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Concept note

Farmers and other agricultural actors are increasingly using ICTs, particularly mobile phones, at
different stages and in all segments of the agricultural value chain. As recommended by the United
Nations, the need to put in place strategic and holistic frameworks, that guide and support the full
integration of these technologies into agricultural activities, has become crucial.

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA) is organizing its 2013
ICT Observatory meeting, preceded by a preparatory online discussion, on this key issue.
These activities are being implemented in collaboration with FAO, World Bank, EAFF, Ministry of
Agriculture and Animal Resources (Rwanda), Ministry of Communication (Ghana), IICD,
NEPAD Agency, UNECA/ISTD.

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1. Background

  • A. Widespread use of ICT in agriculture

In most ACP countries, the use of the internet and mobile phones have considerably spread and new information and communication technologies are reaching all development sectors. Indeed, from 2000 to 2011, the internet has witnessed a growth of 2,988% in Africa and 1205,1% in Latin America and the Caribbean, while the average growth for the world is 528% (Source : Internet World Stats). The agricultural sector is also greatly benefiting from this progress. Mobile phones, which also provide access to the web, are now widespread: for example Benin has almost 90% of subscriptions while Trinidad and Tobago has more than 150% subscriptions (several people have more than one SIM card). Mobile applications are being developed in ACP countries targeting several segments or activities of the agriculture value chains, with applications such as the mFarm, iCow and mFisheries. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) tools are improving the traceability of agricultural products; agricultural extension services are more and more tapping into new technology to provide advisory services to individual farmers; agricultural research or development institutions use the web to promote their services and interconnect their agents; and all agricultural stakeholders, including farmers, youth, women and adults are more and more enthusiastic to raise their capacities in Web 2.0 tools (Source : CTA web 2.0 analyses). Additionally, even though crucial issues such as power outages put hindrances on access to ICTs, new projects are regularly designed by governments, the private sector and international institutions to improve bandwidth and equip citizens.

B. Increased need for strategic planning on ICT integration in Agriculture

The steady developments described above are occurring 8 years after the launch of the international e-Agriculture dynamics, in the framework of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The WSIS Plan of Actions had called for measures to “Ensure the systematic dissemination of information using ICTs on agriculture, animal husbandry, fisheries, forestry and food, in order to provide ready access to comprehensive, up-to-date and detailed knowledge and information, particularly in rural areas” and that “public-private partnerships should seek to maximize the use of ICTs as an instrument to improve production (quantity and quality)”

In addition, in April 2012, the African Ministers of Agriculture, Science and Technology recommended To take advantage of modern technologies such as biotechnology and ICT, including development of national ICT/M policies to encourage investments in knowledge management and targeted information & agricultural extension and advisory services delivery”. In a report produced by the International Telecommunication Union, it was observed that “Many e-government, e-business, e-learning and e-health strategies are in place. Other sectors are still lacking e-strategies. Governments need to ensure more coherence between their ICT and sectoral e-strategies (ITU, 2010).”

Even though most ACP countries do not have exist specific ICT for agriculture strategies, in national ICT for development policies (developed with the support of organizations such as the UNECA, IICD, UNDP), there are elements on sectoral policies such as agriculture, health, education. These indications illustrate a need to plan the strategic use of ICTs in agriculture; however they do not stand for e-agriculture strategies. In many cases, the collaboration of agricultural stakeholders for their identification has been symbolic; moreover most of these documents have been prepared several years ago, especially in Africa.

In addition, the background report commissioned by CTA prior to the ICT Observatory (see below), illustrates that there are increased discussions on the need for holistic strategies on the integration of ICT in agriculture, though there is a lack of understanding or interest on the part of some stakeholders.

These various facts and observations suggest at least that the question of e-agriculture strategies in ACP countries is discussed and that ways to address them are considered.

2. The ICT Observatory meeting

The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). It provides access to information and knowledge, facilitates policy dialogue and strengthens the capacity of agricultural and rural development institutions and communities.

