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Digitalisation

Increasing profitability and productivity for smallholder farmers through digitalisation and innovative business practices

A MUIIS project agent (right) digitally profiles a farmer

© CTA

Agri-wallet, a wallet for smallholder farmers

Access to finance is a serious challenge for smallholder farmers worldwide, and the majority of them are still underfinanced. When loans are provided, farmers may often pass these loans on to other people in need of cash. This, as well as the absence of a credit score or collateral (like title deeds), create uncertainty and risk for financial institutions and increases the difficulty for farmers to obtain such loans or other forms of finance.

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Drones could become one of the main drivers of agricultural growth in Senegal

Malick Diagne is the head of GeoRisk Afric, a company founded in March 2016. He attended training sessions on drone usage for precision agriculture organised by CTA and the French company, Parrot, as part of the “Eyes in the Sky” project. In this blog, using his 12 years’ experience in environmental and natural resource management, the Senegalese head of the company explains the fascinating and critical innovation opportunities that drones provide for the gathering of geospatial data.

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Drones: supporting precision agriculture in Africa

The Cameroonian company Agribizz, a member of the UAV4Ag community, was selected to represent Cameroon in the project ‘Transforming Africa’s Agriculture: Eyes in the Sky, Smart Techs on the Ground’ commonly called ‘Eyes in the Sky’. Its Chief Executive Officer, Jasmin Choake, shares what the team learned from participating, as well as his opinion on the role that drones will play in the transformation of African agriculture.

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Using drones to boost agriculture in Burkina Faso

The ambitious objective of the “Eyes in the Sky, Smart Techs on the Ground” project, initiated by the Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), is to transform agriculture in African countries through the promotion of drone usage. I took part in the project as Director General of Cargitech Sarl, alongside several other African entrepreneurs.

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Building the next generation of farmers in Africa

By helping to integrate farmers into markets, and providing exposure to more information and emerging innovations, farmers’ organisations (FOs) can contribute to boosting employment and incomes across the food value chain, as well as fostering more inclusive growth.

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Fairfood hits the ground running with blockchain

Consisting of a small group of ambitious young people, Fairfood in the Netherlands aims to contribute to the achievement of six of the 17 sustainable development goals. Lonneke Craemers, head of business development and project management at Fairfood, explains how blockchain technology is helping them to achieve these aims.

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Land LayBy: Using blockchain to improve landownership

Since 2014, a pioneering organisation called Land LayBy has been developing land acquisition solutions. After a successful pilot scheme in Kenya, Land LayBy has scaled up their services to Australia, Ghana, London and New York. We spoke with Raymond Kaniu, chief strategist at Land LayBy and main author of their white paper. He explains Land LayBy’s journey and their experiences of working with blockchain technology.

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Invaluable knowledge acquired at CTA: My traineeship experience

Many institutions engaged in the agricultural and rural development sector across the globe invest in initiatives centred on youth and entrepreneurship. Few sponsor, support and train youth within their working environment, and foster the practical skills to help serve other organisations intervening within the agricultural development sector. For more than 10 years, CTA has specialised in incubating young professionals, scaling up their capacities and releasing valuable professionals with applicable abilities in the agricultural industry.

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The building blocks for better value chains

The UN reports that around 50% of crop value vanishes between harvesting and the point of sale. AgUnity – an Australian agri-tech start-up established in 2016 – aims to address this issue in Kenya, Papua New Guinea and Ethiopia with the help of blockchain technology.

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Pathways to scale finance for digitalisation on the path to agricultural transformation

Digitalisation of the financial sector, or fintech, has greatly advanced with payment solutions such as mobile money, which contribute to increased levels of financial inclusion. Despite these, agribusiness still needs to invest in digitalisation to increase productivity and value addition, storage and marketing of agricultural produce so they benefit smallholder farmers and pastoralists.

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Sustaining and scaling an online agricultural commodity marketing platform in East Africa

As Regional Manager for Structured Trading Systems at the Eastern Africa Grain Council, Samwel Rutto’s work entails promoting structured markets to facilitate trade and eliminating inefficiencies in the grain industry. Here he explains how his experience in the design and operation of an electronic grain trading system has taught him some of the pitfalls to avoid when trying to scale up digital marketing platforms for agribusiness.

