E-Agriculture

Sophie Treinen

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Decision-makers should not underestimate the importance of knowledge management and information capture. Good knowledge management should be integrated at the institutional and individual level as well as given enough importance in the framework of the use of ICTs for resilience.
Effective knowledge management will enable appropriate learning of lessons, sharing of successes and failures and ensure the most effective initiatives can move forward with support of other decision makers to move beyond the stage of small projects and isolated pilots and to scale up the best initiatives even beyond the sector of agriculture and rural development.

 

During the WSIS Forum 2016, the Action Line facilitators came to similar conclusions when looking into ways to successfully implement the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. The collaboration that is needed to ensure a successful implementation of the goals will also imply a need for a stronger collaboration among the WSIS action lines (such as e-agriculture, e-heatlth, e-environment, e-commerce, e-business e-employment, e-government, e-publishing, e-science). Looking at resilience doesn't concern a unique ministry at national level but several. They  need to join forces to have a global picture of where and how they can adjust and collaborate in case of disaster or shocks.

Over the years, many constraints and factors of success regarding content, capacity development, gender and diversity, access and participation, partnerships, technologies, and economic, social and environmental sustainability have been identified by ICT for development practitioners. I woudl like to make reference the FAO publication in 2015 on "e-agriculture 10 year Review Report: Implementation of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) Action Line C7 ICT Applications: e-agriculture", by Kristin Kolshus, Antonella Pastore, Sophie Treinen and Alice Van der Elstraeten, Rome, Italy 

They relate to : 

1. Content - available - accessible - useable 

2. Capacity Development - as enabling environment (no high taxes on equipment needed, a government support to the use of ICTs, recognition at institutional level that ICTs are useful and needed to perform activities, digital literacy of users)

3. Gender and diversity - recognizing the needs and ability of using ICTs developed for the users

4. Acces and participation - appropriate infrastructure, good quality access at low price,  appropriate devices at affordable price for rural population.

5. Partnerships - need to have not only public, private partnership but also involvement of civil society and other non state actors

6. Technologies - developed for the users and not contrary

7. Economic, social and environmental sustainability - always keep the long term vision.

 

 

 

 

 

As annouced in the prestnation of the forum, FAO promotes the use of ICTs to reinforce the resilience capacity of states, communities and individuals. Here are some greart examples of successful experiences on the use of ICTs for Resilience documented such as : 

eLocust (a detection and early warning tool for Desert Locusts). see good practice fact sheet  on http://www.fao.org/3/a-i6058e.pdf

SWALIM (FAO Somalia project on Water and Land Information Management – SWALIM – a breakthrough in mobile data gathering, remote monitoring and dynamic mapping). See the 2016 award as champion in the use of ICTs http://www.fao.org/resilience/news-events/detail/en/c/418025/

OpenForis (a free open-source solutions for environmental monitoring). a video to learn more: https://youtu.be/iIzvMzs1qy0

EMA-i (a moble App for timely animal disease reporting to enhance surveillance) http://www.fao.org/3/a-i4853e.pdf

EMPRES-i (a global animal disease information system): http://www.fao.org/ag/againfo/home/en/news_archive/aga_in_action/empres-...

 

In the "Vision for the World Summit on Information Society beyond 2015", there is a specific paragprah on resilience.

This full vision statement can be seen on page 3 of the e-agriculture 10-year review report available on www.fao.org/3/a-i4605e.pdf

"e. Promote the use of ICTs to reinforce the resilience capacity of states, communities and individuals to mitigate and adapt to natural and manmade disasters, food chain challenges, socio-economic and other crises, conflicts and transboundary threats, diseases, and environmental damages."

Therefore, in the vision, ICTs' role is to reienforce resilience in very specific situations. To be able to address resilience, the technologies themselves need to be resilient and resistant to shocks and disasters.

 

 

 

 

 

For those who are not familiar with SWALIM. I would like to give more information: FAO Somalia project on Water and Land Information Management – SWALIM – is a breakthrough in mobile data gathering, remote monitoring and dynamic mapping. 

