E-Agriculture

Shahid Akbar

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Shahid Akbar
Shahid Akbar Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID) Bangladesh

Government intervention is must to promote usage of ICT and improve rural communication services. Supportive policy will ensure respective organizations (both private and public sectors) and initiatives to focus more on relevant content and services targeting to the rural communicties. Incentives (Tax benefit & subsidy for connectivity, services etc.), engagement (iinvolve in local level decision making process) and recognition can be introduced to create positive impression among the actors.

Shahid Akbar
Shahid Akbar Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID) Bangladesh

e-Agriculture is the most fancy and hot issue but not a 'mandatory'' kind of issue for many development practitioners in developing countries. So we have not seen any significant global initiative to promote ICT usage in agriculture though developed countries already adopted all modern ICT facilities in agriculture sector. When in Bangladesh we are talking about basic ICT usage for extension, most of the developed countries are using sensor or sattelite image based ICT applications for agriculture.

Though e-Agricluture has been identified as one of the action lines identified in the Declaration and Plan of Action (2003) of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The "Tunis Agenda for the Information Society," published on 18 November 2005, emphasizes the leading facilitating roles that UN agencies need to play in the implementation of the Geneva Plan of Action. FAO hosted the first e-Agriculture workshop in June 2006, bringing together representatives of leading development organizations involved in agriculture. The meeting served to initiate development of an effective process to engage as wide a range of stakeholders involved in e-Agriculture, and resulted wide spread discussion among various stakeholders on usage of ICT in agricultural sector. But in field, not much commendable progress achieved till now. 

e-Agriculture now needs leadership where FAO can take initiative jointly with other relevant stakeholders and Governments can implement with necessary customization. The major issues for next few years are -

1. Lack of National e-Agriculture strategies to guide and lead to a path

2. Capacity of the relevant organizations in terms of HR (Skill & Knowledge) and technology.

3. Committment of the government and development partners

4. Lack of coordination among the actors, even within government and development agencies

A global initiative to facilitate, support, monitor and mentor as global knowledge hub can be useful to overcome these challenges.

Resources are not the challenge rather utilization of the resources is the major challenge to introduce e-Agriculture.

Thanks,
Shahid

Shahid Akbar
Shahid Akbar Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID) Bangladesh

We have experienced mixed results from different kinds of e-Agriculture initiatives in Bangladesh and the e-Krishok (Electronic Farmer) initiative of Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development is one of the success cases till now. The major feartures of e-Krishok are -

1. The Inclusive Business Model : The service has been designed in such a form that the poor and remotest farmer can be served by using ICT tools like mobile phone.  

2. Sustainability and Scaling up : Embedding the service with different services like integrating in a running project or embed as VAS for inputs like pesticides, seed, feeds (Poultry and Fishery) and fertilizers, so that when the farmer buy the input, s/he is getting the e-Krishok service too within the sam price. Due to the partnerships with DAE, Telecom Operators and Input companies, its easy to scale at larger farmer groups.

3. Bundling of services : e-Krishok covers extension to market linkage service to cater as a bundle of services.

4. Innovation : To respond the farmers need and technological changes, innovation has become the most important actor to make e-Krishok successful. BIID started with targeting the access to information issue, but now developed mobile based solutions and introduced markt linkage service.

Please visit us at www.biid.org.bd and www.e-krishok.com for further info.

Regards,
Shahid 

Shahid Akbar
Shahid Akbar Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID) Bangladesh

Hi Festus,

From our experience, we count awareness is a major constraint and surely extension is not highly efficient to address all issues in Bangladesh, I am sure, this is similar in Nigeria, like many other African countries.

We dont think that 'FEW' mobile contacts will change the scenario, rather we need comprehensive and long term initiatives to change the social behaviour of farmers.

FRS is mainly the digitization of existing fertilizer usage information & recommendation of the government. And we consulted farmers for developing the interface of the service to ensure uner friendliness. Appreciate if pl share more about the Nigerian experiences on fertilizer usages and scopes to integrate farmers input in this (FRS) process.

Regards,

Shahid

 

Shahid Akbar
Shahid Akbar Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID) Bangladesh

Hi Bruce,

I am aware of the IRRI Nutrient Management tool and it seems similar objective, but usage wise, I found FRS is much user friendly, specially for the local communities.

Yes, awareness is one of the major constraint and also another part is endorsement of the government. Though FRS is a tool of a govt. institute but the concerned department couldnt communicate the service through the govt. channels like extension.

