FAO Digital Services Portfolio

Launch of S.E.E.D. Hub, the Digital Service Portfolio in Sri Lanka


In Sri Lanka, building resilience  and reducing the vulnerability to climate change and reducing risks and uncertainties related to the production are the key thematic areas for the development of national agricultural policies. To achieve these objectives, the policy makers require evidence of the impact of various types of policy instruments. Within this context, redesigning the extension services to help farmers to achieve better productivity and increase their resilience in the context of climate change is pivotal to achieve these objectives. 

Building on our past experiences from implementation in other countries, we know now that e-extension services can definitely play an innovative role that links the farming communities with value chain actors to build resilience to frequent weather shocks and implement targeted risk management strategies” explains Dioguen Zaridze, FAO information technology officer and FAO Digital Services Portfolio manager of FAO Division of Digitalization and Informatics (CSI), who has been working closely with the national office in Sri Lanka over the past months under the leadership of FAO Agrifood Economics division (ESA) that launched the project. 

“Harmonized and timely information on production technologies, weather forecasts and market prices are expected to reduce farmers' vulnerability to various shocks and to support risk-reducing and productivity-enhancing management choices. That is where we saw the potential for collaborating with the DSP to customize the e-extension platform to the needs of the Sri Lankan farmers in order to provide the information that they actually need as well as to optimize their agricultural and risk management strategies'' says Antonio Scognamillo, Economist at the Economic and Policy Analysis of Climate Change of ESA who has been managing the project and reached out to CSI to develop this successful collaboration.

Building on the DSP model and ESA’s experience in designing and evaluate policy instruments, with the valuable support of the national Country Office, FAO has developed a comprehensive e-extension platform called “Smart Extension and Efficient Decision-making (S.E.E.D) Hub”. In July 2023, the information gathered through the S.E.E.D Hub has been distributed through a mobile app to 110 farmer organizations (FOs) randomly selected in 10 districts. At the same time, additional 110 FOs have been identified as control group. The pilot phase of the project will last until the end of the main agricultural season in March 2024. During this period, ESA will carry out two consecutive rounds of a national representative survey. The information collected will be integrated with that collected at baseline, in November 2022, to assess the impact  of the S.E.E.D. Hub against different efficiency and livelihood’s dimensions (such as farmers' access to information and advices, vulnerability to various shocks, productivity farming management decisions as well as household food security).  The findings derived from the experimental impact evaluation will play a crucial role to improve the app, extract lessons learnt, and inform the strategic decision-making process of the Government of Sri Lanka regarding the potential upscaling of the intervention to the entire agricultural sector.

The development of the platform follows upon the request of the Sri Lankan Ministry of Agriculture for “leveraging integrated e-extension services to reduce the national agricultural sector’s vulnerability to weather shocks” and gather information from several departments of the Ministry of Agriculture and national research institutes. 

In a world where climate change has become one of the major threads to our people and planet, its general objective is to support the development, implementation and roll-out of integrated e-extension services with evidence on their generated impacts. For the time being, S.E.E.D. Hub is articulated around three main thematic areas: (a) ‘Climate And Crop Management’ – that provides reliable weather forecasts, a crop calendar for each agroecological zone and detailed agronomic advices for each production phase ; (b) ‘Market Prices’ – that communicates weekly farm-gate, wholesale and retail prices for 75 crops in 48 main agricultural markets throughout the country and automatically compares them with the historical trends; (c) ‘Advisory Flow’- that provides users with climate warnings, agro-metrological advices and agro-market advices from several government  institutions. 

This new launch marks another milestone in the DSP journey that since its very first implementations, back in 2016, has been continuously expanding to better adapt to the growing needs of the countries in which it has been rolled out in different national and local contexts. As an example, the new deployment in Sri Lanka triggered the development of a new mechanism to assist countries in creating their profile in the crop calendar in a more tailored and efficient way. Besides Sri Lanka, the DSP is currently active in Senegal, Rwanda, Egypt, the United Republic of Tanzania, Jordan, with also the most recent impacts in Iraq (with “El Rafidain for Agriculture Extension” that features content for animal production), Bangladesh (“with Dhaka Fresh Markets” that developed a ''Point of Interest” theme which behaves like Google maps to provide location and description of over 400 markets) and Kazakhstan (with “AgroKomek” and its content for milk producing farmers in partnership with private associations as well as its new “Animal Feed Calculator'').  The roll out to other countries such as Kyrgyzstan, Haiti and Dominican Republic is currently in progress.