Platform for African – European Partnership in Agricultural Research for Development

Monday, March 20, 2023

UN Water Conference Side Events

22 - 24 March 2023. UN Water Conference Water is a fundamental part of all aspects of life. Water is inextricably linked to the three pillars of sustainable development, and it integrates social, cultural, economic and political values. It is crosscutting and supports the achievement of many SDGs through close linkages with climate, energy, cities, the environment, food security, poverty, gender equality and health, amongst others. 

With climate change profoundly affecting our economies, societies and environment, water is indeed the biggest deal breaker to achieve the internationally agreed water-related goals and targets, including those contained in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

The Side Event programmes are being updated on a rolling basis, to ensure you are viewing the latest version, access it through the website.

The Conference, co-hosted by the Governments of Tajikistan and the Netherlands, will feature an opening and closing ceremony, six plenary meetings and five multi-stakeholder interactive dialogues. It will also feature a number of high-level special events and side events organized by Member States, the UN system and other stakeholders.

20/03. Groundwater: Potential and Pitfalls for Africa 

by IFPRI, AMCOW; Water Research Institute Ghana; Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural
Resources Germany; Ministry of Water and Sanitation Senegal; Ministry of Water and Environment
Uganda; IFPRI; African Union Commission; Gov. of Ethiopia; NEXUS Gains, ILSSI

The economy-wide benefits of accelerating groundwater development in Senegal and Uganda

Development of groundwater is key to accelerating agricultural and overall economic growth, fighting climate change, and generating employment in Africa. However, improvements in groundwater institutions are needed to increase equity and environmental sustainability in groundwater use. This session discusses the groundwater program of the African Ministers' Council on Water (AMCOW), including case studies on the benefits of groundwater development and institutional advances in several African countries.
  • Moderator Claudia Ringler, Deputy Director of Environment and Production Technology Division, IFPRI
  • The importance of groundwater development for water and food security in Africa H.E. Dr. Seleshi Bekele, Ambassador of Ethiopia to the US
  • Africa’s groundwater development program Moshood Tijani, African Ministers' Council on Water
  • Groundwater development potential in Africa Ramon Brentführer, Policy Advice Groundwater bei BGR, Federal Institute for Geosciences and Natural Resources
  • The economy-wide benefits of accelerating groundwater development in Senegal and Uganda Angga Pradesha, Senior Scientist, IFPRI
  • The groundwater governance toolbox: Elements to increase sustainability of groundwater use in Africa Hagar ElDidi, Senior Research Analyst, IFPRI
  • Niokhor Ndour, Director of Resource Management and Planning, Ministry of Water and Sanitation, Senegal
  • Julius Aheebwa, Water Officer, Ministry of Water and Environment, Uganda
  • Mure Agbonlahor, Agricultural Production and Marketing Officer, African Union Commission
  • Ruth Meinzen-Dick, Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI

20/03. Water & SDGs - Downscaling WATer relevant SDGs (DWAT-SDGs)

To support localizing SDGs, the International Water Resources Association is increasing support to SDG implementation through a task force committee (TFC) on Water & SDGs. The overall goal of the TFC is to downscale WATer-relevant SDGs (DWAT-SDGs) to the country/region, basin, and local scales to facilitate SDG realization and support sustainable management of water resources in a climate crisis.

This session will allow member countries to exchange existing tools and case studies linked to SDG 6 implementation and will develop suggestions and partnerships for expanding SDG 6 localization, making an important contribution to the Water Action Agenda.

