E-Agriculture

Konrad Plechowski

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Konrad Plechowski
Konrad PlechowskiIICDNetherlands

IICD is an international expert organization with 18 years of experience in using information and communication technology (ICT) as a tool and driver for development. IICD specializes in leveraging ICT solutions for development in the education, economic development, water and climate resilience, health and agriculture sectors and currently runs 93 projects in 12 countries.

 

In the Economic Development sector, we focus on advising on and implementing projects whereby ICT tools are used to support agricultural livelihoods, farmer entrepreneurship, and youth employment. IICD’s main focus is on strengthening individual, organizational, and institutional capacities so that smallholder farmers, farmer organizations, and small-scale entrepreneurs can use ICTs effectively and independently to achieve their development goals. This improves the ability of vulnerable small-scale producers to access markets, expertise, credit, inputs and services. Such access enables them to increase their production, sales volumes and consequently their income.

In 2013, IICD’s Economic Development program included +30 projects with 39 local partners in 7 countries in Africa and Latin America, supporting +600 producer organizations to integrate ICTs into their operations, and allowing +135,000 small-scale producers and entrepreneurs (38% of which were female) to use ICT to access production and market information.

 

IICD’s ICT solutions foster inclusion of smallholders at each stage of the agricultural value chain by improving and enhancing the following areas:

  • Access to markets and information regarding market price and demand,
  • Access to extension information, geo-data (weather, soil), and information regarding agricultural inputs (water, seeds),
  • Access to finance and financial information,
  • Management, administration and planning of the farmer organizations.

Below some of the examples of our currently running projects (for more info, please approach me or refer to some of our publications: IICD - ICT for Inclusive Agricultural Value Chains or IICD - ICT for Rural Economic Development: 5 Years of Learning).

 

  • Kenya

In Kenya, five projects successfully expand implementation of a multi-layered programme integrating access to various types of agricultural information. These projects facilitated farmers’ learning of production techniques by using multimedia for participatory recording and screening of agricultural production techniques in the field. An Interactive Voice Response (IVR) system was set up to disseminate knowledge of production techniques, complementing existing agri-business programmes aired via radio. ICTs were used to assist farmers in creating production plans and collecting yields data, as well as for granting access to up-to-date prices through market price information systems. In addition to making agricultural information more accessible for all farmers, the programme specifically investigated into and reported on the strong value of ICTs as an effective mechanism to attract and retain rural youth to agriculture.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTDvQT_Kenw&feature=youtu.be

http://www.iicd.org/about/publications/ict4d-effects-youth-icts-and-agri...

 

  • Peru

In Peru, IICD supported EcoMercadoPeru, a webbased platform, which mobilises both consumers and entrepreneurs to create and meet the demand for agro-ecological organic products. By connecting 2,951 families of ecological producers from six regions of the country to alternative markets and offering information on organic household production, the platform improves awareness of the availability of organic products, makes trade fairer, provides producers with market access and raises their income and thus ultimately quality of life.

  • Mali

In Mali, IICD and telecom operator Orange Mali successfully piloted the implementation of a market price and agricultural information service. Sènèkèla includes an SMS/USSD information service providing farmers with market price information of locally grown crops, as well as a call centre staffed by agricultural experts who provide information on production techniques for farmers.

http://www.iicd.org/articles/orange-mali-launches-new-market-price-and-a...

  • Peru

In Peru, PROMUC project ensures greater financial inclusion of rural female entrepreneurs and builds their financial management capacity, through the use of mobile-based applications and tools for credit assessments, credit history and payments management, and Microcredit and Microinsurance education. The project uses not only mobile-based applications but also an ICT-enabled programme educating businesswomen on finance and credit. IICD guided PROMUC through the implementation of ICT solutions for credit assessments with seven microfinance institutions. The project uses not only mobile-based applications but also an ICT-enabled programme educating businesswomen on finance and credit. IICD guided PROMUC through the implementation of ICT solutions for credit assessments with seven microfinance institutions. In order to integrate these ICT solutions in microfinance institutions, IICD’s training schemes always follow the methodology of community banking, targeting all credit officers, facilitators and clients. The capacity development programme developed by IICD and PROMUC in 2013 served 21,000 women and aims to reach out to 160,000. The programme aims not only to empower female entrepreneurs in business management but also to improve their household economy and live healthier lives. The project trains them in financial management to minimise the risks of bad spending habits that could lead to bankruptcy.

http://www.iicd.org/articles/icts-bolstering-business-and-life-skills-of...

http://www.iicd.org/articles/digital-skills-and-tools-empower-female-far...

