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How should the use of ICTs best be integrated in resilience programmes or projects? (December 5th)

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How should the use of ICTs best be integrated in resilience programmes or projects? (December 5th)

How should the use of ICTs best be integrated in resilience programmes or projects?

dsadou's picture
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ICT

Depending on the kind of Projects and the context, I think ICT can be used differently.

In resilience development projects, ICT can be useful to speed actions of implementations in the field, making economies of functionning, it can help to gather data for efficient decision making.

According to strenghtening marketing resilience, ICTS can be integrated as a tool in Marketing Information Systems. Efficients MIS helps in creating the gaps usually existing between the demand and the supply sides. In addition, ICT can help in providing agricultural advisory services, help the development of marketing relations and increase targeted population revenue.

In research action/ development projects, ICT can be used to test the robustness of resilience mechanism either as preventive noor after shocks in models.

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TIC

La agricultura siempre ha sido de incertidumbre y hoy en día le debemos agregar otro factor adicional de incertidumbre, el cambio climático. Es preocupante ver las pérdidas y/o bajos rendimientos en los cultivos porque el calendario tradicional de las lluvias se ha corrido. Los cultivos de leguminosas que tradicionalmente se siembran en septiembre para aprovechar las últimas lluvias han sufrido con las fuertes y abundantes precipitaciones que aún no paran.

A mi concepto se hace necesario que el agricultor cuente con herramientas de predicción climática que faciliten adaptarse al calendario de cultivos. Muchos productores aún hacen cálculos de siembra basándose en la temporada tradicional de lluvias.

Incorporar las TIC a la agricultura regional es limitada principalmente por el costo de sistemas, equipos y su alta obsolescencia. Adicionalmente la infraestructura para conectividad a internet es deficiente. Superando estas barreras se crea una resiliencia fuerte para enfrentar las adversidades del agro.

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ICTs
Agriculture has always been uncertain and today we must add another additional factor of uncertainty, climate change. It is worrying to see losses and / or low crop yields because the traditional rainfall calendar is no longer useful. The legume crops traditionally planted in September to take advantage of the last rains have suffered from strong and abundant precipitations that don't seem to stop.
 
In my opinion, it is necessary for the farmer to have climate prediction tools that make it easier to adapt to the crop calendar. Many farmers still make planting calculations based on the traditional rainy season.
 
Incorporating ICT into regional agriculture is limited mainly by the cost of systems, equipment and high obsolescence. Additionally the infrastructure for internet connectivity is poor. Overcoming these barriers creates a strong resilience to face the adversities of agriculture.
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Probably because I know how

Probably because I know how to apply ICT in the projects, believe that it is in the projects the greatest effect achievable.

I believe that the project is more concrete concept and to achieve results in obtaining of products and the economy using ICT applications easier. Just in development programmes needs to be completely different tools and software.

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On Optimal Use of ICT in Africultural Resilience

These comments assume that use of ICT in agriculture are not inappropriate due to lack of not only the infra-structure it needs, but also other essential things like transport, extension services, irrigation, storage facilities, basic education and health care etc.

 

If we are to practise a holistic approach to nutrition, which after all is the fundamental purpose of agriculture, we must seriously think about the end-users, i.e., those who consume  the food produced.

 

Perhaps, one may establish farmer cooperatives and set up mailing lists so that its subscribers could be informed  of fresh produce for sale. This might enable both producers and consumers to engage in a mutually beneficial exchange without intermediaries so that farmers will get a fair reward while the customers could secure quality fresh food at a reasonable cost.

Of course, this is not possible everywhere, but when possible it could provide an inexpensive and simple way of using ICT to promote farmers' interests as well as those of the customers.

Even now, long term weather prediction remains a chancy business. Even if it is otherwise, previous knowledge of bad weather could spare the farmer the cost of wasted agro-chemicals and seed but not much more. True, this might be a fair saving, but it does not mitigate the problem to a significant degree.

At both ends, ICT has its greatest potential as an educational tool, particularly in helping people to understand the importance of fresh food and a balanced diet with reference to their food culture. The farmers likewise could learn about better methods, but I am sceptical about the suitability of high-yield variants, especially now, when the bio-diversity in agriculture and animal husbandry is dangerously low. Moreover, genetically modified crops can have disastrous consequences to our environment as it was shown in the nineties that  the pollen of such a Maize grown in the US was lethal to the local pollinators.

