Following the forum on The Role of ICTs in Sustainable Crop Production Intensification (SCPI) of horticulture crop based system (mainly fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers) we caught up with Innocent Chamisa - the co-moderator from the Rural and Urban Crop and Mechanization Systems Team (AGPML) and asked him a few questions on the just ended forum
Tell us briefly about the background to this forum, and did the forum discussion meet your expectations?
Thank you let me start by expressing my gratitude once again for the opportunity you have given us to host the forum on the e-Agriculture platform and for the invitation extended to share my views post the discussions.
To begin with, let me be quick to point out that, this forum was part of a broader discussion that aims to present the ongoing evolution in agriculture and horticulture as a continuous trend towards the goal, to “produce more with less”. It was born out of the ongoing Dgroup discussions on sustainable intensification of horticulture.
This was a quick, efficient way of probing and gathering in depth global information and practical cases where ICT has been used in the intensification of horticulture. The cases received in the forum will be referenced in an envisaged online living sourcebook aiming to present how the principles of the Save and Grow approach can work well also with horticulture crop based systems.
On whether the forum met my expectations well, quite an interesting question which is neither a no nor a yes question. However, to me this has been a very fascinating discussion, looking at the intriguing, qualitative and insightful contributions from our global participants. Within this very short period, we received a total number of 75 contributions from participants from over 25 countries.
The remarkable enthusiasm, with which the participants discussed the various issues put in evidence the significant role of ICTs in the sustainable intensification of crop production.
What aspects of the discussion would you like to highlight for our readers?
Will start by quoting one of the contributors, Dr P,S Baker, who said, “The really encouraging thing is that technology will only get better and cheaper in future , so its time everybody started trying it out ,even if only in a very limited way to start with…’.This is a self-explanatory statement and l believe such a forum, was a very good way to start, as we brought global experts to share and discuss on this important issue.
In addition, l would like to point out that, the majority of the participants concurred on the significant role of ICTs in the sustainable intensification of Horticulture crop-based systems basing on scientific and practical evidences.
The discussion further puts in evidence that, since the birth of ICTs, great changes have been noted in the agricultural production systems. Horticulture has not been spared as famers have benefitted immensely from the ICT revolution, from older technologies such as radio and television to advanced modern technologies, such as GPS navigation, satellite communication, and wireless connectivity, robots, among others. The potential of ICTs in supporting access to, and exchange of information for smallholder farmers involved in horticulture production is clear.
However, embracing ICTs across countries and amongst farmers especially the smallholder farmers, will not be an easy task and has not been, there are challenges. Key among them, the lack of proper infrastructure in general. Access to electricity, mobile networks and Internet connection. Horticulture producers are also confronted with the high cost of electricity and ICT equipment, limiting their possibilities to work with new technologies.
To such a background if we are to reduce the digital divide, and ensure that no one is left behind there is a need to address these challenges using the bottom up approach, designing with the farmers, having tailor made and context specific ICTs solutions to the problems being encountered by the horticulture growers and in enabling sustainable intensification.
What did you take away from this discussion for your future work, and any recommendations?
The ability of ICTs to bring refreshed momentum to agriculture appears even more compelling in light of rising investments in agricultural research, the private sector’s strong interest in the development and spread of ICTs, and the upsurge of organizations committed to the agricultural development agenda, in the holistic achievement of the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
Many ICTs (tools, technologies and innovative practices) are already in use for sustainably increasing horticulture crop production and many more will emerge, all adapted to different contexts, different scale of production and cropping systems.
The participants made it clear that, we cannot have “a one size fit all ICTs solution” for sustainable horticulture crop production intensification but there is a need for context driven ICT tailored solutions. Farmers have an important role to play in the identification of the ICTs and their development, and should play a more important role in this process.
Moving forward, as widely acknowledged, to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture, there is need of a holistic approach towards increased horticulture crop production and productivity. ICT, is just a part of the bigger puzzle, there is need to incorporate ICT into the already existing integrated and innovative, Save and Grow approach, which includes conservation agriculture, good agricultural practices, organic agriculture and integrated crop management.
As we continue with this work, it was good to learn about the continued efforts we are doing as FAO in enabling and promoting the use of ICTs, with the recently launched project in Rwanda, 'The Agricultural Services and Digital Inclusion in Rwanda'.
Lastly, it is worthy to keep in mind that, ICTs are a “means to an end” and “an end to a means” in sustainable crop production.
Thank you, we look forward to engaging with you in future!
The views expressed above are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of e-Agriculture or the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)