E-Agriculture

Josh Woodard

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Josh Woodard
Josh WoodardFHI 360Thailand

Thanks for sharing, Eliz-de. You mention in your post

We can consider it as an example of the will from public and private sector to encourage a national strategy and it had as a result the creation of the first ICT4Ag case studies in the country.

I'm curious if this initial will from the public and private sectors to encourage a national strategy resulted in the formalization of a strategy. If so, can you share more about that experience? If it did not, what happened to derail it?

Josh Woodard
Josh WoodardFHI 360Thailand

I agree with you, Ajit, that any e-Agriculture strategy has to cover much more than just how farmers will use ICT. You've touched on many of the other factors that are important to be considered, all of which I think highlight the importance of having broad stakeholder engagement as part of the strategy development. That means relevant ministries and regulators, agribusinesses, farmer associations, financial institutions, telecom operators, technology service providers, content providers, researchers, NGOs, and so on. A more narrow process risks a resulting strategy that is completely divorced from reality, and will provide limited value to the progress of e-Ag in the country.

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.

Josh Woodard
Josh WoodardFHI 360Thailand

As with any application of technology, in their early days there is likely to be lots of experimentation and lots of failures. This is all part of the process towards mainstreaming the technology into society. The same is the case for e-Agriculture, although in this case we are actually talking about many different types of technologies (mobile services, remote sensing, radio, video, etc.).

The downside of all of the experimentation, is that it is often done in a way that is uncoordinated and inefficient, this is where a national strategy can help. It is important to note that such a strategy cannot be top down and driven by only one party. Doing so will not only make its adoption unlikley to yield benefits, but can also have negative effects by constraining innovation and experimentation. It needs to be developed using a collaboration process, that engages all stakeholders (from farmers to government agencies to the private sector). The output then becomes not a fiat as to how e-agriculture should be implemented in the country, but rather a shared vision from all stakeholders that can help them to reduce inefficiencies and maximize coordination.

The case for its development is all around. Just look at the uncoordinated efforts in e-agriculture in most countries, often resulting in a failure for e-ag to live up to its expectations in bringing wide benefits to farmers and throughout ag value chains. Now in fairness, even with a national e-ag strategy there will always be some shortfalls in terms of what is delivered and what is expected. Again though, if well done, a strategy is likely to yield greater returns on investments in e-ag in a country than uncoordinated efforts.

Josh Woodard
Josh WoodardFHI 360Thailand

Following up on Andrea's post, I was actually just out in Zambia a few weeks ago conducting a workshop for 12 different local agribusinesses on how to use low-cost video to create their own extension videos. One of those businesses was a honey producer. Through a partnership with Cisco, we were able to pass along free Flip cameras to each company to get them started--although some many end up investing in slightly more robust equipment as well.

We should know within the next six months how many of these agribusinesses have been able to develop their own videos and to what extent they are achieving their objectives of improving the sharing of best practices with farmers.

This workshop--and others like it that I have facilitated in Kenya, Mozambique, Ghana, and Senegal--are funded by a USAID project (FACET) and structured around a toolkit I wrote on the subject entitled Integrating Low-Cost Video into Agricultural Development Projects: A Toolkit for Practitioners, which can be found online at http://www.ictforag.org/video.

Unrelated to this response, but also potentially of interest, we also just released a second toolkit focused on radio entitled Interactive Radio for Agricultural Development Projects: A Toolkit for Practitioners, which is online at http://www.ictforag.org/radio.

 

Josh Woodard
Josh WoodardFHI 360Thailand

A couple of others have already mentioned the potential impact of using low-cost video technology to create and disseminate information with farmers. The USAID FACET project has developed Integrating Low-Cost Video into Agricultural Development Projects: A Toolkit for Practitioners to help organizations interested in using video to do so in a more deliberate way. The toolkit is available online at http://ictforag.org/video/.