I wish I could sound more enthusiastic, but we have been too quick to use the novel things in agriculture in the past, so I would urge you to err on the side of prudence, especially as we have a long way to go in many areas of world before we can recommend them to make extended use of ICT.

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Learn from the constriants

Dear all,

Santosh Ostwal set out 16 contraints in the previous discussion which perfectly confirmed and expanded on the expereinces of others in the discussion. In answer to this question "How should the use of ICTs best be integrated in resilience programmes or projects?" we can use those constraints as a great starting point.

We must acknowledge that every actor along the value chain, from farmer through to consumer and government, has a set of requirements which ICT solutions and tools MUST address for that actor. So a fully collaborative and relationship based approach is required. It is complex, but it is possible through a determined effort of the expertise available.

ICT producsts or services must be seen only as tools - not as the answer in themselves. The knowledge of farmers must be respected and built on for sustainable farming communities; food quality must be reported in near real-time to government agencies to protect consumers and public health; traders & processors must focus on waste reduction and prevention through data/information sharing and trading.

We know the contraints; we just have to work together to acknowledge and address them. Richard Heeks described a benchmarking and prioritising process, there are many of these and they must be used before any deployment.

This forum proves that as a community we are running out of excuses - so much knowledge and expertise exists to address any challenging ICT implementation. Do we have the courage to work in broad coalitions to ensure even wider success? Again, it is great to see examples already in place (NRENs etc.). We can build on these for a resiliant and sustainable farming future supported by e-Agriculture.

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A Challenge for our Community

Our previous discussion about 'What is Resilience'  was focused on agriculture, food security, nutrition, etc.  Nevertheless, the discussion was also germane to health, livelihoods, social protection, education and all other aspects of the hard lives our farmers and their families live in rural areas.   We might all agree that the most predominant sector in rural areas in terms of providing livelihood, income, employment, etc is agriculture.  We might all also agree that the chief characteristic of ICT as a technology is that it has equal potential to positively impact multiple sectors; agriculture, health, education, utilities, etc.

Within the ICT4Ag space there is a clear trend away from individual 'apps' and towards bundling multiple ICT functionalities; digital finance, surveillance, marketing, agri extension and supply chain management onto the same platform(s).  Global software as a service (SaaS) provider SAP as well as regional/local ICT4Ag platforms like Esoko, Farmerline, VotoMobile and others have very recently moved in this direction.  In fact, one outcome of CTA's seminal ICT4Ag late-2013 conference in Kigali was this very need to bundle ICT4Ag functionalities to achieve economies of scale and enhance the benefits to farmers and other stakeholders.  Lets call this ICT4Ag Version 2.0.

Given the rapid pace of technological and business model change, the next step will be to leverage the foundation of ICT4Ag Version 2.0 that extends all the way into the smallholder farming household .......to add onto the platform modules/functionalities specific to health (proper hygiene, child care, drug reminder messages, etc.), education, etc.  Lets call this mHub Version 1.0.  Therefore, to leverage agriculture as the gateway to serving all the other mHub (ICT/mobile) needs in rural areas our current ICT4Ag community must have, as Sinead points out, the "courage to work in broad coalitions" to harness the power of ICT to solve 'wicked' problems in rural areas.       

This discussion question is "How should the use of ICTs best be integrated in resilience programmes or projects?".  Our ICT4Ag community is nicely positioned (given the overarching importance of agriculture in rural areas) to play a leadership role in pulling in other sectors as we go forward.  So.....to best integrate ICT in resilience programes we should consider casting a wider net to include other non-agriculture sectors that are also very germane to the lives of our farmers!  

