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Peter Kuthan / AZFA
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« on: May 10 2012 »

Summary:

"ICT interventions of our project partners have contributed to the performance of agricultural sectors by improving knowledge flows and the policy environment."

This report examines the experiences of the International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) with using information and communication technology (ICT) to support agriculture, economic development, and livelihood opportunities in Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Ghana, Mali, Uganda, and Zambia.

As detailed here, farmers, workers, and entrepreneurs can use ICT to:

    Access market information - In a series of IICD projects, producers receive market price information and topical information about market demand for certain crops via radio, mobile services, and the internet. To ensure that they can make optimal use of the information they receive, this is combined with training sessions to enable them to use mobile services and the internet. These skills help them to interpret price information more accurately, thereby enhancing their decision-making ability on when and where to buy products and what to produce.
    Improve quality and productivity - A number of IICD projects have worked to help farmers prepare multimedia materials (photos and short videos) to describe their best practices. In other cases, extension officers or producer organisations make use of the internet to gather relevant information on inputs and production methods which they use to better advise the producers during their field visits. In addition, ICT is used to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of certification of products, enabling producers to get a better price and enter new local or international markets. These projects make use of hand-held devices and databases to simplify the collection of field information.
    Strengthen business skills and employment opportunities - IICD has been supporting partners by helping them develop their basic ICT skills (calculation, word processing, planning, etc.) in order to improve the business skills of producers and small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). The same basic ICT applications are also used to enhance the quality and relevance of vocational training courses for young people, with a view to helping them improve their chances on the labour market.

According to IICD, all of its projects flow out of strategic collaboration between IICD and partner organisations in the countries, including farmer associations and producers' cooperatives. This publication summarises the main lessons learned through this collaboration between 2006 and 2010. One overall finding: "Throughout the years, IICD has measured economic impact as perceived by users and beneficiaries....In 2010, 67% of the respondents perceived an economic impact from participating in an economic development project, compared to only 30% in 2006." While each project is jointly developed with local partners and tailored to the local needs, there has been a continued effort to share experiences among the projects both within and across countries.

Impacts of the ICT projects described here are categorised as:

    Empowering and connecting individuals - example: The SEND Foundation in Ghana provides price information on mobile phones through text messages, in collaboration with Esoko. SEND organised an information needs assessment with farmer cooperative leaders, who were mostly men, to decide on which crops price information would be collected. After evaluating the first phase of the project, female participation turned out to be very low because "women's" crops such as okra and dried pepper had not been included in the price information services. After these crops were added, female participation increased. After this experience, SEND began making a conscious effort to include women in its activities. Initially, computer skills training was geared toward community leaders only (mostly men). After the evaluation, other cooperative members were included, particularly women.
    Strengthening and connecting organisations - "Many partner organisations repeatedly mention that by using ICTs they were able to connect to multiple networks resulting in new business opportunities and partnerships. They are also increasingly recognised by local and national governments. These are results that partner organisations had not anticipated in their projects. These spin-off effects...often create more development impact than the initial ICT project, and they make a significant contribution to the sustainability of the organisation and its activities."
    Strengthening and linking sectors - example: In Bolivia, the Departmental Government of Santa Cruz facilitates the exchange of market prices, supply, and demand of agricultural products to empower farmers in their negotiation skills with intermediaries. In addition, it assists in the transfer of technologies to and between farmers to increase efficiency and productivity, thereby strengthening food security and revenues of small farmers. The information system builds on a pilot from the non-governmental organisation (NGO) Instituto de Capacitacion del Oriente (ICO). The information is disseminated daily through radio shows and internet in 15 provinces, reaching at least 300,000 farmers.

Web link:
The International Institute for Communication and Development (IICD) website, May 10 2012.
http://www.iicd.org/about/publications/ict-for-rural-economic-development-five-years-of-learning
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