  • Kenya

In Kenya, extension workers have been trained in using mobile data collection for crop and disease monitoring as well as for registering farmers and collecting information about their production.

  • Peru

In Peru, IAA (Instituto para una Alternativa Agraria) project aims to directly benefit 45,125 farming families in 8 regions of Peru, improving their guinea pigs, diary and crafts production volumes and stabilizing them to meet the demand. The overall goal is to improve the quality of producer families’ supply and to increase their sales volumes. IAA project improves the producer families’ market sales through the use of ICT-based coordination and promotion of the production, integrated with ICT-based distance training to improve the quality and production volumes.

  • Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, IICD and its partners launched SIM-Agri, a platform giving 3,000 farmers access to vital market information via mobile phones and computers. Market price collectors around the country gather information at various farmers’ markets and then send information about the prices and products at those markets to the SIM-Agri platform. For the price of a normal text message, the farmers can ascertain the prices of their crops in various markets and learn when and where they can earn the best price for their produce.

http://www.iicd.org/articles/market-information-system-test-kicks-off-in...

  • Bolivia

In Bolivia, PROINPA project strengthens technological and commercial innovation in local farming systems, through the use of ‘extensionist toolbox’ consisting of various ICT tools and systems by local extension workers.

  • Peru

In Peru, our ANPE project seeks to strengthen associative marketing channels and to position the Ecoferias "Frutos de la tierra" in Ancash, Cajamarca and Cusco regions with the use of ICT. This aims to increase farmers’ market access and to improve the economy of their family members. To achieve this, youth of the farmer families associated with ANPE use ICT for data management, communication strategies and marketing.

http://www.iicd.org/articles/young-people-in-peru-use-social-media-to-pr...

  • Burkina Faso

In Burkina Faso, NUNUNA project implemented internal and external information and communication system for shea-collecting women's organisation, which strongly contributes to the increase in revenues by facilitation of marketing, and communication and information flows.

Konrad Plechowski
Konrad PlechowskiIICDNetherlands

Rural economic development has been a priority within IICD’s strategy since we were first established over 20 years ago. During the past five years only, almost 40 projects have been supported across Africa and Latin America as part of our overarching programme to promote socio-economic rural development through increased ICT access and use.

At IICD, we empower and capacitate Farmer Organisations and, via them, smallholder farmers, as well as other Value Chain actors, to effectively use ICT solutions. We facilitate the creation of multi-stakeholder partnerships, and act as a bridge between Value Chain stakeholders in order to enable them to jointly design and implement such ICT solutions which are the most relevant for their local context.  

IICD specifically supports stakeholders of the programmes focused on rural economic development via our integrated capacity building approach. For that, we work with our broad, well-established network of local implementing, as well as supporting partners such as ICT companies, IT service providers, IT consultants and software developers, training and capacity building institutions, M&E specialists, and others. This network has deep knowledge of national and international ICT developments and a proven track record of joint ‘ICT for Agriculture’ deployments. We also facilitate knowledge sharing and reflection on local implementation experiences for joint lobby & advocacy to policy makers and decision makers in the enabling environment.

Still far too often, capacity development within ICT4D interventions appears to be considered mainly on the individual level, but not on the level of organizational strengthening of the organisations that shape the direct context and support structures that these individuals rely on.

IICD’s conviction is that what is crucial is the ability of such local organizations to appropriate relevant ICT tools and integrate them in their work and service delivery. Such institutional development is generally only achieved when the focus is on social innovation - the business transformation supported by technology, and not on the technology itself. Though the types of use of ICTs in agriculture of course keep evolving, foundational capacity and intent are not shaped by the new technologies themselves.

From our experience, we strongly believe in the diversity of capacity building activities required for effective and sustainable ICT use over time, especially at the organizational level.

Capacity building needs to be clearly understood in broader terms and not only as training interventions, but also coaching and mentoring, knowledge sharing, relationship building and networking with local technical providers and resource persons, etc. It’s essential to realize that capacity to design, develop, implement and maintain ICT solutions requires guidance and support through the business transformation processes that take place when ICT tools are adopted for agricultural purposes.

IICD has almost 20 years of experience in introducing ICTs for agriculture in development context. This experience shows that the use of the range of recently emerging ICT solutions positively affects inclusion of smallholders in
the Agricultural Value Chains, providing that it is supported by thorough capacity building of all the stakeholders. Therefore, we suggest that any ICT4D implementation should be supported by integrated, widely understood approach to capacity building.