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Six business model recommendations for ACP digital agribusiness entrepreneurs

More and more entrepreneurs in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries are seeking to exploit wider access to digital technologies to offer ICT-based solutions. However, turning promising ideas into profitable businesses that break even is a struggle. A key challenge is to grow revenues and keep customers, turning sales into repeat purchases. Moving into profitability is a major hurdle for young entrepreneurs who lack business management acumen and knowledge of the agriculture sector, and have few business assets to fall back on.

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Building capacity in open data for agriculture and nutrition

The rapidly increasing availability of scientific, social and market data has huge potential to improve the agriculture sector and address food security and nutrition challenges. But to achieve this potential we need to ensure that this data can be accessed shared and used by those who are in a position to realise its benefits.

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Harnessing the benefits of data and farmer’s data right to advance agriculture

Digital farming holds enormous potential for agricultural development, and giving farmers the tools to boost productivity and profitability. Although the benefits of digitalisation are numerous, farmers feel they are not the ones benefiting from the value of data collected on their farms. Ensuring that farmers understand their rights to data, and have access to relevant data, is essential to harnessing the benefits for better farm decision management.

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Exploring the transformative power of drones in Rwanda

On a windy day high up in the hilly country in Rwanda’s Northern Province, Paul Tuyisingize observes the rapid flight of a drone above his wheat fields with an expression of wonder and delight. “I’m very happy with this project,” he says as the drone’s multi-spectral sensor gathers information about the condition of his crop. “I think it will help me to increase my yields.”

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Project calls for women entrepreneurs in Africa to build region’s first intelligence network

Wageningen, The Netherlands, 27 July 2018: VALUE4HER a new CTA project will empower women entrepreneurs working in the agricultural sector – agripreneurs – by giving them the skills, knowledge and access to markets, finance and services they need to build their businesses. The project is calling for women-led agribusinesses to register to become part of the first intelligence network targeting women-led agribusinesses in Africa.

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Farming by Phone to keep up with the Climate

A project known as MUIIS (Market-led, User-owned ICT4Ag-enabled Information Services), led by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), links farmers to satellite-based services that help them to increase crop yields. Tips and instructions sent to mobile devices get as specific as ‘spread fertilizer between 5 pm and 7 pm’ or ‘winds expected at 3 pm’. Something farmers say have increased crop yields and contributed to food security.

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All Eyes on the Sky

Smallholders in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific are seeing their horizons broaden, as access to technology brings digital applications to agriculture. In Uganda, a project supported by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), has forged a partnership with Igara Tea Factory (IGTF) to transform cultivation through digital innovation.

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Innovations reshaping smallholders’ market access

Technical solutions to food tracking, traceability and distribution are enabling agribusinesses along the value chain to better manage and expand their operations. Such innovations also help farmers and farmer organisations to establish and strengthen links with buyers.

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Data on all levels is very valuable to the value chain

The Executive Director of the Secretariat for Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN) is André Laperrière. Here, he describes what GODAN have to do to raise awareness about the potential of agricultural data and how to get policymakers and donors on-board.

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Governments must move to harness game-changing potential of drones in Africa

Drones can save lives, provide hi-tech rural jobs, and ensure developing countries take a major step forward towards self-sufficiency in food production – but only if governments come up with enabling national regulations governing their use. That is the joint message from agriculture specialists CTA and agricultural drone pioneers Parrot-Airinov.

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Agricultural data systems to transform smallholder farming

In the last three years, digitalisation in agriculture has been a core intervention area for CTA. With the support of the Panafrican Farmers' Organisation (PAFO) and additional financial support of AgriCord, a 3-year, CTA EU-Funded €1.2 million project “Data4Ag: Agricultural data systems to transform smallholder farming” focuses on transforming smallholder agriculture through the use of data management by agri-enterprises.

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10,000 smallholders to benefit in new Central African cassava project

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA), together with the Regional Platform for Central African Producers Organisations (PROPAC) and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) has launched this week in Kinshasa a new project to unlock the economic potential in cassava value chains in both DRC and Cameroon.

