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How can ICTs support agriculture and food security?

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Soonho.Kim
How can ICTs support agriculture and food security?

How can ICT platforms, specifically mobile phones, better support agriculture, food and nutrition security, and early warning systems?  

Benjamin.Addom
ICTs supporting agriculture

I will try to rephrase the main question as “How are ICTs supporting agriculture and food security?” With that we can go further to explore better options for integrating the tools into agriculture, food and nutrition security, and early warning systems. This is because we have hundreds of cases for which ICTs have been used and are being used to support agriculture. I will try to reference some of the cases that I was specifically involved in.

Between 2014 and 2015, CTA worked with 5 ICT4Ag Value Added Service (VAS) providers in Ghana, Sudan, Trinidad and Tobago, Burkina Faso, Mali, and Cote D’Ivoire. The project was designed to understand some viable models for integrating ICTs into agricultural development projects. The implementation of these projects revealed lots of lessons to consider for better use of ICTs in agriculture, food and nutrition security, and early warning systems. One case study from Sudan shows excellent results. The big question as I mentioned earlier on is the sustainability of such proof of concept activities. In this case, farmers did benefit from the technology and wish to continue but without a business model, the service is discontinued. A better option is to build a business model into such activities to ensure its follow up.

Some other lessons include ensuring co-creation of training materials with intended users; use multiple channels for problem definition; identify the right customers for the service; strong collaboration and interdisciplinary team of the service providers; engage management and decision makers; etc. For more information on some of the lessons learnt from the ICT4Ag International conference organised by CTA in 2013, please see the Policy Pointer.

Ben

S.Allen
sustainability

I agree that there are many cases for how ICTs have and can support food security and nutrition and that co-creation is very important to ensure that the products are useful and relevant.  As you mention, one of the biggest issues is the financial sustainabillity of these initiatives.  Who do you suggest should drive the creation of the business models you mention? 

Benjamin.Addom
Who should drive the business model?

I think the private sector should take the lead on the business model. The private sector naturally in the position to drive this due to their profit-oriented motive. You can read more on the role of private sector in this kinds of partnerships from here. 

A good example that we are trying out now is the MUIIS Project in Uganda that has private sector as the driver, public sector/international development partners as brokers, users (farmer organisations) as owners.

Additionally CTA's ICTUpdate published an article on this recently with contribution from Michael Elliott, TechnoServe regional programme director of the Connected Farmer Alliance

Thanks

Ben

S.Allen
private sector

I agree that there is a strong need for private sector involvement.  In terms of the information needed, however, perhaps there are a number of pieces of information that would fall under the umbrella of public goods if there is no financial incentive to provide them.  It might be helpful to discuss the ICTs and information for which there is a business interest and the others for which public assistance will be needed.

Eduardo Nakasone
Externalities (information sharing)

Hi Summer, 

I agree with you. A notorious problem with the financial sustainability of ICT platforms for farmers is that information is a public good. For example, if one farmer subscribes to a platform that provides weather forecasts, many of his / her neighbors will also benefit from this subscription (if they can share the information with other households).

The cost of operating an ICT platform can exceed individual consumers' willingness to pay for a service. However, because information can be shared, the social return can be A LOT larger. For example, in a recent paper, it was found that a voice-based phone advisory service would not be financially sustainable by the private sector. However, the social return more than justifies the project:

https://www.dropbox.com/s/z9sq2zrc2mdauy1/ao_final_v14_tables.pdf?dl=0

If this is the case, there is more than the (private) financial sustainability to determine whether a platform is worth its investment. 

Eduardo.

 

S.Allen
externalities

Thanks for this example, which shows the need for multi-sectoral initatives.  To provide the information most useful for small-holders, strong public support is likely needed.  This would, however, be a initative with relatively shorter-term results which would appeal to a variety of policymakers.

Beecham Research
IoT in agriculture

Hello all, my name is Saverio Romeo, Principal Analyst at Beecham Research. I think a lot of the things I am saying in another room are relevant here. The role of the Internet of Things for farming, food traceability, food quality can be tremendous. I have been working on the topic for 4-5 years. The momentum is coming becasue the cost of technology is decreasing and the richness of technology is increasing. Sensors, connectivity, IoT platforms, data analyics, connected devices are all concepts becoming extremely relevant for the agri-food sector and for the rural communities involved in that sector.