  • Moderator Claudia Ringler, Deputy Director of Environment and Production Technology Division, IFPRI
  • Overview and introduction Ximing Cai, Ben Chie Yen Professor, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign
  • A SDG localisation framework for guiding sustainable development leadership in the Australian water sector Paul Satur, Research Fellow and Lecturer, Monash University Sustainable Development Institute
  • Localizing SDG6 in India: Where to start? Riddhi Singh, Associate Professor, Indian Institute for Technology Bombay
  • How to localize SDG 6 in Egypt and the MENA Region: The role of the private sector Dahlia Sabri, International development practitioner, KEO International Consultants, Egypt
  • Does SDG 6 matter in a water-abundant country like BrazilAlcigeimes B. Celeste, Federal University of Sergipe, Brazil
  • Discussant Raya Stephan, Water law expert, International consultant; Deputy Editor in Chief, Water International, International Water Resources Association (IWRA)
  • Discussant Timothy Foster, Senior Lecturer in Water-Food Security, University of Manchester

21/03. Water for Sustainable Development: Innovative Solutions to the Water Crisis in Africa by International Centre for Leadership Development Nigeria

  • Keynote Address on Water Crisis Peter David Pedersen - Japan 
  • Water as a great paradox for human survival Overview on Water Cases in Africa Nkechika Ibe- Nigeria 
  • Water crisis in Cameroon: Challenges and Innovative Solutions Tantoh Nforba - Cameroon 
  • Water challenges in Tunisia: Challenges and Innovative Solutions Radhia Essamin - Tunisia 
  • Water issues focusing on Water filters Tanzania: Challenges and Innovative solutions Henry Kazula - Tanzania

22/03 04:00 PM CET Water Management in Action for Productive, Climate Resilient Food Systems

  • USAID , German BMZ, EU, the Netherlands, Norad, and Sida
  • This webinar explores how to sustainably scale irrigation systems in Asia, Africa, and the Middle East and North Africa to achieve sustainable water and food security while facing climate change.
WE4F’s work, and this session, focus on bringing together the three communities/silos to achieve sustainable water and food security in the context of climate change.
  • For business and industry, this session shares how to integrate sustainable irrigation practices and water efficiency into their operations and the food value chain.
  • For the scientific and technological community, the session explores how research institutions and technology developers can contribute to better water management and security by researching basins and surface eater to help farmers and businesses improve monitoring and management while the technology community can help build better irrigation technologies that integrate different water management challenges.
  • And finally, for farmers, this session highlights how the first two communities’ work must be to the benefit of the vulnerable smallholder farmers whose water usage and ability to grow food will be the most affected by climate change.

Friday, March 17, 2023

AfCFTA: A New Era for Global Business and Investment in Africa

Global businesses have an important role to play in accelerating the implementation of the AfCFTA. This report outlines high-potential sectors, initiatives to support business and investment, operational tools to facilitate the AfCFTA, and illustrative examples from successful businesses in Africa to guide businesses in successfully entering and expanding in this area.

According to the Forum’s report, agriculture has exceptional potential for increasing intra-African trade, meeting local demand, accelerating GDP growth, creating new jobs and improving inclusivity due to upstream and downstream linkages. It will increase value addition, meet new local demand and bring smallholder farmers — who are responsible for 80% of Africa’s food production — into wider supply chains.

Key sectors 

  1. Automotive industry 
  2. Agriculture and agro-processing
  3. Pharmaceuticals 
  4. Transport and logistics

Agro-processing and Africa's agricultural ascension

Opportunities abound in the AfCFTA for new investment in agro-processing, in particular.
Agro-processing has important implications for African food security, job creation and poverty reduction. Boosting it adds value to an already competitive agriculture sector.

Countries across Africa have already increased their focus on agro-processing in response to the food insecurity and price spikes caused by trade disruptions from global shocks — not least the Russian invasion of Ukraine — and because of the potential to transition economies away from the long-established but suboptimal model of exportation of raw materials.

With improved capacity to process their own agricultural goods — whether that’s grain, fertiliser or anything else — African countries can exploit the huge advantage many of them have in their established and sizeable agricultural sectors to build wealth and create new jobs and opportunities at home.

Scaling agro-processing has positive inclusivity impacts, too. Women make up 70% of employment in the overall agricultural sector and most of the domestic agro-processing workforce is female. A boost to African agriculture is a boost for the continent's women.