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Raising PIPSO’s profile

Over the last two years, CTA has supported the Pacific Islands Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO) to increase its visibility through the establishment of a new and improved website.

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Optimum feed ratios for livestock

In collaboration with nutritionists, software developers and farmers in developing countries, Dutch consultancy firm, Single Spark, has helped to develop an app that instructs farmers how to prepare the optimum livestock feed to meet their needs.

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Shaping ICT solutions together with smallholder farmers

Flexibility is a core feature of a CTA-led initiative linking small-scale farmers to satellite-based services that is helping them to improve crops yields and climate resilience in Uganda. As the programme moves into its third year, adjustments are being made based on feedback, first and foremost from the farmers.

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Don’t leave technology to the men

Dr Eleni Gabre-Madhin, CEO and Founder of blueMoon – Ethiopia’s first youth agribusiness incubator – shares her experience as a woman entrepreneur in Africa’s agricultural sector and stresses the importance that agribusinesses ‘think digital’.

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Helping farmers make real decisions

ICT Update spoke to Hanna Camp, client engagement manager at aWhere, to discover in more detail what the company's role is in the Market-led, User-owned ICT4Ag-enabled Information Service (MUIIS).

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Transforming satellite data for smallholders

ICT Update spoke to Remco Dost, senior project manager at eLEAF, about the company's work, what it does with the raw data it sources from satellites and what role it is playing in the Market-led, User-owned ICT4Ag-enabled Information Service (MUIIS).

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Is the Internet of Things the future of farming?

In ACP countries, the use of smart ‘connected’ devices in agriculture is still at an experimental stage. Yet new projects are emerging, and global trends show how this new technology offers vital development opportunities.

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New apps close the gap in farmer knowledge

A mobile app is providing Kenyan farmers with information on their farm’s soil composition and weather forecasts within minutes. With almost real-time data on soil type, fertiliser requirements and predicted rainfall, smallholders are reducing environmental damage and boosting their climate resilience.

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Women entrepreneurs: key factors to success in agribusiness

Women around the world are overcoming barriers to establish profitable businesses in the agricultural sector. However, strong links to high-value markets, access to necessary finance and resources, and sufficient business training are essential requirements for women business leaders to break through the ‘glass ceiling’ and expand their agribusinesses to compete on an international scale.

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A dynamic future for young agripreneurs

Among the numerous topics addressed during the inaugural Pacific Week of Agriculture in Port Vila, Vanuatu from October 16-20, the place of young people into agribusiness ventures has caught a lot of attention. A concrete way to bring new incomes in Pacific Island states and to fight youth unemployment and rural exodus.

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Next-generation farmers: Digitally connected and business-minded

Numerous initiatives are emerging in the agricultural community that illustrate the potential profile of future African farmers – as informed business leaders, who make a good living and are connected online – and prove that agriculture offers exciting opportunities for young people.

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Modernising Caribbean crop production

Agricultural production in the Caribbean is constrained by limited access to up-to-date, local information. However, recent ICT developments in the region have created e-solutions to these challenges, improving crop production and reducing pests and diseases as well as post-harvest losses.

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Data and drones in Uganda: CTA's new agribusiness project

An exciting new pilot project has been launched by CTA with Ugandan partners, the National Union of Coffee Agribusinesses and Farm Enterprises (NUCAFE) and IGARA Tea, for setting up and populating GIS and databases within their management information systems to improve membership transparency and accountability and product traceability.

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Creating ICT opportunities with the apps4ag database

In ICT Update and on websites as ICT4D, CTA has covered the explosive growth and proliferation of digital and mobile phone technologies for agriculture. Now CTA takes the next step with developing the Apps4Ag database, a comprehensive, up-to-date and responsive database of ICTs including mobile, web, animation, audio, and video applications involved in the food value chains.

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Facilitating change in agricultural value chains with app services

Investment in mobile agricultural services is likely to be most effective where the technology is integrated into specific systems and organisational routines that are developed by new or established local innovators. They are the drivers for developing new processes and new networks on the ground that promote scale efficiencies along the value chain.

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Investing in the ICT4Ag application space

ICT4Ag models in the developing world are proliferating. Yet most players are not yet translating momentum into impact at scale. Despite the growth of opportunities, a very small proportion of the global ICT4Ag funding targets smallholder farmers in developing countries. Rethinking strategic approaches for ICT4Ag funding can change this.