Alan de Brauw
IoT

Hi Saverio, good points, but I wonder if such technologies can be that profitable for farmers to implement when the productivity gap is already so large as in Africa?  For example in Mozambique commercial farmers tell me that they get 7 tons/ha of maize, but smallholders only get 1 ton/ha on average.  Is IoT the best first step to help those farmers alleviate their productivity constraints?

MaryLucy.Oronje
IoT

Alan, this productivity gap could be related to low input use e.g fertilizer etc, pest issues and quality aspects. Farmers will not produce more if there is no where to sale. How can ICT help link to markets?

Beecham Research
IoT

I think IoT can improve productivity. It can improve infrastrucutre - water systems. It can enable link with markets. It is happening for small farmers with very low marging in different parts of the world. The link to the markets is then another interesting issue. From an IoT point view, smart farming looks at the links with the food industries and the food retailers (large, medium, small, micro) in a sort of continuum glued by data. It is in early stage, but it is more a matter of vision rather than tech. Tech is there and it is good and it is not terribly expensive.

MaryLucy.Oronje
How can ICTs support agriculture and food security

In Plantwise - a global prject we are running, use of ICT by (plant doctors) extension oficers   has made them deliver demand driven extension whenever and wherever. They carry the tablet  with them and during intearction with the farmers, they can consult the reference materials and each other for feedback. they are able to educate the  . See more here http://www.cabi.org/Uploads/CABI/about-us/Scientists%20output/Plantwise%20E%20Plant%20Clinic%20Report%202015.pdfIn . ICT has helped farmers  to able to reach out to extension officers, fellow farmers to collect and disseminate information. However in most country in Africa, Extension is a public good and therefore offered to farmers at no cost. Building  business model only around  extension especially on plant health information and extension service  is sometimes difficult to achieve. Many users may not be willing to pay for information.

 

Mercyline.Kamande
ICT supportive role

One of the other areas that farmers suffer from is lack of motivation due to lack of or delayed payment 

ICT has played a role is in disbursement of farmer income. This has taken different approaches. Farmers who sell their produce through cooperatives are usually paid via mobile money services MPESA in Kenya, TigoCash in Rwanda. This has often acted as an incentive to produce more. Where cash subsidies are used to provide fertilizers and other farm inputs tthis service has come in hardy

 

 

MaryLucy.Oronje
Private Sector

Access to information that would help increase productivity and quality  in key.What role do the mobile providers play in ensuring that their clients especialy farmers have access to validated  plant health information like pest outbreaks? Is this one of their role in cooperate responsibility and therefore intergrate some platforms into their existing systems? What about the mobile phone manufacturers?

Alan de Brauw
role of private sector

In terms of corporate responsibility, if there is a lack of sense that regulation can be enforced, then maybe it is the role of government or civil society to try to convince the private sector of the benefits of providing that kind of information.  Would African mobile consumers in rural areas be more likely to remain with a specific phone provider (e.g. Vodacom) if they knew they would get warnings about pest outbreaks?  If you can convince Vodacom they would (maybe with research) then they become more likely to provide it.

 

MaryLucy.Oronje
role of private sector

I beleive there is consumer research as to why subscribers will keep a partcicular subscriber. providing valide information on prodcution could be one of such. But information development takes time and intellectual efforts. What they the network providers like Vodacom, Safaricom pay for this?

Alan de Brauw
I think they will pay for

I think they will pay for dissemination if they think it will keep subscribers or even contribute to it, but you're right, someone needs to develop the tools and that needs to come from somewhere else.

Shaun.Ferris
I think the plantwise is a

I think the plantwise is a great example of an ICT solution that can provide support to farmers about things that are really directly affecting them...  There are other solutions like this including PEAT, which is starting to take advantage of machine learning... and the ideas of an intelligent cloud....  So that as more people bring information to address a problem.  In this case pictures of plant diseases. Then the technology starts to learn how to make better diagnoses for farmers about this problems. and then starts to join up the dots of YOU have this disease.  These are the options to address that disease..  HERE is location which sells you an appropriate service...  and HERE is an expert on that disease.   I think this ability to use the power to ICT and then provide a local, somewhat customized solution for the user..  will encourage greater use... 

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