CTA’s ICT Observatory was set up in 1998 as an instrument to advise the institution, and its partners, on ICT strategies and applications relevant to ACP agricultural and rural development and to identify ICT policy issues, experiences and projects.

The past ICT Observatory meetings were focused on themes such as Introduction of ICTs in agricultural information systems (1998); Gender and agriculture in the information society (2002); ICTs – transforming agricultural extension? (2003); “Giving Youth a Voice” – ICTs for Rural Youth Livelihoods (2004); in 2009 and 2010, it focused on the potential of mobile applications for ARD. The proceedings of these last two meetings can be found at  http://observatory2009.cta.int/.

The 2013 ICT Observatory will focus on how to strengthen e-Agriculture strategies and policies (holistic ICT policies and strategies dedicated to the agriculture sector) in ACP countries.

  • A. Aims

The meeting’s aims are to:

  • Review the need, design and implementation of ICT for agriculture strategies in ACP countries;
  • Identify strategic actions and collaborations to be put in place to strengthen the formulation and implementation of effective and inclusive ICT strategies for agriculture;
  • Discuss about the production of (a) reference document(s) on strengthening e-agriculture strategies in ACP countries.
  • Participants will also discuss the innovative tools, projects and key actions that will support the implementation of these strategies.

  • B. Participants

30 participants, mainly from government institutions, farmer organizations, private sector, international organizations (from both ICT and agriculture sectors) and CTA staff will attend the event. CTA will support the attendance costs of most participants. They will come from all ACP regions and from the European Union.

  • C. Agenda

The following themes and issues will be discussed during the workshop:

  • Emergence of the e-agriculture process at the international level (WSIS/post-WSIS);
  • State of ICT policy development and linkages with Agriculture in ACP countries
  • Case studies and lessons learned in the formulation and implementation of ICT for agriculture strategies
  • Target areas of e-agriculture strategies
  • ICT access needs and challenges for agricultural stakeholders
  • ICT policy and regulatory challenges for agricultural businesses
  • E-agriculture tools and applications : case studies
  • Strategic use and implications of mobile phone to support agriculture value chains
  • How to enhance the strategic collaboration between the Ministry in charge of Agriculture and the Ministry in charge of ICT?
  • Ensuring the involvement of agricultural stakeholders, including SHFs.
  • What role for youths?
  • What strategic actions can be implemented to enhance the formulation, implementation and evaluation of e-agriculture strategies in ACP countries?
  • Initial ideas on the detailed study on e-agriculture strategies planned by CTA.
  • Discussions on other collaborative initiatives.


D. Preparatory online discussion

An e-discussion leading up to the Observatory is planned from 25 February to 08 March on the e-Agriculture.org platform  http://ow.ly/hGiRn managed by FAO.

Its objectives are to:

  • Identify issues relating to the needs, and challenges regarding the formulation of inclusive and efficient ICT for national or regional agriculture strategies in ACP countries
  • Identify ICT for agriculture strategy processes that exist in ACP countries, challenges facing their implementation and evaluation, as well as recommendations.

The conclusions of the debate will contribute in discussions during the ICT observatory meeting and will be taken into account in the implementation of future initiatives in relation to this issue. This discussion will contribute to the identification of issues and initiatives that will be discussed during the ICT Observatory meeting. More information on this discussion can be found at this link: http://ow.ly/hGiRn.

3. Background report

CTA has produced a background report in preparation of the meeting. It reviews the general state of e-Agriculture policies and strategies  in selected ACP and non-ACP countries. It is a desk research that has been developed in preparation for the 2013 ICT Observatory meeting and only aims at providing a quick overview on the issue.

The report identifies some of the key challenges, target orientations, and key areas of support for national e-Agriculture policies or strategies development as reported by the various stakeholders. Consultations with stakeholders took place between October and December 2012 mainly through Skype and phone calls, and supplemented with email interviews and analysis of policy documents.

The summary of findings is available here  http://goo.gl/rUPz1 (word document). The full report will be distributed to participants during the meeting.