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Four building stones for a vibrant ICT environment

A vibrant enabling environment is vital for creativity, stimulus and optimism on which ICT4Ag initiatives can generate impact. Developers and innovators have to learn from cases, either successful or not, when it comes to the environments or contexts where they have been deployed. There are four areas on which an enabling environment depends.

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Improving agronomic and business skills for sesame

In Tanzania, sesame farmers are receiving training in the agronomic and business skills they need to sell better quality produce at a higher price. Mobile phones are also being used as learning tools to deliver timely and convenient information to smallholders.

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A smart farming approach to agriculture

Precision agriculture promises better returns to investment and improved livelihoods for farmers around the world. One of the biggest changes in agriculture in our lifetimes, it is spreading to developing countries, where smart farming technologies, including data collected from satellites and drones, are set to fine tune the way farmers grow their crops.

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Supporting young e-agriculture start-ups

During the last quarter of 2016, Pitch AgriHack’s 25 finalists – selected from a competitive group of 152 e-agriculture start-ups from across Africa and the Caribbean – participated in a 2-day training bootcamp, which focused on offering successful business services in e-agriculture, at iHub in Nairobi.

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Satellite-based crop advice

In October 2015, a consortium led by CTA begun developing a bundle of agricultural information products to be sold through SMS and smartphone apps to enable Ugandan farmers to access satellite-based crop advice. The project, entitled Market-led, User-owned ICT4Ag enabled Information Service (MUIIS), provides agricultural extension advisory services to farmers at the swipe of a screen.

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Regional solutions in the Pacific

The 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum not only identified pressing challenges but also opportunities and creative solutions focused on the development and strengthening of partnerships and linkages among the agriculture, agritourism, health, education and finance sectors.

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Boosting agriculture through innovative lending partnerships

The growth of small-scale agriculture in developing countries is being held back by critical underfunding. To address this challenge, CTA was the organizer of an international conference which explored an innovative approach for agricultural finance – the blending of private, philanthropic and public funding to leverage capital flows into smallholder value chains. The Blending4Ag conference was held to improve practices in mobilising agricultural finance, and help forge new partnerships for mitigating and sharing risks in smallholder funding.

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Rural finance key to agricultural development

Rural and agricultural finance are key drivers to developing agriculture in West Africa, to feed a growing population and curb rising food import bills. The International Conference on Improving Agricultural Finance, a two-day event held in Abuja, Nigeria, explored effective strategies for developing financial instruments and policies to boost agricultural production and value chains.

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Progress report on Mobis customisation

As part of the business plan of MUIIS, there needs to be a clear understanding on how the bundled information services (agronomic, weather and insurance) will be delivered to targeted customers. Different delivery channels such as SMS, USSD, IVR, and Call Centres are possible.

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How Participatory 3D Modelling has contributed to women's personal development in Madagascar

Rural women in Ampefy and Analavory are emerging from years of years of subordination and passivity, taking charge of their own development and overcoming numerous obstacles to their emancipation. Their key role in regional development is increasingly recognised by the administrative and traditional authorities, development partners and the local community. This article shows how participatory 3-D modelling helps women fulfil their potential.

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Gender and open data: Is there an app for that?

Wouldn’t it be handy if you could just switch on that app and see the agricultural (or any other) sector through a gender lens? And what if everyone else also working in the agricultural sector just magically started to use it? Would it make us do things differently, collect different data, push for the release and visualisation of other types of datasets, or would we make sure the data were more equally accessed and used?

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Translating complex data into accessible articles

It sounds simple, open data is there for anyone to access. However, not all journalists are aware of the open data available to them or how to use it when writing about food security or the critical challenges facing agriculture. Good journalism is not based on opinions, it relies on evidence-based information.

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Kenya opens up agricultural data

The Kenya government initiated the Open Data Initiative in 2011 on the idea that Kenya's information is a national asset. Agriculture is one of the main pillars, because food security and economic development can only move forward if decisions on agriculture are evidence-based. To be successful, data needs to be available, accurate, and open for all.