As food for thought, here is in details what IICD’s integrated capacity building approach - referred to as our Social Innovation Process - includes:

• Conducting an in-depth analysis of the local information and communication needs within the Value Chain and mapping the existing information and communication flows and channels;
• Enhancing Farmer Organisations’ and other Value Chain actors’ awareness of potential ICT -based solutions and their prospective added value;
• Supporting the Farmer Organisations and other Value Chain actors in defining and formulating the objectives of the implementation of ICT solutions, therefore gaining adequate understanding of the current state of the situation (e.g. in terms of available technologies) and business processes (e.g. how people do their work);
• Linking the Farmer Organisations and other Value Chain actors to the network of local (ICT) technical providers and ensuring their close and smooth collaboration;
• Training all stakeholders to acquire all relevant ICT and non-ICT related skills needed to successfully work with the ICT solutions. That includes, apart from building ICT capacities within Farmer Organisations, directly building digital and mobile literacy of smallholder farmers to capitalise on the introduced ICT solutions;
• Assisting the Farmer Organisations and other Value Chain actors in the design, development, implementation and maintenance of an ICT solution that is relevant and achievable in the local context of the Value Chain (technological and social dimensions) and will remain sustainable;
• Guiding the Farmer Organisations and other Value Chain actors through the business transformation and change management process needed to sustainably embed ICT solutions into organisational processes;
• Guiding the Farmer Organisations and other Value Chain actors in scaling up the ICT solution.

For more details, I suggest going to some of IICD's publications, e.g.:

- ICT Solutions for Inclusive Agricultural Value Chains

http://www.iicd.org/about/publications/ict-solutions-for-inclusive-agricultural-value-chains/

- IICD Approach: From Need to Sustainability

http://www.iicd.org/about/publications/the-iicd-approach-from-need-to-sustainability/

- ICT for rural economic development: five years of learning

http://www.iicd.org/about/publications/ict-for-rural-economic-development-five-years-of-learning/

 

Konrad Plechowski
Konrad PlechowskiIICDNetherlands

IICD (International Institute for Communication and Development - an international NGO, based in The Netherlands, specialized in ICT for Development) has recently released a paper informed by the findings from the exploratory, qualitative research focused on three projects located in western Kenya.

It aimed to explore how digital tools and skills influence the motivation of young farmers and support attracting and retaining youth to agriculture. Publication showcases in details varied dynamics of ICT uptake by youths, identifying youth’s ICT-enabled journey into profitable farming and its various social and economic consequences. It provides a number of recommendations that can further encourage young famers’ uptake and use of ICTs to support their agricultural activities. It showcases that youths benefit from the impact of ICT, as ICT has been found to catalyse and accelerate organisational development and value chain work, especially in relation to involvement, motivation and commitment of youth to improved management and development of their farms.

Paper was also recently positively acknowledged at the IFAD's 'ICT for Youth' event, organizaed by IFAD, IICD, and CTA in the framework of the Year of Family Farming (Thursday 25/9/2014).

Some interesting findings:

- ICTs can play a role in countering youth migration to urban areas by enhancing access to market information, production techniques, new technologies and financing opportunities. The use of ICTs enables choice, the option to stay on farms and take full advantage of new technologies and farming techniques, while incorporating valuable traditional practices and knowledge. Efforts should be aimed at further fostering youth involvement in agricultural activities and decision-making processes. These efforts can seize on the youth’s affinity for using ICTs, their capacity to innovate and their propensity for taking higher entrepreneurial risks.

- The organisations implementing the programme in western Kenya have set up five farmer-ICT-hubs between them, located near existing markets or collection centres frequented by the farmers. The centres are open to farmers and community members and are used to provide training, internet access and a variety of support and information services to the farmers. The centres train farmer group members on generic and applied ICT skills, such as ICT for financial management, thus improving transparency and management of the farmer groups. All three projects provide ICT training to support farmers in obtaining information about good farming practices and market price information, and use multimedia and video for participatory recording and screening of production techniques.

In order to facilitate exchange and learning with farmers on production techniques, IICD supported partners in capacity development on multimedia and the use of video for recording and screening of production techniques in the field. Practices are coming from both the farmers (peer-to-peer) and from the Kenyan Agriculture Research Institute. The videos are edited into short, 10-minute clips to be screened at the ICT Hubs, in schools, churches or existing farmer meetings, facilitated by extension officers to improve learning.