New investment, new opportunities

This growth in agriculture and agro-processing will drive new investment from abroad, from within the continent and outside of it. The common market introduced under the AfCFTA can leverage regional differences in the strengths and competitiveness of intra-African diversity in their food value chains, specialisations and key outputs.

Increased intra-African trade through the AfCFTA will help reduce dependency on foreign agricultural inputs. Currently, the continent imports about $50 billion worth of agricultural products per year. By 2030, intra-African agricultural trade is projected to increase by 574% if import tariffs are eliminated; a huge victory for a continent historically hobbled by unnecessary reliance on outside economies.

African-owned and run businesses will benefit from this intra-continental trade boost. The fertiliser industry, for example, is expected to boom. New agricultural activity is expected to require an 800% increase in fertiliser application for main nutrients. Irrigation is expected to benefit from $65 million in new investment, while more than $8 billion worth of investment in storage will also be required. All of this, under the AfCFTA, can be fulfilled tariff-free by African enterprises.

Related articles:

Wednesday, March 15, 2023

A holistic approach to understanding ICT implementation challenges in rural advisory services: lessons from using farmer learning videos

Gouroubera, Moumounia , Okry, Idrissoua (2023) A holistic approach to understanding ICT implementation challenges in rural advisory services: lessons from using farmer learning videos  THE JOURNAL OF AGRICULTURAL EDUCATION AND EXTENSION, # 21 p.

This paper examines the challenges of implementing Farmer Learning Videos (FLV) in Rural Advisory Services (RAS) through a holistic approach. The study focuses on a clear theoretical and managerial question – how do RAS manage FLV that does not easily fit into traditional models? 

Design/methodology/approach: The research collected data through semi-structured interviews (138 respondents) and focus group discussions (342 participants) in 30 RAS.

Findings: The study shows that although most of the RAS provided poor support and did not write FLV in their project documents, many are increasingly using FLV. Extension workers see FLV as a way to efficiently and effectively achieve their goals – a helpful tool that could reduce workload. Moreover, the presence of FLV champions who are generally young and the high level of positive attitude toward FLV as well as collaboration with other organizations favor the increasing use of FLV. 

Practical implications: The results of this study can be used by policymakers and RAS to improve the integration of information and communication technologies (ICT) into their work. 

Theoretical implications: This study sheds more light on the importance of a holistic approach to thoroughly understand the challenges of FLV implementation in RAS with theoretical implications for their design, implementation, and analysis. 

Originality: This study reports the first known application of a holistic approach to understanding the challenges of FLV implementation in RAS in Benin.


The use of digital technologies by RAS requires a more holistic approach to analyzing emerging challenges rather than just focusing on individual constructs or considering them only as a tool to disseminate agricultural information. (p. 3)

With FLV, less energy is expended to make farmers understand the main information during training. This idea was expressed by 98% of RAS. (...) The FLV spread covered multiple themes such as sustainable farming, cattle, integrated pest management, fruit and nuts, vegetables, legumes, processing, beekeeping and the environment. The variety of topics motivates farmers to express their needs. FLV responds to the emerging needs of farmers. (p. 9)

Organizations have yet to develop a more robust mechanism to support extension workers in FLV usage. For example, although there is a need to train users about new tools such as using FLV, they typically do not train them on how to successfully screen FLV in rural areas. There is no systematic process adopted by most organizations for FLV screening. A more cost-effective method of screening FLV is to use smartphones or laptops that the agents own as there is no budget to buy proper equipment. for it. (p. 12)

 FLV champions are generally young extension workers who have emerged informally within the RAS and motivate other extension workers to use FLV. They are skilled at dealing with ICT. Their role is facilitated by the positive FLV attitude within the RAS. (p. 14)

Psychic rewards, namely the intrinsic motivation to use FLV come from the positive farmer feedback they receive. This motivates most extension workers to use FLV even though financial incentives such as performance-related pay increases are known to be an important motivator.  (p. 15)

Researchers should attempt to unpack the informal system or the contextual factors that explain how FLV is being integrated within an organization. (p. 16)


AgriFI and Team Europe Initiative ‘Investing in Young Businesses in Africa’

16 March 2023. The hybrid event ‘Effective partnerships between European implementers and Development Finance Institutions (DFIs): Bridging the financing gap in developing countries’
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Meeting number (access code): 2742 283 0089

This 1-day event aims to bring together different actors involved in technical and financial cooperation for an exchange of experience with a view of identifying important next steps towards effective partnerships between development cooperation agencies, DFIs and development banks in EUs contribution to the Addis-agenda and Agenda 2030.

