formatted among the ICT provider, the farming organisation, the local policy makers and the local community. When ICT projects intervene in conventional activities and markets a whole new world opens up that certainly needs a constant supporting environment to alter as-is and status quo behaviours and enable total attitudes' transformation.

So Simone despite your comments being profoundly true and well-targeted as technology progresses neither money nor complexity won't be the problem. Business/ technical continuity and (micro/ macro) environment's support will, however. 

Thank you for the discussion.


Harris Moysiadis