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Writeshop on realising the potential of ICTs in agriculture

July 18, 2016

The writeshop, Experience sharing on implementation of ICT4Ag projects, organised by CTA from 28 June to 1 July in Wageningen, the Netherlands, took an innovative approach to capitalising on the experiences of CTA-supported projects involving ICTs within the agricultural sector. Partners involved in 2014–15 projects shared their experiences, learned from their peers and documented approaches, lessons and successful tactics. 

The writeshop expressed CTA’s commitment to building the capacity of agricultural entrepreneurs in ICT applications through cross-border, cross-sectoral learning and exchange across ACP countries. The writeshop addressed two objectives:

  • share project experiences and learn from them
  • learn how to draw lessons, analyse and communicate findings to others in agricultural value chains.

What is a writeshop?

The International Institute of Rural Reconstruction in the Philippines pioneered the writeshop method. To date, over 50 writeshops have produced materials on various topics relating to agriculture, the environment and health. Writeshops encourage inputs from all participants. Repeated presentations, critiquing and revisions of drafts allow participants to review, revise, combine, drop or split topics, and to develop new topics. Experts taking part validate ideas. Editors, artists and designers enable materials to be produced quickly. Writeshops also:

• Help to prepare materials quickly
• Focus on individual cases and articles
• Share information and allow participants to learn from each other
• Resolve the difficulty of editing a text to satisfy everyone involved
• Examine audiences in detail

Shared experiences from ICTs for agriculture entrepreneurs and organisations

participants 850

Conducted in English and French, the writeshop involved participants from seven projects in Burkina Faso, Ghana, the Netherlands, Sudan, Trinidad and Tobago, and Uganda. Two participants represented each project: one represented the organisation or company implementing the project and the other represented users of project services. Participants shared their learning from projects that tested ICT applications across agricultural policy processes, agricultural extension and advisory services, a fisheries value chain and market information services:

Geospatial technology and agro-climatic information service for smallholder farmers in Ghana – Syecomp Business Services
Satellite-based ICT for improved crop production in the Gezira irrigation scheme in Sudan – eLEAF
L'extension et l'harmonisation du service d'information et de conseil commercial NKALO – RONGEAD
mFisheries: ICT integration in small-scale fisheries vertical value chains – University of the West Indies
L'interpellation citoyenne sur le suivi et la mise en oeuvre des politiques agricoles à travers les TIC au Burkina Faso (AGRIPOL) – Yam Pukri
Mobile banking information systems (MOBIS) – Ensibuuko
Partnership in building capacity of end users for the use of mobile applications (m-apps) in agriculture – Farmerline Ltd.

Issues and challenges in implementing ICTs for agriculture projects

ICT applications have enormous potential for improving rural lives. Because of advances in ICTs and the accessibility and widespread use of mobile technology, smallholder agriculture is becoming increasingly precise. Through market information services, the data from satellites, drones, the internet and other sources can be transformed into useful information for farmers, traders and policy-makers. But ICT projects often tend to be knowledge based and to generate a huge amount of information. Thus, sharing knowledge during and after projects is widely encouraged. Shared knowledge and expertise underpins multi-stakeholder partnerships – a key instrument in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly in developing countries.

Many ventures have difficulty in identifying and adopting sustainable business models. Scaling up is still proving difficult. Donors and governments have not yet found public–private partnership models that work.

Documented approaches, lessons and successes

Inline experience

To help participants tell the stories of their projects, the writeshop used the Business Model Canvas method to gather information. A world café and fishbowl spurred further knowledge sharing among participants. In groups of two (a service provider and a service user), participants prepared short pitches to present their projects to their peers and CTA staff. Participants documented replicable approaches, lessons learned from failed and successful projects, and implementation challenges and issues.

Over the four days, development communication consultants and CTA staff worked with participants individually and in plenaries, small group discussions, clinics and pairs to discuss their projects and write them up in ways to best communicate with different audiences. Participants learned to be careful in their use of language – audiences such as peers, farmers' organisations, donors and development agencies may not necessarily understand technical jargon or information.

"This kind of activity (writeshop) is crucial."
Kim Ingrid Mallalieu, Senior Lecturer and Principal investigator,
Caribbean ICT Research Programme, The University of the West Indies

For the media, participants wrote articles showcasing the effects of their projects. For agricultural entrepreneurs, participants developed an analysis, systematically examining and evaluating data and information from the projects and formulating conclusions and recommendations. In-depth interviews with each of the 14 participants gathered material that will be written up as case studies of the seven projects.

Failed, successful and replicable models

The projects examined during the writeshop have already ended. But most of the models tested are still operating, a good sign in terms of sustainability, and the commitment and motivation of those involved.

"A lot of people are getting interested in what we are doing. What started off as a country project (Yam Pukri) is now resonating in countries across Africa. NGOs are coming to ask for our services to provide the same model used in this project for country platforms as well as Africa-wide."
Sylvestre Ouedraogo, Director Yam Pukri

Projects demonstrated viable options for delivering ICTs in agriculture that CTA could support to move to business models. The writeshop approach to knowledge management aligns with experience capitalisation, which CTA promotes through a project funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

"Lessons learned from the implementation of the seven projects will definitely inform on-going and future projects in this area"
Benjamin K Addom, CTA ICT4D Programme Coordinator

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