As part of our work to support small and medium sized agribusinesses and farmers, CASA country interventions have put plans in place to deploy Information and communication technology (ICT). ICTs will be used to link farmers to markets and to provide price and market information. ICTs are also now being considered as a means to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, with digital tools used to train and build the capacity of SME agribusinesses and farmers so that they can continue with their farming and business enterprises.
In Nepal, ICTs will be used to help farmer cooperatives establish digital governance systems; to provide market information and as a response to the pandemic, to provide on demand e-advisory services. In Uganda, e-farmer profiling will be deployed as a means to ‘de-risk’ farmers that supply SMEs, making them a better investment opportunity. A digital database will contain all the information needed to trace-and-track farmers – ensuring consistent supply for aggregation.
As part of the deployment process, CASA country interventions have consulted widely – engaging with the public and private sectors. In all the country programmes, government policy and priorities for the agricultural sector has informed the type of ICT services to be offered. The private sector is eager to expand and try out new technologies in farming communities. In Nepal, the country programme has presented their ICT deployment plans to the Social Welfare Council, and had inputs from other development organizations working in the country. In Uganda, the country programme has had the opportunity to speak to other programmes and service providers that have deployed ICTs with farmers and this has provided insights on potential challenges and pitfalls; and had fed into the design of the ICT country intervention. In Malawi, both livestock producer groups and development facilitators have shown interest in using ICTs but have been challenged by high finance and investment requirements. This barrier is not unique to Malawi.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, key stakeholders in the agricultural sector have realized the urgency of enabling the use of ICTs in the sector – i.e. for e-commerce, managing the movement of goods and provision of services. Furthermore, as a result of the pandemic, many SME agribusinesses which CASA works with have expressed a greater willingness to pay for ICTs in order to conduct their business. The box below shows some of CASA’s interventions to combat the pandemic – ICTs have been used to support smallholder farmers and SMEs; and to reach governments and investors.
In addition CASA has conducted research to analyze the factors behind successful deployment of mobile technologies to improve agribusiness productivity and investment readiness. Read the full report.
CASA intends to support SME agribusinesses to work with service providers to develop viable commercial business plans. In addition, CASA will document successful cases of piloting the use of ICTs with SME agribusinesses and farmers. These case studies will focus on quantifying the impact that ICT deployment has on smallholder farmers and SME agribusinesses and provide a resource for learning for other programmes and businesses.