 

 

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ICTs and Resilience, their integration

Resilience projects are like any other project with a conception, formulation and other steps in the projects life cycle. A resilience project would probably have a measure of intervention with regards to how it will help community withstands shocks.In most cases should the community have 1.information, 2.Funding, 3. Expertise, 4 Enabling Environment - they should to some measure withstand effects of different unexpected challenges. The possibility of applying technological solutions are vast in the areas above. However, for me l agree with the above sentiments of a needs based and project based approach. The project should pre-identify the needed actions and then what technology can be used to effectively and efficiently carry out that task. Usually technology is able to transcend the various limitation a manual solutions has. For example, a cash distribution activity might not be possible where proper banking infrastructure exist, under disaster areas, in inaccessible environments and also in times of crisis. Then technological solution say of mobile cash transfer become very handy.

So in a nutshell there is a need to map at project log frame and activities and see the cost and benefit of adopting a technological solution. I would love to hear from also other panelist if there are evaluation tools that can be used to determine technology use, when and when not,just a guide. There is always a mapping process of the desired activity and the relevant technology and how it can be applied and be used.

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Resilience as a Rural-Urban Community Dichotomy Equalizer

This discussion topic addresses a fantastic premise and offers a promising perspective of thoughts that have been brewing in my mind for some time now; and a consolidated review of the responses provide quite a slew of insightful gems.

These give rise to an over-arching view of the ulitmate purpose of resilience (using ICT or not); and its sustenance to foster significant quality of life indices within rural communities. In this respect, it is important to note that resilience must inherently be an internally-developed capacity to prevent, withstand, or overcome; and so it asserts (obliquely, even if not plainly) the strategic imperative of leveraging resources in redressing capacity imbalances between rural and urban areas in the developing world.

In this sense, the sustained dissonance of expectations around availability, affordability, and accessibility to resources and amenities, between rural communities and urban ones, must necessarily be abridged.  

The ideas that LeeHBabcock has crystallized as ICT4Ag Version 2.0 are completely aligned with my thoughts about an "Impact Network" that delivers a hybrid Impact-as-a-Service platform in (but also beyond) agriculture; specially designed and deployed with exigencies of rural communities in mind.

As Lee has posited, valuable enhancments of resilience in agriculture must be sustained beyond it, to enable impact in other critical spheres like healthcare, education, utilities, etc. In this way, the cumulative effect of an agriculture-anchored, but community-benefiting resilience capacity, is more likely to be sustained in everyone's strategic interests.

Following this train of thought, ICT platforms that enable the democratized delivery of a variety of Content, Services, and Applications for rual communities must be embraced. Just like a Mall developer solicits commitments from anchor tenants, to ensure financing and guarantee off-take, ICT platform developers need to view agriculture as the "anchor tenant", and then build coalitions of agriculture stakeholders to cross-subsidize the platform's deployment, ultimately as Lee puts it, "into the smallholder farming household". Once these agriculture "anchor tenants" are lined up as broad coalitions, concerted efforts are then pursued to include education, healthcare, utilities, and others, as addtional incentives to drive uptake, usage, and scale.  

From my perspective, all this is possible from the ICT side of things, due to the downward trends in the costs of hardware, software, and other allied ICT components, ignited by the open-source community, commoditized pervasive hardware computing (like Raspberry Pis and others), and efficiencies of sharing economy principles. These platforms will emerge as augmentations, not replacements of legacy systems; but need to be fundamentally disruptive and decentralized in their models, methodologies, and processes, to ensure a "resilience" that is different from the "centralized" systems that currently drive urban centres.

What is needed is the crystalization of the ICT4Ag community, and other partners, to drive support for any collaborative technology platform that mirrors the principles that Lee has outlined. 

In my mind, it is possible to envision impactful information and off-grid energy access, that not only supply the infrastructure to ignite localized capacity enhancement and service delivery in agriculture, healthcare, education, utilities, etc., but also enables rural communities to be supplied with renewable energy access to power basic life tasks, especially access devices with which to receive necessary information. This rural infrastructure base could also enable the various early-warning, monitoring, and alert services needed to strengthen resilience in response to the vagaries of our rural public health and physical environment, like disease epidemics or climate change dislocations. Thank you.

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ICT4Ag and existing established platforms

Very interesting to read Lee and Uche's contributions. I would add IBM Bluemix/Watson to the list of SaaS and Infrastructure as a Service providers already looking to agriculture as potential growth areas for them as ICT providers. This is a very positive step, but sometimes individual research or start-up projects in agri-tech fear partnering with larger companies; this can be inefficient and can result in waste of time, money, effort and expertise. While remaining aware of the risks of losing control to a larger corporation, it is still valuable to engage with experienced global players, to perhaps benefit from tools or services they may be able to provide.