During the event, opportunities will be given to have practical and honest discussions on how a relevant mix of technical and financial cooperation can best contribute to development impact in partner countries, in the frame of their efforts to design and develop their Integrated national financial frameworks (INFFs). 

Extract of the programme

13:45 – 15:30 Thematic session: Case nº5: AgriFI Country and Regional windows: A framework
to foster greater collaboration with technical assistance providers.

Presenting: Guillaume Simoes and Aude Sauvaget, EDFI MC. 

The AgriFI Country and Regional Windows which provides long term investment to SMEs and financial institutions with the aim to improve smallholders livelihoods will be presented. A focus on potential collaboration opportunities with technical assistance providers will be explored.

EDFI AgriFI is one of the EU development instruments aiming to invest in sustainable agriculture projects with high impact on smallholders. EDFI AgriFI is managed by EDFI MC, on behalf of the 15 bilateral development finance institutions.

The mission of EDFI AgriFI is to support smallholders on their path to commercial and sustainable farming, contributing to improve their livelihoods while aiming to unlock, accelerate and leverage investments in the agriculture sector. To achieve this, EDFI AgriFI supports SMEs, Financial Institutions and Impact Funds having a positive impact on smallholder farmers with long term investments (4 to 10 years) in the form of debt or equity participation (ticket size between EUR 1 million and EUR 5 million).

After the successful deployment of a global facility of EUR 40 million, through various long-term investments, EDFI AgriFI reinforced its partnership in 2022 with the European Union, including with some of its Delegations, closely working with partner countries and with the European DFIs. It will allow to provide additional long term financial offering to local agriculture value chains and smallholders in some specific geographies. 

The four dedicated new financing windows (Ghana, Sri Lanka, Tanzania and ACP) offer customised approaches designed to meet the needs of specific markets, in line with the strategy of the European Commission, the EU Green Deal and national programs in the targeted countries, to support development agenda and sustainable development goals, and stimulate inclusive growth, private sector and job creation.

In addition to provide access to long-term finance to private companies, EDFI AgriFI is now developing a technical assistance offer to leverage and enhance the impact of its investments. This TA offer provides a framework for collaboration opportunities with technical assistance providers in targeted geographies. 

Typically, EDFI AgriFI technical assistance will allow to provide partners with:
  • Specialist advisory services during due diligence and/or contractual phase;
  • Capacity building (training to farmers, support to certification, improvement of environmental and social standards, digitalisation, etc.);
  • Governance standards improvements;
  • Impact measurement studies.

13:45 – 15:30 Case no7: Team Europe Initiative ‘Investing in Young Businesses in Africa’ (TEI IYBA)

National coordination between implementing agencies, DFIs and PDBs, the example of The Agence Française de Développement (AFD) Group.

Presenting: Rima Le Coguic, Expertise France Deputy CEO, on behalf of AFD Group.