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Healthy choices

Increasing the open access to nutrition and food data for ICT developers has resulted in a surge in applications for a healthier food intake and better fitness.

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Building the ICT infrastructure of MUIIS for SMS delivery

The development of MUIIS technology suite involves a team of technology, communication, data, agronomy and extension experts working together to create a package of bundled services enabled by ICTs. The bundled information services (agronomic, weather and insurance) will be delivered to targeted customers through different delivery channels.

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MUIIS service agents profiling farmers across Uganda

A key resource and asset for the MUIIS project is the farmer profiles. The estimated 350,000 farmers will have detailed profiles within the project database. The profiling is being carried out by a network of 200 MUIIS Service Agents (MSAs) through the existing networks of EAFF, AGRA and Mercy Corps.

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The world needs agricultural data

With the advent of web 2.0 and social media, a new phase of data openness began a few years ago when a number of tools and technologies were made available and accessible to many people worldwide. This has provided increased access to information and enhanced the ability to collaborate through information sharing.

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Meteorology: Supporting decision-making

Farmers in Mauritius are using targeted meteorological data to help them adapt to climate change. A new decision-making support system enables farmers to plan their field activities more efficiently, increase productivity, and is helping to drive down the Island’s reliance on imports which it simply cannot afford.

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Tools for balanced fertilisation

A soil mapping project in Ethiopia, and mobile laboratories for testing soil in Kenya, are helping farmers improve fertiliser use. Areas of Ethiopian soil previously affected by acidity and nutrient deficiency are becoming more balanced, while Kenyan farmers are able to test soils before planting.

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Food crisis prevention in Madagascar

Food crises are a regular occurrence in Madagascar. Remote sensing – using technology to measure farmland – is helping the country to tackle this issue head-on. Researchers are utilising satellite images and spatial modelling to estimate crop yields and identify the best ways to combat diseases.

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Study shows major gaps in ACP drones legislation

A new study by CTA, Drone governance: study of policies, laws and regulations governing the use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) in ACP countries, shows major gaps in legislation governing the use of drones in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

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Home-grown ICT solutions in agriculture come from young entrepreneurs

Young innovators in Africa, the Caribbean, and Pacific region, have recognised the need for creative solutions to raise agricultural productivity and the huge prospective market for their ICT-enabled services in agriculture. Although they still face many challenges, their products have the potential to transform agricultural value chains in developing countries.

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First up in Samoa: Women in agribusiness

The 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum begins with a focus on women as active agents and key implementers in all stages of the agri-chain. It was a full Samoan day well spent at the 2nd Pacific Agribusiness Forum. The Forum opened this morning with the launch of the Pacific Women in Agribusiness project, followed by sessions focusing on key areas of importance, challenges and opportunities for women in agribusiness across the Pacific.

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The GODAN Action project: an innovative approach

Open data is changing the way we live our lives and interact with each other. From transporting information, to improving education, government accountability, and access to healthcare, open data affects our everyday lives. Through a new project – GODAN Action – CTA and partners will build the capacity and diversity of open data users to tackle food security and nutrition challenges.

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Counting coconuts with drones

On the Pacific islands of Samoa drone technology is used in a coconut tree survey to forecast more accurately yield and production of virgin coconut oil.

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From GPS to drones – women leading the way

Tanzanian entrepreneur Rose Funja believes that information and communication technologies (ICTs) hold the key to a better future for young women, especially in the agriculture sector. Setting an example for them all, she has launched a start-up that links small-scale farmers to financial institutions – and is now turning her thoughts to drones.

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Agri-Food Forum looks to the future

The 2015 Caribbean Pacific Agri-Food Forum, held in Barbados, focused on many of CTA’s priority interventions for the regions. There was a strong emphasis on impact. In Africa, CTA has been encouraging greater intra-regional trade, and we played a prominent role in two important conferences in Equatorial Guinea and Rwanda.

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ICTs: strength in unity

Converging communication media (TV, PC, mobile) for agriculture offers a number of opportunities in ACP countries, as shown by the good practices shared by experts at a workshop organised by CTA.

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Continuing the open data discussion

The Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition initiative (GODAN) recently met in Wageningen, the Netherlands to discuss the actual and potential impacts of open data in agriculture.

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