E-Agriculture

Rachel Zedeck

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Rachel Zedeck
Rachel ZedeckBackpack Farm | KenyaKenya

Hello from Kenya / Afghanistan

Enna.. yes, we all love the idea of apps and cost can be a challenge but so is the cost of both the smart phone and internet access needed to download them.  So my 2 cents....

1.  Literacy is still a real challenge especially in arid / semi arid regions where cultures have been more isolated to commercial farming.  Classic content via sms may not be the best option unlike IVT etc... And even if they are semi-literate, most of them speak a local dialect that may not support immediate knowledge transfer in the classical form of their "mother" tongue.  I found this to be especially true here in East Africa where Swahili is the official language but very few farmers speak classic Swahili and instead speak a bleneded form with their tribal language.  So ... this may just be lumped into the feedback Marina gave on "language barrier." 

2.  Privacy ....This is still a REAL challenge for women especially in markets where they have very little personal privacy, let alone choiice or access to their own or the family's mobile phone. 

3.  Investment .... That's right. There needs to be more private secor investment.  Of course content is a challenge but so is the lack of agreements to reduce the costs Telcos can charge because I have seen some mercenary charges being passed through.  To make any model financially self-sustainable, these charges must be absorbed. 

4. Sticky content & National campaigns ... Good technical informaiton / advice should be coupled with campaigns from national Ministries . Working in a vaccum doesn't create any stickiness within rural communities. 

A little food for thought

Rachel 

 

 

Rachel Zedeck
Rachel ZedeckBackpack Farm | KenyaKenya

Alberto ... Hallelujah !  More than changing the behavior of rural / smallholder farmers, we need to change our own behavior and set realistic expectations on any ICT tool, especially when many of them have been designed with a limited commercial approach.   

But as many projects / tools continue to focus on production, we ignore "access to market."  As farmers quality and yields increase, many continue to struggle to generate significantly more income because no one bothered to engage the commercial marekt.  Even if farmers want to attract new buyers, they don't yet have these skills or just the simple financial or technical capacity to move their crops to wholesale buyers.  

I am especially frustrated with schemes planning to export their products but havden't taken into account the need for food safety certifications like Global GAP, required by the EU. But even crash crops like coffee, tea and cotton require safe production and many buyers now require better traceability.  So more than just pushing contnet, we need to be able to pull data from farmers.  Along these lines, both Grameen and ESOKO have done some interesting work but am still unsure of both the potential for their financial self-sustainabilty and growth. 

Rachel Zedeck
Rachel ZedeckBackpack Farm | KenyaKenya

A challenge greater than illiteracy, we may need to spend more time considering the viability of rural communities having good network coverage and the costs of downloads.

We used HCD to both design and test our m-agri tools with great success.  And in East Africa, youth is often legally defined as under the age of 35 so should we define "youth" or create a baseluien ?

Rachel Zedeck
Rachel ZedeckBackpack Farm | KenyaKenya

Stephen

Yes, illiteracy eems to be hold on as the classic argument for why technology won' tbe successful but even if a country' illiteracy rate is 50%, that doesn't necessarily mean they have no reading ability.  I also think the illiteracy argument discounts community driven (human centered design) models which  mean that communities are learning cooperatively not sitting alone in the dark.  This approach could be especially effective within multi-generational models.  Both East Africa and Afghanistan have some of the largest youth populations in the world who are at the very least semi-literate and serve as conduit for information transfer. 

(HI Meg!!!)  And as Meg rightly mentions, there are different delivery methods such as IVR and video. As costs of delivery decrease, these education methods have the potential to demosntrate greater impact but only if developed for larger scale adoption.

Rachel

Rachel Zedeck
Rachel ZedeckBackpack Farm | KenyaKenya

Is your primary interest EU based family farmers ?  What is their average production size?  It would be good to differentiate the challenges and goals of 1st world family farmers and the 3rd world's subsistence vs smallholder farmers.

Can you expand on your thoughts looking for weather station programs ?  There are multiple programs in East and Southern Africa trialing the use of weather stations and crop insurance enabled with mobile outeach and payment.

Rachel Zedeck
Rachel ZedeckBackpack Farm | KenyaKenya

It's interesting.... is this question focusing on the intentions and milestones of the commercial or development sector?  Of course there has been massive adoption of mobile phones but that isn't necessarily a win for anyone else but commercial entrepreneurs who identified the tremendous buying potential of emerging markets, especially those with large “youth” populations.  
 
 IF nothing else, I think the great achievement is that we have begun to see rural agriculture communities aka FARMERS as both producers and consumers instead of potential aid recipients.   I believe until a market driven approach is more widely accepted, the production, dissemination (scale) and financial sustainability of better technical content, we should be cautious about what success we report.

Rachel Zedeck
Rachel ZedeckBackpack Farm | KenyaKenya

I'm not sure it's accurate to use retention rate as a reflection of impact especially if fees are subsidized as part of a non-profit model.

Rachel Zedeck
Rachel ZedeckBackpack Farm | KenyaKenya

I'm not sure it's accurate to use retention rate as a reflection of impact especially if fees are subsidized as part of a non-profit model.

Rachel Zedeck
Rachel ZedeckBackpack Farm | KenyaKenya

Laura ... Hallelujah!   We train and supply farmers.  Potentially they should be able to double to triple their yields but free will is a funny thing. A farmer has to implement what they have learned.  And yes, where they choose to sell their final crop is also their decision. The same dynamics exist for mobile content.  I know it may be irritating to hear but farming is done in the dirt so the simple transfer of knowledge to a farmer isn't enough to increase yields or income.  If nothing else, we need to start teaching farmers gross margin models so that before they even prepare their fields they can manage not just production but the costs of production.