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ICT Observatory 2013: Strengthening e-agriculture strategies in ACP countries

The 2013 ICT Observatory took place from 24-26 April in Wageningen, The Netherlands and was hosted by CTA and various partners.

The Observatory is used to advise the organisers on ICT strategies and applications of relevance to agricultural and rural development in the ACP region. This year it focused on how to strengthen e-agriculture strategies and policies in ACP countries.

Thirty participants from around the world took part and represented farmers organisations, government institutions, international organisations , private and ICT and agricultural sectors. Participants discussed the state of ICT policy development and linkages with Agriculture in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific countries; and case studies and lessons learned in the formulation or implementation of ICT agriculture strategies in the ACP.

Farmers and other agricultural actors are increasingly using ICTs throughout the agricultural value chain, in particular mobile phones. Participants recognised that, as a result of this, the need to put in place holistic strategies guiding the integration of these technologies has become crucial. Currently, in most ACP countries, ICTs are being integrated in agricultural activities on ad hoc basis. There is no clear vision of an overall approach to integration that would help to rationalise budgets and resources, and address key ICT access challenges met by all value chains stakeholders.

Some national experiences, notably from India, Ghana, Rwanda and the Ivory Coast provided very valuable lessons. In particular, in the case of the Ivory Coast, a holistic e-agriculture strategy was developed by the Ministries in charge of Agriculture and ICTs.

Several key recommendations were made following the Observatory:

  1. There is a need to strengthen the multi-stakeholder approach in e-agriculture strategies. This should be done with the collaboration of the Ministries in charge of agriculture and ICTs. Smallholder farmers, young farmers and women farmers should be involved in this process;
  2. Ownership of the policy/strategy by the Ministry of Agriculture should be ensured and strengthened;
  3. Regional agricultural bodies and policy frameworks such as CAADP in Africa should be further sensitised and supported to develop e-agriculture strategies that encompass all benefits of ICTs for agriculture. This should be carried out in collaboration with regional ICT institutions;
  4. Key areas for strategy development include advisory services/extension, agricultural trade and market, agricultural research, capacity building, post-harvest and risk management, access to ICTs for ARD stakeholders. A holistic coherent strategy should address all of these;
  5. Awareness raising, knowledge sharing as well as support (technical and financial) for the development and implementation of these strategies at national and regional levels are essential;
  6. The plans formulated should be implemented and later on evaluated, with adequate support from regional and international bodies such as CTA, FAO, IICD, UNECA, CARICOM, NEPAD Agency, and SPC.
  7. CTA, in partnership with relevant organisations, is committed to awareness raising, best practices sharing and capacity building.
  8. Follow Up

The conclusions and outcomes of the ICT Observatory were presented at the WSIS Forum, organised by the United Nations, from 13-17 May 2013, in Geneva, Switzerland. This allowed CTA the opportunity to advocate for an increased consideration of the agricultural sector in this international process. Additional follow up activities include the production of a detailed study documenting country and regional experiences as well as best practices in e-agriculture strategy implementation in ACP countries. Policy-briefs and guidelines are also planned.

The Observatory provided a good learning and sharing opportunity for both the organisers and participants. Some participants who have e-Agriculture initiatives in their countries (e.g. Ghana), but no strategy in place, recognised the importance of having one and committed to consult with their respective Ministries and stakeholders concerned to develop a suitable e-Agriculture strategy.

For CTA and its partners, the Observatory reconfirmed the necessity for ACP countries to have a solid e-Agriculture strategy in place. CTA and its partners will continue to provide support in advocacy, capacity building, knowledge and information sharing on best practices on e-Agriculture policies and strategies, to make this a reality.

The 2013 ICT Observatory was organised by CTA in collaboration with FAO, the World Bank, East African Farmers Federation, the Rwandan Ministry for Agriculture and Animal Resources, the Ministry of Communication in Ghana, IICD, NEPAD and UNECA/ISTD.

For full details and resources from the ICT Observatory visit: http://ict-observatory.cta.int/index.php/en/