Lee also correctly mentions working with other industries and sectors. Ths is hugely important and relevant. For example in the energy industry, there is an established business model of rewarding consumers for their usage data. In agriculture, there could be a similar business model where farmers are rewarded for supplying their usage expereinces to enable researchers build wider data sets for evidence based directives.

Uche's vision is possible from a technological point of view, and is encouraged by global policy initiatives in some areas - for example, One Health initiative promoting the links between animal and human health. I would strongly advise though, that disease and health surveillance cannot rely on an app or ICT tool alone. In my expereince and research there is NO substitute for conversations to gain the real and often tacit knowledge from farmers and vets (and people in general). This can seem like a barrier or as a difficulty, but from a rural community point of view, it should be seen as creating support jobs in agriculture, and increasing farmers' well being, mental health through stress reduction and contribute to sustainable family farms as the next generation sees farming as a respected enterprise.

The magic of ICT is to store, aggregate, make available for analysis, visualise and disseminate widley, the collected agricultural data and knowledge.

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ICT-enabled resilience and human entrepreneurial spirit

This formal contribution albeit not specific to a particular country in Africa surveys the information and communication technologies (ICTs) landscape throughout the continent as championed by pundits and as expressed in various research and communication articles.  The basic premise is that we are in an "era of abundance" when it comes to what we have realised because of practical application and continued investment in ICTs.    

Humans are fixated on ICTs for better or for worse especially as it pertains to resilience programmes or projects, or simply put in the very goals that humans seek to pursue in the domain of choice.  There is absolutely no doubt ICT tools are amazing in shaping our society and how we come to create new programmes or projects. Fixation should be a cause of concern as resilience revolves around keeping the "entrepreneurial spirit" of all and not a segment of human population alive. 

ICTs are shaping the arc of human progress. Conversely, human progress should also shape the arc of ICTs, reminiscent of U.S. President John Fitzgerald Kennedy’s mobilization of American resolve to “put man on moon” following the lead of the Soviet Union. We see throughout Africa, technology and entrepreneurship hubs whose pivot is ICTs.  In many of these programmes, the practical application to resilience initiatives is missing as resilience programmes or projects may not have profit making as the ultimate aim.  Thriving and not surviving should be the aim.  The two descriptions about human nature are fundamentally different. 

ICTs can be integrated through specific actions geared at “scaling up” and “scaling out” promising inventions, and match that with the other extreme, the non-mainstream ICTs inventions.  The choice as to what to "scale up" and "scale out" can be made by evaluation of ICTs captured from an open access repository.  This has the benefit of reminding humans that our capacity for exploration is in itself inadequate but sufficient to trigger transformative actions. 

Another example is that the integration of ICTs in resilience programmes or projects should draw lessons on discourse on civil society as “numbers matter” when implementing large-scale programmes or projects.  This is because the Internet of Things has so meshed together even the most mundane of things for economic, social and political reasons.  Individuals, their bodies, their expression, their businesses, and their feelings, all appear to “crank the Internet of Things”.   

We are perhaps being reminded through the pervasiveness of ICTs of our capacity for adventures, creativity, discovery, and exploration in what we can do for each other as part of the human species.  This capacity is, and should compel humans to re-imagine a better human-ordered society. That is perhaps one form of resilience-enabled.  

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Fundamental approach for ICT project integration

Though ICT for Resilience has so many challenges discussed in the last question, it does not mean that a bowl is empty. There is a need to anticipate the challenges and build strategies of delivery model. I hope that the following approach for HOW TO START WITH for ICT based resilience project will be surely a good reference for any ICT project and any country.

I am sure that it will be helpful for new comers as well as strategists for understanding the fundamental steps which will reduce the time of field trials as well as resources.

