ICT-enabled climate information services
As agricultural commodities play an important role in the socio-economic and cultural fabric in Southern Africa, agriculture is placed at the forefront of the increased impact of climate change. The use of ICT for providing climate smart agricultural information to farmers has long been debated and is believed to bring about new responses to challenges related to climate change. The plenary discussions about 'ICT-enabled climate information services' identified the strategic role of ICT in driving key actions to create awareness about, mitigate, monitor and thus adapt to climate change in Southern Africa.
Key gaps identified
Mobile penetration in rural SADC is around 80%, giving an indication that cereals and livestock farmers already have access to technology. To address climate smart agricultural solutions using ICT, it is fundamental to address the issue of capturing timely and accurate data, taking into account rapidly changing climatic events. During the discussions at the meeting, several key information gaps were identified, which explain why the climate issue has not much been addressed through ICTs. These gaps include limited infrastructure to capture data; alignment of information from different existing sources; interpretation of available information to apply it on ground by farmers; limited documentation of past experiences and success stories to inform future actions; monopolisation of data by 'powerful' persons; and lack of support services provided to farmers in this field.
ICT systems are usually costly to run and maintain. Therefore, innovative ways of financing must be found, which call for strategic partnership between key stakeholders to invest in ICT infrastructure to address climate change. On the other hand, one key priority raised by several partners during the workshop is awareness and education of farmers to access information on ICT platforms. It is important that partners engage in capacity building of farmers so that they are able to efficiently interprete data and use it during any climatic occurrences. Farmers are at the hub of the discussions and being smart people, they would undeniably want reliable and trustworthy platforms from where they will access information to make practical decisions on ground. They also need to be empowered for informed decisions on variety choices in the event of climate change.
ICT-enabled climate information services can definitely be a reality with a strong commitment and collaboration of the private sector including farmers union, suppliers of agricultural inputs, telecom organisation, information providers, governments/municipal weather services, extension services, financial institutions, schools, IT knowledge brokers, and other organisations in building strategic partnership.
The time is now to put all stakeholders on board and scale up 'ICT-enabled climate information services'.
Blog post by Zainal Kareemun, Social Reporter for the Regional planning meeting on 'Scaling-Up Climate-Smart Agricultural Solutions for Cereals and Livestock Farmers in Southern Africa'.
Follow the event on Twitter: #CSAFSA
Publication: 'Climate Solutions that Work for Farmers' (CTA, 2016)
Watch the video interviews carried out during the event