27 November 2014 The All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Agriculture and Food for Development has published a report on Harnessing the Potential: Exploring ICTs and Knowledge Sharing in agriculture. Evidence given by CABI was included in the report.
CABI was called upon to talk to the APPG because of its experience working in agriculture and knowledge management, including Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). In July, Strategic Business Development Director, Phil Abrahams, gave a presentation to the APPG on CABIs mobile agro-advisory projects, including Direct2Farm, mNutrition and the Plantwise knowledge bank global app.
The report, published yesterday, makes the point that ICTs can be used to attain specific development and poverty-reduction goals. Whilst less than 10% of farmers in Africa and South America have access to the internet, almost 90% have access to basic mobile technology, including SMS.
The report focuses on harnessing the vast potential of ICTs in agriculture, particularly to help smallholder farmers access information or public advisory services on a regular basis, in order to ask questions or share their own experiences. Popular services include those covering agronomic practices, weather forecasts, pest control and the market.
When looking at best practice, the report notes farmers need for assurance that mobile service recommendations are driven by their needs, and not to promote products that may not be internationally recommended or safe to use without proper precautions. The concept of a content kite mark established by CABI is an example of how mobile messages can being validated through expert and farmer peer-review, and confirmed as appropriate against international agri-chemical protocols.
The report makes recommendations such as:
Prioritising effective evaluation of the impact of ICTs and strengthen the evidence base
Harnessing the potential to combine delivery channels, including face-to-face interaction, to reach an even wider audience
Incentivising rural infrastructure development