Guidelines to improve the application of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in agriculture – gains which could bring innovation in agricultural technology, ensure more efficient food production, mitigate food losses and attract a younger generation to become successful farmers – are close at hand, a forum co-convened by the UN’s Food and Agriculture heard (Bangkok, Thailand, 3rd March 2015)
“The applications of validated e-Agriculture processes will be a great addition to innovative agricultural production, attract young generation in agriculture and help safeguard farmers from losses, especially small holders,” said Hiroyuki Konuma, FAO Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Asia and the Pacific. “These applications could range from a farmer using a smart phone to scan the barcode of a packet of certified seeds – something that could ensure quality and a fair price, to the installation of low-cost sensors at the village-level for hyper local weather information.”
“The lack of available and correct information at the right time and in the right format is a major obstacle to many activities along the traditional agricultural value chain and this is something that e-Agriculture could help address efficiently,” Konuma added.
Konuma was speaking during the opening of an “e-Agriculture Stakeholders Consultation” which has drawn government officials and researchers, primarily from Asia, Africa and Near East to the three day event in the Thai capital.
While information and communication technology has seen rapid advancements and implementation around the world in the industrial sectors, many countries have been slow to exploit ICTs in agriculture. While some countries have implemented various ad-hoc ICT applications, there is presently no coherent international guidance on successful implementation. However, that’s about to change.
The e-Agriculture Strategy guide is being developed jointly by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), the United Nations specialized agency for information and communication technologies – ICTs.
The participants at the Bangkok consultation are discussing the finalization of the e-Agriculture Strategy Guide and its applications for national context.
“Countries have tried to implement e-Agriculture solutions in isolation,” Konuma pointed out. “This guide provides valuable guidelines and offers a template to implement sustainable e-Agriculture services.”
Concerns over food losses due to natural disasters, or lack of timely information during planting or harvesting, along with increased pressure for food traceability – all offer entry points for the application of proven ICT interventions in agriculture.
It’s anticipated that the new guidelines would be validated in Sri Lanka and Bhutan as pilot countries, and would be used at country level for the formulation of an e-Agriculture strategy in action plans for Asia and the Pacific region and beyond.
The e-Agriculture Stakeholders Consultation is co-convened by FAO, ITU and CTA – the Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation.