The €4,578,768 award follows a call for proposals made by NSO in 2014, as part of the Geodata for Agriculture and Water Facility (G4AW), for initiatives using satellite data to improve extension services. A key component of the CTA-led project is the design, which has been specifically geared towards strengthening the capacity of farmers' organisations, matching extension services with their real needs and offering a service that is demand-driven and market-led.
"So far, most ICT4Ag services have been provided by the private sector, NGOs, research institutes or government, but for this project, the goal is for farmers' organisations to eventually take on the role of ICT service providers – in this case the Uganda EAFF," said Dr. Benjamin Kwasi Addom, ICT4D Programme Coordinator at CTA. "From our experience, farmers' organisations are better tuned into the information needs of their members. We believe farmers trust and prefer to get agricultural information from other farmers rather than from external service providers."
Offering low-cost, bundled satellite-based information services delivered by mobile phone, the scheme is expected to benefit more than 350,000 Ugandan smallholder farmers. Of these, at least 35 per cent are women. Expected outcomes include a 25 per cent increase in food crop yields, a 20 per cent increase in farmers' income, a 10 per cent increase in effective use of agri-inputs and water and a 10 per cent decrease in the risk of using agri-inputs. Other likely benefits are increased trade and investment for agri-input dealers and service providers.
Three data companies involved in the 3-year project – aWhere, eLEAF and EARS-E2M – will gather and analyse satellite data related to weather forecasting, crop management and crop insurance, which will then be disaggregated and transformed into practical advice to improve crop production. Meanwhile, CTA will work with partners AGRA and EAFF to identify farmers' information needs and build capacity in producers' organisations by training farmers to use the information provided. Regular monitoring and evaluation exercises will pinpoint the most successful approaches. Mercy Corps, Uganda will be at the end of the information chain, to ensure the delivery and exchange of relevant information through mobile phones.
Farmers who subscribe to the service will receive low-cost SMS alerts offering agricultural extension advice, including daily weather forecasts, drought early warnings, climate smart tips and agronomic advice. In addition, they will have access to a farmer help desk and the opportunity to take out affordable crop insurance to counter climate change.
"In the spirit of leveraging ICT4Ag to improve the financial inclusivity of farmers and link them to profitable markets, this project will empower several hundred thousand farmers in Uganda," said Stephen Muchiri, Chief Executive Officer of EAFF. "Through the use of innovative mobile technology platforms, these farmers will form sustainable public-private-producer-partnerships along priority value chains that will assist them in accessing demand-based, weather-based information, to make better production decisions that will contribute to their participation in national and regional markets, thereby improving their food security and income levels."
Dr. Bashir Jama, Head of Farmers Solutions at AGRA, welcomed the project as an opportunity to provide reliable extension support to farmers through fast and affordable ICTs, at a time when many small-scale producers have inadequate access to timely advice.
"Increasingly, AGRA is exploring the use of ICT applications to bridge the knowledge gap between farmers and the agricultural research community. This is important in most countries in Africa where extension staff are few and far apart," he said. "The project will therefore enhance our growing knowledge on the potential of ICT applications for this purpose. It will also help strengthen partnerships with the institutions that have come together to develop the project."
The Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) Facility of the Netherlands Space Office is a grant/subsidy programme of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs that focuses on improved and increased sustainable food production and more efficient use of water in agriculture. It supports projects that provide smallholder food producers (farmers, pastoralists and fishers) with satellite information-based products and services. http://g4aw.spaceoffice.nl/en
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