Regards,

Shahid

 

Shahid Akbar
Shahid Akbar Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID) Bangladesh

Dear All,

Great to see this discussion point and like to share one very interesting experience of Bangladesh.

BIID is promoting ICT enabled information and advisory services for the farmers under our e-Krishok program. One of the service under this program is Fertilizer Recommendation Solution (FRS) which was developed by SRDI, Ministry of Agriculture with support from Katlayst.

The general fertilizer usage in Bangladesh mostly determined by the farmer themselves and sometimes retailers (fertilizer seller) play an importnat role. From different studies and practical experiences of the field, it is observed that farmers are not using proper dose & type due to lack of appropriate knowledge and some other reasons. And it contributes to increase the production cost aw well as harmful for the health & environment.  Thus, the FRS concept enrolled to make an online based solution to guide the farmers to know the right dose and type of fertilizer to be used for the speciifc location & item. Farmers only need to put some basic information about his/her location (to identify the soil type & nature), land size, item (crop) and other features (irrigation, typology etc.). Based on the information, the software will give a Prescription about the fertilizer management inclusing quantity, type and usage details. Farmers can get a printout of this from a telecentre / information centre.

The primary findings categorically showed that FRS suggest lower dose than the existing practices. But due to lack of awareness of the farmers, FRS couldn't  become very popular.

We understand that FRS can be a killer ICT application which can ensure multi-fold benefits to the farmers.

Regards,

Shahid

BIID, Bangladesh

 

Shahid Akbar
Shahid Akbar Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID) Bangladesh

Dear Judy,

Thanks for share these excellent examples, and just to add our field experiences of e-Krishok, we also observed that farmers are in need of input (mostly pesticides and seed).

Usually, retailers at local level promote different inputs and some are not good quality, but due to low price and high commission they pursue these low grade inputs to the farmers. Also it happens due to non-availability of quality inputs at local level. As e-Krishok is building awareness among the farmers on using quality inputs, we find now that farmers are also very keen to avail the quality input even though these are high priced.

In a recent move, BIID partnered with ACI Limited to offer quality inputs (pesticide, seed and fertilizer) to ensure reaching good quality input at farmers doorstep.

In e-Krishok service, when we recommend any input, we make sure that the recommended input maintains certain standard. Pl visit us at www.ekrishok.com or www.biid.org.bd

Thanks,

Shahid

Shahid Akbar
Shahid Akbar Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID) Bangladesh

From our experience of e-Krishok for last few years, we found that farmers mostly use the info service to protect their crops from pests which could turn into loss. So we found in most cases farmers save their  crops from potential loss.

Thanks,

Shahid

Shahid Akbar
Shahid Akbar Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID) Bangladesh

Dear Sea,

Thanks for your query, yes you can visit www.ekrishok.com for the database.

Regards,

Shahid

 

Shahid Akbar
Shahid Akbar Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID) Bangladesh

Thanks all for excellent contributions.

The past experiences, mainly if we see the pilots, there are many successful initiatives at pilot phase but during scaling up, we dont see those in action after the pilot phase is over. Specially, the fancy use of ICT in market information services created lot of hype and only market driven approaches and government led initiatives sustained in the long run. There might be couple of challenges which never considered in many of the mobile based information services, like, information and advisory services in production (input, pest management) related issues are fairly possible to provide appropriate or near-appropriate information. But in case of Market price, it is very crititcal, in case of persihable agriculture produces under traditional marketing / trading system, small farmers have limited role to play with the price info. Rather, traders and bulk buyers are sometime more benefitted by using the mobile network. It has been experienced that even if the farmers have information on better price but due to many issues including logistics like storing facility, transport or due to need of cash etc. farmers have to sell produces at 'low' price than the 'original' price.

Based on our e-krishok experience, we consider that "framing" of the service in mobile based market information proposition is very important. And it depends fully on the local dynamics and eco-system of the market.

Considering these, in Bangladesh, we (BIID) are working with both farmers as well buyers & other value chain actors to ensure benefits of mobile based information services for the farmers. Our e-Krishok project, in collaboration with Grameen Phone (Telecom Operator), ACI Limited (Agro Business) and Katalyst (Market Facilitator) extending the existing mobile based information service to market linkage. Interestingly, government is also now showing their interest to introduce this service (e-Krishok) in the ICT centres (managed by local government) after seeing the benefits, scale and sustainability of the initiative.

Thanks