Bureau régional de la FAO pour l'Afrique

Fostering rural transformation through the Digital Villages Initiative in Africa

Background

Despite their cardinal importance for food security and national development, rural areas remain characterised by poor social, economic and technological infrastructure as well as limited opportunities. As Africa is striving to achieve the UN SDGs and its 2063 Development Agenda, it needs to concentrate strategic efforts on transforming its agri-food production and commercialisation systems, improving life in rural areas by addressing farm and off-farm bottlenecks. Digital innovations have been acknowledged to provide powerful drivers for achieving sustainable, inclusive and performant agri-food systems and rural transformation (FAO, 2019)[1]. However, rural areas and agriculture have been weakly benefiting from opportunities that these innovations are offering.

Against this backdrop, FAO has launched the corporate programme “1,000 Digital Villages Initiative” (DVI) with the goal of identifying at least 1000 villages and convert them into digital village (DV) hubs in which a variety of ICT-enabled services will be offered. It responds to FAO’s Director General’s vision for FAO to mobile expertise and partnerships that can transform digitally agri-food systems and rural areas, particularly in developing countries, for the achievement of food security. It comes along with other key FAO programmes such as the Hand-In-Hand initiative.

The DVI is an integrated development vision that enshrines digitalisation at the core of rural transformation and prosperity, addressing farm and off-farm socio-economic elements. It involves three Pillars of activities: 

  • The first Pillar centres on improving productivity through ICT and relevant solutions,  including climate-smart agriculture services and precision agriculture.
  • The second Pillar addresses particularly market linkages and financial services
  • The third Pillar addresses the village as a whole, aiming at rural transformation, and will help facilitate services such as e-health, e-education and agro-tourism bolstered by digital technologies in collaboration with other partners.

The project is aligned with all four Betters pursued by the new Strategic Framework 2022 – 2030 of FAO: Better Production, Better Nutrition, Better environment and Better Life. It addresses various SGDs, notably  SDG 1: No Poverty, SDG 2: Zero Hunger, SDG 5: Gender Equality, SDG 8: Economic growth, employment. 

Pilot Project in Sub-Saharan Africa

A pilot Digital Villages Initiative has been launched in the sub-Saharan Africa region, under the leadership of FAO’s Regional Office for Africa (RAF) and with the strategic support of FAO Headquarters. It is anchored in the Regional Office’s ambition to accelerate the achievement of its key priorities and of the Malabo Commitments adopted by the African Union. The project is executed in the framework of the new FAORAF Digital Innovation Strategy. A Call for Expression of Interest was launched, and seven countries have been selected to be part of the initiative: Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Somalia.

The first step for implementation has been the preparation of scoping assessments conducted between July and November 2021. The objective was to understand the agri-food and digital environments, the conditions for successful execution and identifying possible villages that will be involved in this pilot stage.

In a couple of countries, some preparatory projects have started in parallel, following the identification of the first findings, to prepare the ground for the full deployment of the DVI, testing as needed some services.

In Somalia the preparatory activities are deployed in the Baidoa district in South Central Somalia, in a region regarded as Somalia's sorghum breadbasket. They are linked to the first two pillars of the DVI model, directly targeting farmers to benefit from e-agriculture and digital farming services including digital finance. They involve developing a digital platform and digital content that will enable Farmer Field Schools (FFS) and Village Savings and Loans Associations (VSLAs) access to expert knowledge and information on agriculture, nutrition and basic financial management in the targeted location.

The pre-launch activities in Kenya focus on Pillar 1 of the DVI model. They are deployed in two wards in Uasin Gishu County and one in Nyandarua County. They seek to investigate e-extension and other value-added digital services that can be incorporated into the Kenya Integrated Agriculture Management Information System (KIAMIS), an FAO developed platform adopted by the Kenyan government to better respond to needs expressed. In parallel, e-extension services are planned. Results will also be fed into another project, the Kenya Agricultural Sector Extension Policy (KASEP), using KIAMIS.

Pre-launch activities in Senegal focus on the first two Pillars of the DVI and will help groups of agro-pastoral and fishery producers, in the Niayes region to use specific applications that contribute to the improvement of productivity and the commercialisation of outputs. The digital platform SAIDA developed by FAO in collaboration with the public extension agency ANCAR, will be leveraged to deliver e-advice on weather and crop calendar. Other services will be tested in collaboration with a private sector entity.

National project proposals are being developed and resources mobilisation will be undertaken for the full launch of national DVI activities. The learning from preparatory activities is considered for the development of the national proposals.

The Africa DVI provides an integrated framework that can strengthen digital agriculture and digital transformation at rural community level in view to ending hunger and improving lives. It expands and integrates existing FAO’s digital agriculture services in rural areas and enable new digital services. It supports innovative engagement in agriculture by youth and women, increased productivity, market access, resilience and enhanced rural socio-economic well-being.

Objectives

This webinar is organised after the first months of implementation of the project. Its objectives are to:

  • Introduce stakeholders to the Pilot DVI Africa project and progress made 
  • Share countries’ initial lessons learned 
  • Collect recommendations, mobilise interest and partnership for the full deployment of the initiative

Target audience

National stakeholders (ministries in charge of agriculture and digital economy; rural and agricultural organizations; technology service providers including telecom operators and companies offering digital agricultural services; youth and women organisations; etc.) from the pilot project’s target countries.

Stakeholders including experts interested in the integration of digital in agricultural and rural transformation processes in any other African countries.

International organizations interested in exploring partnerships with the DVI project

FAO professionals involved in the global DVI initiative or seeking to establish synergies with the project.

 

Time

Issue/topic

Speakers and facilitators

 

14:00 – 14:12

Overall facilitation

 

-        Clara Park

Senior Gender Officer, FAORAF

Welcome remarks

 

 

 

 

-        Ade Freeman

Regional Programme Leader, FAORAF

 

-        Henry van Burgsteden

Coordinator, Office of the Director-General (ODG), FAO

14:12 – 14:20

Overview of the implementation of the Pilot DVI in Africa

-        Ken Lohento

Digital Agriculture Specialist, FAORAF

14:20 – 14:50

Key findings of the national scoping assessments for the DVI

 

-        Facilitator:

  • Attaher Maiga 

Niger FAO Representative

 

-        National DVI projects’ representatives

 

  • Margaret Mugo

GIZ Expert, FAO Malawi

 

  • Malick Bachir

Programme Assistant, FAO Niger

 

  • Godwin Ayenor

 Digital agriculture Consultant, Ghana

14:50 – 15:10

Insights on the implementation of initial DVI activities

 

-        Facilitator:

  • Chen Zhijun

Malawi FAO Representative

 

-        National DVI projects’ representatives

 

  • Fikirini Mwimbe

VSLA Specialist, FAO Somalia

 

  • Stuart Tipping

IT Officer, FAO CIS / Kenya

15:10 – 15:30

Partner engagement

 

-        Facilitator

  • Anthony Renner Micah

IT Officer, FAORAF

 

-        Speakers

  • Issaka Harouna

Agence Nationale pour la Société de l'Information, Niger

 

  • Prof Laurette Dube

McGill University, MCCHE, FCI Programme, Canada

 

  • Wole Odetayo

Lead, Wennovation Hub, Nigeria

 

15:30 – 15:55

Discussions on the way forward

-        Facilitator:

  • Ade Freeman

Regional Programme Leader, FAORAF

15:55 – 16:00

Closing words

-        Yurdi Yasmi

Deputy Regional Representative, FAORAF