Armenia to develop a national e-agriculture strategy


Armenia to develop a national e-agriculture strategy

On Monday 19 November 2018, FAO is organizing a workshop on “The development of a national e-agriculture strategy for Armenia” within the framework of the EU-funded FAO project “ENPARD Technical Assistance to the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Armenia”. The workshop will provide the opportunity to understand how Armenia can develop its national e-agriculture strategy.

Information and communication technologies (ICTs) have long been recognized as key enablers for bridging the digital divide and achieving the three dimensions of sustainable development: economic growth, environmental balance and social inclusion.

ICTs have proven to be instrumental in the delivery of information and services in health, education, trade, commerce and other fields, and have contributed to increased transparency and accountability. Nowadays agriculture is much more than farming, it becomes more and more integrated with other sectors and this integration requires optimization through digitalization. 

The e-agriculture is the application of information and communication technologies to agriculture, including crops, livestock, fisheries and forestry. It embraces the whole food system. It includes more traditional technologies, such as radio, television, mobile phones, and new digital technologies, such are drones, satellites, sensor technology, Internet of Things (IoT), Machine to Machine (M2M).

The aim of e-agriculture is to enhance agriculture and rural development through improved information and communication processes. It involves the conceptualization, design, development, evaluation and application of innovative ways to use ICTs in the rural domain.  Technological application, facilitation, support of standards and norms, capacity development, education and extension all belong to the broader concept of e-agriculture.

The agricultural sector can benefit from digital technologies if well-articulated at national level. “Developing a national strategy is a participatory process, says FAO Information and Knowledge Management Officer. It takes into account the country’s own rural development goals. It involves actors from public and private sectors, smallholders and family farmers, NGOs and academia. Adopting a national approach to e-agriculture will result in improved livelihoods and incomes for people living in rural communities.” 

The milestones leading to the strategy

In 2009, to support the initiative of the Government of Armenia aimed at improving the agricultural advisory services provided to farmers, FAO in collaboration with the Ministry of Agriculture of the RA, launched the Project for Establishment of a Virtual Extension and Research Information and Communication Network (VERCON) in Armenia.

Under the project, was created a common web-based information sharing and communication platform for Armenian research and advisory institutions equipping them with efficient networking tools and capacities to help improve quality of the advisory services provided to farmers. FAO contributed its broad and valuable experience and expertise in the development of the AgroWeb International Network for Central and Eastern Europe , Armenia has participated in since early 2000s, and VERCON (Virtual Extension and Research Communication Network) conceptual model, successfully adopted by several countries having VERCON as a conceptual pivot for their national agricultural research and extension communication networks.

In 2017, during the 5th meeting of the Eastern Partnership Panel on Agriculture and Rural Development ("ARD Panel"), the Armenian Ministry of Agriculture requested the assistance of FAO to develop a national e-agriculture strategy. This request was reiterated during the 41st session of the FAO Regional Conference for Europe (ERC ) in May, during which the FAO member countries in Europe and Central Asia encouraged FAO to continue its efforts on knowledge sharing on policies and good practices, in particular with focus on smallholders and family farmers and provide a neutral regional platform on which to share knowledge and support the implementation of national e-agriculture strategies for countries in Europe and Central Asia. 

As participatory process, the workshop of 19 November is the first step towards the development of a full strategy.

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