- DYNAMICS OF ICT UPTAKE BY YOUTH

Individual’s personal motivations and drivers, in combination with resources they have available to them, are key factors in determining how individuals can act and bring about change – for themselves as well as in relation to their communities. Efforts of individuals are often aided or constrained by (social) structures that surround them, such as organisations, policies, laws and customs. The research conducted provides an insight into some of these motivations, structural constraints and opportunities that play an important role in the adoption of ICT by young farmers in western Kenya. Overall, the current context - in terms of market situation, access to ICTs, and social norms – appears to offer favourable external conditions for the application of ICT in farming by young farmers.

- The study has identified the following youth’s ICT-enabled journey into profitable farming:

  • Young farmers struggle to make ends meet: low productivity, low income and intensive labour render farming activities unprofitable. Youths hear about the ‘digital world’: an appealing call that they do not want to miss out on. Some of the entry points: previous basic computer literacy – presence of an ICT Centre – need to access markets or increase production – to ease communication – as a doorway to a better job – as an alternative to long- distance travels for consultations.
  • Young farmers are introduced to the digital world through general ICT skills, basic office productivity applications and Internet use trainings in the ICT centre. During training youth identify the potential of ICT to render their farming activities profitable.
  • Young farmers start applying ICTs to obtain the best market prices, keep records, find crops
in high demand, get information on pest and disease control, access new farming practices and agricultural technologies, and communicate with other farmers. The ICT used is often introduced in the context of the use of a particular value chain and product but the skills and insights are quickly applied to other crops and chains.
  • Early adopters of ICT for farm management
see benefits and return on investment (ROI), increased access to expert advice services and higher incomes, which in turn act as motivation to continue applying ICT tools on farming.
  • Due to their increased technical knowledge and higher incomes, increased recognition comes from parents, family and community members. These young farmers are approached by extension workers, private sector companies and farmer organisations, where they take new roles at different levels.
  • Other community members, inspired by early adopters and their success, follow suit.

- The study has also identified the following new ways of ‘harvesting’ information young farmers use ICTs to:

  • Obtain the best market prices,
  • Keep records,
  • Find crops in high demand,
  • Get information on pest and disease control,
  • Access to new farming practices and agricultural technologies,
  • Communicate with other farmers and awareness raising.

- The study found the majority of the young farmers that applied their newly acquired information and skills to farming to be male, a fact that begs the question of whether the introduction and use of ICT contributes to increased discrepancies in social status and recognition between a community’s young men and women. The study has shown the social fabric of the communities to be transformed by the increased access and use of ICT-enabled informational resources by youth. This increase in returns, in terms of income as well as in recognition and social status, and its influence on the communities’ economic and political power relations, might be replicating, and potentially exacerbating, existing gender biases, albeit unintentionally.

The findings in the study point to a number of recommendations that can further encourage young famers’ uptake and use of ICTs to support their agricultural activities. Although the list is not exhaustive, the below points should be considered when designing or implementing youth, ICTs and agriculture activities:

  • Focus on young smallholder families who already made
a conscious choice for farming and are likely to apply ICTs to their farming activities
  • Differentiate and tailor ICT training approaches and user support on the basis age, marital status, gender, and ownership of or access to land
  • Pay attention to removing obstacles that prohibit young women from fully participating in, and taking advantage of, ICT-related activities
  • Furnish ICT centres as learning spaces to support informal exchanges and networking by young farmers (male and female)
  • Encourage the emergence of diverse early adopters and role models to inspire diverse profiles and groups of youths to follow suit
  • Consider strategies to diffuse integration of ICT from specific value chain crops to diverse crops and activities
  • Include ongoing monitoring, evaluation and learning activities as part of the programmes to identify unintended negative effects and undertake corrective action when necessary.

 

If you want to know more, please refer to the full publication: http://www.iicd.org/about/publications/ict4d-effects-youth-icts-and-agriculture

Here you can find a 5-minutes long movie, which presents the findings of the study in a creative, interactive way: 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTDvQT_Kenw&feature=youtu.be

 

In general, in IICD’s experience, the appropriation of ICTs by youth in support of farming activities is creating significant shifts in the social dynamics in rural farming communities between the youth and the elders, quite similarly to the dynamics between men and women.

Strategies to support youth to use the ICT tools for their purposes need to be deliberate and well informed of particular opportunities and limitations within local contexts, and consequences for dynamics within the communities.

We have found (and the sessions we’ve coordinated at the ICT4Ag in Rwanda in November 2013 have reconfirmed) that working with youth or women’s groups is a key driver for success at the grassroots, but only if support activities do not only build the capacity of individual members of the group, but fully integrate the group’s own vision, goals and idiosyncratic needs into the capacity building programmes.