Presentation of the AFD Group, as an example of national coordination between implementing agencies, Development Finance Institutions (DFIs) and Public Development Banks (PDBs). The articulation between Proparco, Expertise France and AFD was presented, focusing on the challenges encountered and how to address them. (Expertise France joined the AFD Group on January 1, 2022)

The Invest in Young Businesses in Africa (IYBA) initiative was used as an example of such coordination between different actors. 
  • Read Team Europe Initiative Investing in Young Businesses in Africa: A quick overview # 5 p.
  • The Investing in Young Business in Africa (IYBA) initiative is a €4.6 billion fund to support young entrepreneurs, growing start-ups, and local and national entrepreneurial ecosystems in Africa. 
    • Value of programmes falling within the TEI IYBA EU: nine (9) EU Member States: Total €1.9 billion + EU: €2.7 billion. TOTAL: €4.6 billion
    • On the Team Europe side, nine (9) EU Member StatesBE, DE, ES, FI, FR, IT, LU, NL, PT.
    • DG INTPA and several European development agencies are also putting together a new €20 million programme to strengthen the business ecosystem.
  • The Team Europe Initiative “Investing in Young Businesses in Africa” is made up of 3 building blocks:

    1) Increase the financial and technical support for pre-seed stage entrepreneurs and micro and small enterprises,
    2) Increase the finance for SMEs and entrepreneurs at seed and early stages, and
    3) Supporting the ecosystem, with a special emphasis on women and young people.

  • Aimed at extending financial and technical support at the early stages of those businesses’ development, it also tries to strengthen the ecosystem of organisations that support them, such as incubators and accelerators.
    • Senegal is the pilot country for this initiative: IYBA-SEED Senegal: Investing in Young Businesses in Africa - Supporting Entrepreneurship
      Ecosystem Development
       - Contributing to creating decent jobs and resilient economies by increasing access to financial resources and technical assistance of SEED beneficiaries through strengthened and sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystems. (Start date 30 December 2022 / End date 30 November 2026)
    • In December 2022 the Team Europe Initiative’s ‘Investing in Young Businesses in Africa’ (TEI IYBA) was launched in NigeriaThe Women Entrepreneurship for Africa (WE4A),  a constituent of the TEI IYBA, facilitated the session on the conditions where early-stage businesses and entrepreneurs in Sub-Saharan Africa could thrive, especially women and young people; also creating decent jobs for all. One example of a programme in Nigeria is a new €15 million agenda to improve the digital innovation ecosystem in Nigeria. While the EU and Germany are financing it, it will be implemented by GIZ.
    • Other countries are set to follow include Benin, Togo, Nigeria, Rwanda, Comoros, Kenya, and South Africa
4th July 2022. Workshop Team Europe Initiative (TEI) Investing in Young Businesses in Africa (IYBA) Working Group on Ecosystem Development 

The event was chaired by Ms. Cécile Billaux Head of Unit E2 – Micro-economic Analysis, Investment Climate, Private Sector, Trade, Employment Directorate-General for International Partnerships (DG INTPA), European Commission

During the first part of the workshop, EU member state organisations (MSOs) (Expertise France, Enabel, GIZ, SlovakAid, SNV) presented the IYBA SEED components, with an emphasis on lessons learnt. The second part of the workshop focused on the regional perspective for ecosystem development where presentations from BIC Africa, UNCDF and the AfDB were made followed by an open discussion on how to connect different national ecosystems.

Report: transform food systems in Ethiopia, Malawi, and Nigeria

16 March 2023. How USD 10 billion can transform food systems in Ethiopia, Malawi, and Nigeria: Report launch by IFPRI and IISD

A new study finds that sustainable food system transformation can be achieved in the next decade in Ethiopia, Malawi, and Nigeria by increasing public investment by US$10 billion per year (on average from 2023 to 2030) and implementing a more effective portfolio of interventions that achieve multiple outcomes.

