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Executive Summary

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Background Report
on
e-Agriculture Policies and Strategies in ACP Countries
In preparation of the 2013 ICT Observatory

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY
This background report 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 nature of the research and the limited timeframe did not allow for a detailed analysis on the status e-Agriculture strategy processes in the selected countries.

I: SUMMARY OF FINDINGS

  • A. Overview of national e-Agriculture policies and strategies:
    The results show that there are initiatives (at various stages) in a few countries to develop such strategies or policies. However, the consultation reveals that in most ACP countries, there were no interests or understanding of the need for e-Agriculture strategies or policies even though the importance of ICT in agriculture is generally recognized. Reports from some UN organisations such as ITU and UNECA recognize few progress have been made on e-Agriculture strategies, whereas e-strategies on other sectors such as governance and health do exist. Below is the state of national e-Agriculture strategies or policies from countries examined:

Ghana (Africa): The Ghana ICTs in Agriculture Implementation Strategy was developed in 2005, certainly as a follow-up to ICT provisions in the 2003 National ICT for Accelerated Development Policy document, and a draft report on Implementation Strategy and Action Plans for Modernisation of Agriculture and Development of Agro-Business Industry in Ghana was released in 2007 for review and implementation. It was not clear during the study whether the plan has actually been implemented and evaluated.

Ivory Coast (Africa):A recent development in Ivory Coast shows a joint effort by the Ministry of Agriculture, and the Ministry of Post, Information Technology and Communication to develop a national e-Agriculture policy. According to a press release on the ministries website, a national strategy document for “e.Agriculture” has been developed and is currently with the Council of State for approval.

Rwanda (Africa): Consultation with the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal Resources (MAAR) in Rwanda revealed current efforts in formulating a national strategy to integrate ICTs into agriculture and natural resource management programs across the country. It is being described as a “Strategic Plan for Agricultural Transformation” with key component on institutional development of an agricultural knowledge and management system.

Mali and Burkina Faso (Africa): Through contacts made by CTA, it appears that UNECA has been collaborating with these two countries to develop a cyber-strategy for agriculture or rural development in 2011 (Note: Mali and Burkina Faso were not part of the countries selected for the study).

Saint Lucia (Caribbean): In Saint Lucia, there is no evidence of efforts to develop a national e-Agriculture policy or strategy. However, the study found that the country’s national ICT policy document has recognised the role of ICTs in the development of the agricultural sector, which is one of the pillars of its economy. The St. Lucia’s Agricultural Resource Information System (SLARIS) therefore has specific target areas for integration of ICTs into agriculture and rural development.

Fiji (Pacific): No evidence was found in Fiji about the existence of a national e-Agriculture policy or strategy. Analysis of the National IT Policy of Fiji shows no mention of the agricultural sector. However, one of the goals of the 2011 National Broadband Policy for the island is to develop lead applications in agriculture and fisheries to assist in efficient production, marketing and logistics associated with the primary industries including agriculture.

India (Asia): In India while it has not been specifically described as a national e-Agriculture policy; there are efforts to create awareness about the need to develop a “National Agricultural Informatics Framework”. Also, the country has a national ICT policy within which agriculture is a key component; moreover, in the national agriculture policy, the role of ICTs for extension and dissemination of agricultural information is well recognised.

Bangladesh (Asia): Not much progress has been made in developing a national e-Agriculture policy and a recent initiative between the private and public sectors to develop a policy guideline for public-private interaction in the area of agriculture information dissemination has been stalled due to political changes. The proposed national ICT policy of the country, however, recognised the importance of ICTs in agriculture and has devoted a comprehensive portion of it to the agricultural sector. Also with the “Digital Bangladesh” agenda by the current government, there is the hope for such initiative in the future.

Bolivia (Latin America): In addition to the above selected countries, the study found that in Bolivia an “ICT Strategy for the Agriculture Sector” was developed with support from IICD in 2002. But the current status of this document could not be identified.

  • B. Issues and challenges: 

Below are some general experiences shared by stakeholders that can inform future initiatives aimed at supporting ACP countries in developing national e-Agriculture policies or strategies.

Policy ownership: Experiences in ICT policy and other sectoral policy development show that national ownership is critical in the entire process. The involvement of international organizations, if needed, should be limited, to awareness creation, technical and financial support.

Multi-stakeholder partnership: The study found that multi-stakeholder partnership involving the public sector, the private sector, civil society and international organisations is needed for a successful policy development, implementation, and monitoring.With respect to the national e-Agriculture policies or strategies, a strong collaboration between the two key ministries – the Ministry in charge of Agriculture and the one in charge of ICTs is critical at the national level. A good collaboration between ICT-focused and agriculture-focused international organisations (ITU, UNECA, FAO, CTA, IICD, etc.) is also needed on this issue.

Other challenges recalled by the stakeholders include the general lack of interest or understanding in e-Agriculture policies or strategies by many stakeholders at the national level; the sheer lack of understanding of the role and potential of ICTs in agriculture even at the senior official level; issues with institutional and political structures; regulatory changes in the absence of formal policies; poor collaboration between Ministries in charge of ICTs and agriculture; among others. Other implementation challenges mentioned by the respondents include power non-availability; poor ICT infrastructure; low ICT literacy; lack of relevant content; non-integration of services; non-availability of advisory services; issues of localisation of ICTs; and resource mobilisation.

  • C. Orientations and target areas:
    Respondents also identified some key target areas expected to be covered in their national e-Agriculture policies.These include local content, weather services, farm health management informatics, infrastructure and equipment, universal access, training and capacity building, postharvest management, forest management, general production system, marketing and market research, commodity specific focus such as livestock, crops fisheries, etc., water resource management, R&D, and risk management.

  • D. Expected areas of support:
    Among the few areas identified for support is capacity building for national actors in the entire policy development process. While some of the international organizations argued that the financial cost should not be too much to exceed the capacity of the national governments, national stakeholders did ask for support in terms of budget in the policy development, implementation, and monitoring.