1. Different ICTs or specifications for the same idea but different farmer segments

A particular ICT application can’t be standardised for all segments. After a basic idea or innovation of ICT is decided, it should be tested against the real requirements and problems of the farmers in the targeted segments based on geography, education, telecom connectivity, urban connectivity, crops pattern, seasonal, finance etc. A progressive class of farmers can afford to adopt costly equipment while small holder farmers can go for the low cost options with moderate features e.g a grape grower can afford computerised irrigation for the water pumps whereas a small grain growing farmer will go for low cost remote controller for pumps.

2. Priority-wise select a marketing segment and related ICT solution such that maximum number of farmers would be benefited (Decide Target and addressable Market Potential )

After deciding a particular ICT solution or an idea for the particular segment, a three stage strategy is must to proceed with – 1.Understanding of the existing problems 2. Involving farmers in the discussions with tentative idea of ICT solutions helps creating a wonderful ground for the upcoming trials and pilot projects 3. Understanding their aspirations about the ICT solutions based on different parameters like cost, utility, buying period, dependability on ICT etc. The selected solution must be offered for the market life cycle of at least three to four years considering the dynamic evolution of the ICTs from the laboratories. Please note that speedy implementation is the key of success.

3. Tune the coarse idea of ICT for a pilot field run in at least three regions involving selected pioneer class of farmers willing to provide timely feedback on the use and performance. Next stage is to fine tune the solution within the stipulated time frame based on the user’s feedback considering the simplicity of use, performance in different weather conditions, electricity effects etc.  This stage is crucial where the solution has to be rigorously tested for the robust performance in which every stakeholder contributes towards fine-tuning process of the ICT solution. 

4. Building up of a scalable, sustainable, profitable business model is the next process considering the different factors like cost effective advocacy, local availability, post-sales support and hands-on experience on fields. This must consider the different external factors like climate, telecom infrastructure, human limitations, and local communication for building the strategies of GO TO MARKET.

5. There is active involvement of three partners for the successful implementation – Private Sector as the technology enabler, The Government or NGOs as the Catalysts and rural population for the actual use along with operation & maintenance.

6. Business Model – To implement ICT for the rural sector involves socio-economic aspects and it is a social entrepreneurship rather than a conventional professional business models.

Please see the following value chain diagram based on which Nano Ganesh ICT has been successfully adopted in India, of course with a room kept for evolution.

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ICT tools -Mobile Based

As the majority of food is produced by smallholders farmers,adopting ICT tools for resilience programs for smallholders farmers became a necessity.

Existing limitations like vagaries of climate , fluctuation of market price, information to latest technologies, market linkages and access to finance influence the adoption and selection of ICT tools.

ICT tools should not be the regional basis, it should be scalable so that large organization government bodies and private organization who are associated with smallholder farmers should adopt.

ICT tools which are used to share information to the farmers should also allow them to use that information, for their benefits. I have seen farmers are curious about the adoption of technologies provided they should able to use them for either increase in crop production, or access to markets and in turn generate income for their produce.

Tools should also cater to the large number of tribal farmers, hilly area farmers and who are remotely located and scattered .

There are existing technologies, like FM radio, usage of video, computers kiosks, etc. but the most important according to me, being the usage of mobile technologies. No Technology has made such a profound impact in such a short span of time as mobile technologies have done to human beings, especially to the people at the bottom of the pyramid, and engaged in the agriculture sector.

In order to target smallholder farmers spread across various location and to access the remotely located farmers and to empower them, cloud-based mobile application/solution became imperative.

The solution can be used to maps the farmers, crop, field etc., and helps to provide information and monitors activity related to the field, crop and various other agronomic practices, which will help them to ensure better food production and global market access.

We should evolve from traditionally based tools to a smartphone based application. Internet penetration and smartphone are increasing,hence adoption to  latest technologies for any resilience projects for larger benefits became a necessity.

One tool which serves all.

Surajit 

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I met an interesting company

I met an interesting company this year. I can't (without looking at the CEO's business card or company website) remember what they do, or even their name. What I do remember and will always remember is their motto.  It was: "Those who feed us, need us". Simple yet on the button.

If ICTs are to be implemented in reslience programmes, it must be to fulfill the needs of those who feed us. If it doesn't, not only is it not fair nor ethical, but if it continues, will result in increased food scarcity.