The ICT tools developed by FAO Somalia Water and Land Information Management System (SWALIM) have helped vulnerable Somali communities along the Juba and Shabelle rivers to prepare for and respond to floods in a timely manner. Despite the destruction of infrastructure, the private sector led communication companies supported the initiative and provided continuous information supply to vulnerable farmers. The cost of sharing information was very minimal and this makes the technology affordable and transferable to other parts of the world with similar context.” Hussein Gadain

Among the new features on the SWALIM web site are the updated Flood Risk and Response Management Information System (FRRMIS), and the dynamic “Live Map” platform, which presents complex data sets on an easy-to-understand map interface. The Live Map system is currently being expanded to include data on soils and land degradation, infrastructure interventions and other important information for decision makers.

In anticipation of the effects of heavy El Niño rains in late 2015, SWALIM developed an SMS-based mobile phone application to capture information about impending flood situations and to warn vulnerable communities along the Juba and Shabelle rivers. This system, known as FRISC/Digniin (from the Somali word for “warning”), was also used to alert fishing vessels and coastal communities about two cyclones that swept across thenorthern coast of Puntland in December, saving lives and averting severe property damage.

The FRISK/Digniin system is now being adapted and expanded to gather rainfall data throughout Somaliland and Puntland, as well as the central and southern areas of the country. The rainfall data, like the river level information, is being fed directly into the on-line FRRMIS system to provide near-real-time updates on potential floods and inundations.

 

ICTs can be a support to resilience, but need to be robust and resilient themselves. This is why it is crucial that proper infrastructure are put in place to be able to resist in case of disaster and crises as ICTs will enable to be in contact, send information, have an overview of the situation. Government should prepare the enabling environment to enable resilience. 

If we know the potential offered by ICTs, there is still a lot to be done to have devices resistent to the hard conditions founfd in rural areas. The private sector should invest in resilient technology which means resistent to heat, dust, water, shocks, and humidity. Some of the first mobile phone were a lot more resistent than any new models. Constructors should also look at green technology and pieces that can be replaced easliy at low cost. I personnaly loved the prototype that was once launched on Internet to build a modular mobile phone that could be adapted to the needs of the users. This is the future and this is what should be promoted instead of investing in low quality devices. Good quality will be cheaper in the long run. So let's invest.

 

The vision for implementation of WSIS Action lines beyond 2015 was presented as follows:

  • As part of national ICT strategies, foster the development and implementation of national e-agriculture strategies focusing on providing reliable and affordable connectivity and integrating ICTs in rural development to support food security and hunger eradication.
  • Foster collaboration and knowledge sharing in agriculture via electronic communities of practice, including the e-Agriculture Community, in order to showcase and promote models, methodologies, good practices and the adoption of Open Access and interoperability standards, for effective and equitable use of ICTs for sustainable agriculture and rural development.
  • Promote the creation and adaptation of content including in local languages and contexts from reliable and trusted sources, including, to ensure equitable and timely access to agricultural knowledge by resource-poor men and women farmers, foresters and fisher folk in rural areas.
  • Foster digital literacy of institutions and communities in rural and remote areas taking into consideration local needs and constraints by providing appropriate learning opportunities for all which will enhance individual and collective decision-making skills.
  • Promote the use of ICTs to reinforce the resilience capacity of states, communities and individuals to mitigate and adapt to natural and man-made disasters, food chain challenges, socio-economic and other crises, conflicts and transboundary threats, diseases, and environmental damages. 

The recommendations are the following at policy level is : 

Bridging e-agriculture with the policy audience. The regulators and ministries while responsible for infrastructure are not aware of the opportunities of ICTs for agriculture and their infrastructure and policy demand. Therefore there is a need to inform better the different ministeries in chare ge of agriculture, planning and telecommunications of the potential offered by ICTs.

 

I am very glad that this issue is brought up. Indeed at government level, some countries have high taxes and duties which prevent from having equipement, infrastructure in place at a reasonable cost. I think that regulors need to be aware of such decisions. ICTs are not only a new juicy market, but an enabler of development. Taxing heavily thsi porming sector is killing the potential for nationla growth. it is therefore very important to have awareness campaing at politcal level, for policy makers and regulaors to understand better the decsions they take.