My experience with Service Providers in all areas of business is that they tend to be focused on only selling their services instead of delivering their service in the context and as part of the appropriate solution to the need or problem.  I.E. their approach is myopic instead of holistic.

It's thus easy to fall into the trap of approaching enablement of resilient agriculture through ICTs in isolation of other interconnected sectors and influencers in what will be a multi-dimensional agricultural need and in an holistic human being.

There will always be multiple answers - at both the micro and macro levels, to this question.

Ultimately, with 1 Billion people globally employed in agriculture and 500 million - half of them - earning their primary income from smallholder agriculture and undernourished and living in poverty - the ultimate objective of integrating ICTs in reslience projects must be to improve the economic standing of smallholder farmers and enable them to lift themselves out of poverty.

The World Economic Forum 2015 leaders’ statement included the words:

“Inequality is the greatest threat to the global economy…Addressing inequality is not only a responsibility but also an opportunity and is good for business as it creates a new demographic of consumers…We know what we need. We need inclusive economics.”

So how can ICT resilience programmes, solutions and strategies bring about "Inclusive Economics"?

Inclusive Economics brings both more stakeholders into the economic equation and increases financial remuneration with a view to balance.  This could be brought around in two ways:

1. Integrating smallholder farmers into more of the value chain. This means further reducing the pounds of flesh charged by the middle men.

2. Integrating consumers into the development of smallholder farms and economic success of their farmers.  This means further reducing the pounds of flesh charged by the middle men.

*(For those who are not familiar - "pounds of flesh" is naturally a figurative statement (Merchant of Venice) and not a literal one.)

With many ICT solutions already enabling farmers to have increased and improved direct access, be it to markets and pricing and other important information, this trend is already under way and will continue to bring about greater economic inclusion and with it, economic resilience.

The ultimate solution I believe will have global consumers ( the global crowd ) participating in the economic foundation, support and thus participation, as well as consumption of smallholder farms in developing countries.  This is already happening in what I'd refer to as a half-way solution, through investment funds run by organizations.

Hopefully one day we will have direct global crowd-sponsorship of smallholder ICT-based economic resilence. In the meantime, a great article on organization-led initiatives which also happens to reference one or two examples, can be found here:  

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Areas of ICT interventions

Input Procurement and Marketing

Farmers frequently seek information regarding various inputs needed in their field such as seed, fertilizers, pesticides, labour, transport, etc in terms of cost, quality, availability and possible sources. Once crop gets ready for harvesting, need arises for its marketing. The questions like; where to sale, when to sale, how to sale and whom to sale mesmerizes the farmers. At this point of time, information provision related to marketing and transportation is must, which may help farmers in decision-making of agriculture product marketing.

Strategic Information

There are several stages where farmer requires information to strengthen the planning and minimizing risk of cultivation. Information related to cultivation practices such as varietal characters, fertigation schedule, pest control methods, irrigation schedule, mechanization, planting and harvesting schedule, inter-cropping, crop rotation, etc may be classified under strategic information. Information about most suitable production and protection technologies is required for optimum and sustainable crop production.

Past Trends

Information on past trends regarding area, production, productivity, consumption, utilization, pest attack, climatic conditions, environmental concerns, fertigation, etc are of immense use in making decision in crop production. For example, past trends in climatic conditions may help growers in scheduling cultivation activities for optimum production and control of stresses.

Government Policy decisions

Government decisions related to agriculture and its products marketing, labour laws, land holdings, rural development etc is also important factors while taking decision. All such information must reach to the farmers at the earliest, so that one may take right decision for high production and maximum return. Many IT tools are available to record and disseminate information for decision support. Making available the information about government policies and support facilities to the farmers in time will empower the farmers in the way to their prosperity.

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integration of knowledge management

Decision-makers should not underestimate the importance of knowledge management and information capture. Good knowledge management should be integrated at the institutional and individual level as well as given enough importance in the framework of the use of ICTs for resilience.
Effective knowledge management will enable appropriate learning of lessons, sharing of successes and failures and ensure the most effective initiatives can move forward with support of other decision makers to move beyond the stage of small projects and isolated pilots and to scale up the best initiatives even beyond the sector of agriculture and rural development.

 

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