In an ambitious effort, researchers from IFPRI and IISD, engaged closely with the government, donors, and stakeholders in each country, synthesized the evidence, and then applied sophisticated macro- and microeconomic modeling techniques to identify pathways to provide affordable and healthy diets to all people in an environmentally sustainable way.
  • Introduction Sean Woolfrey, Senior Advisor & Research Coordinator, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
  • Presentation of the report: Evidence-based and costed deep dives for achieving sustainable food systems Alan de Brauw, Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI
  • Livia Bizikova, Lead II, Monitoring and Governance, Tracking Progress program, International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
  • Francine Picard, Co-Founder and Director of Partnerships, Shamba Centre for Food and Climate
  • Carin Smaller, Co-Founder, Executive Director, Shamba Centre for Food and Climate
Reactions: From evidence to action 

Related Publications

Country-level work building on Ceres2030

IISD and IFPRI have undertaken ‘deep dives’ into the nexus of food systems, climate change, and diets in three countries: Malawi, Ethiopia, and Nigeria. This work builds on the Ceres2030 project and aims to strengthen the evidence base for climate-smart nutrition interventions in agriculture and food systems.

Summary Report

This report summarizes how public interventions in all three countries could help end hunger, make diets healthier and more affordable, and improve small-scale producers' livelihoods in climate-friendly ways.


Ethiopia is not on track to achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. This report outlines what is needed to get agriculture and food systems back on the right track.


Likewise, healthy diets are unattainable for most people in Malawi. This report details what interventions are needed to support the transition to sustainable food systems and what they will cost.


Hunger and poverty have also been rising in Nigeria. This report provides a roadmap for how country-level decision makers and the donor community can transform food systems in the country.

Tuesday, March 14, 2023

Useful applications of ChatGPT in knowledge work

14 March 2023.
 Useful applications of ChatGPT in knowledge work

Johannes Schunter showed a number of useful applications in development work ; what the bot is good at and what it is not good at. He is Head of Knowledge Management · Evangelisches Werk für Diakonie und Entwicklung e.V., Berlin, Germany.

Organised by Knowledge Management for Development (KM4Dev) is a global community of practice of primarily international development practitioners interested in knowledge management and knowledge sharing theory, practice and related matters.

In November 2022, ChatGPT is released for free, achatbotbased on GPT-3.5(trained on 100 billion words). Within 2 months, it gains 100 million users (TikToktook 9 months ; Instagram took 28 months). Microsoft follows with Bing Chat (based on GPT), and Google, Meta, and Amazonare about to release their own language models. 

ChatGPT is suitable for standard communications: Protocols, pressreleases, job advertisements, announcements, event invites, questionnaires, bureaucratic communication, etc.

Use of ChatGPT in office tasks leads to: 37%increasedproductivity, increased job satisfaction (related to the task), increased self-efficacy (Experimental Evidence on the Productivity Effects ofGenerative Artificial Intelligence, March 2023)

Open AI just announced 14/03 it is launching its long anticipated GPT-4 model, which according to them comes "with advanced reasoning capabilities". (see video at the bottom)

What does this mean for everyday knowledge work?

Useful for:
  1. First drafts of content (communication, FAQs, briefing notes, proposals, press releases, grant applications)
  2. Summary of texts (protocols, publications, transcripts)
  3. Translation“of complex texts (bureaucratic, legal, medical, scientific) in to easy language
  4. Generation of ideas (names, applications, slogans, interviews)
  5. As lectorate (grammar, stile, tone, voice, target audience)
  6. As remedy for writer‘s block
  7. For planning and analysis (schedules, analysis)
  8. As tutor and training partner
What does this mean @ institutional / organisational level?
  1. Every organisation will maintain its own internal AI system which knows all its internal content and can: a) Answer any questions innatural language regarding anything that was ever documented in written form (and visible for everyone in the organisation) ; b) Create new content in any format based on this 
  2. Currently still too expensive
  3. Hallucination problem is not solved yet
  4. Development organisations must ready themselves to make an investment in this area in the next 2-3 years
Prepare for the future:
  • Educate colleagues in your organisations about the potential and practical applications of retail AI tools
  • Plan for building a Q&A machine for your own organisational content by
    • Identifying the best use cases in your organisation
    • Prepare the data
    • Test tools and scenarios via prototypes
    • Plan financial investment

  • Discuss and prepare your organisation strategically for the coming wave of societal change

The recording will be available on the KM4Dev YouTube channel

Shared resources:

What Is ChatGPT Doing … and Why Does It Work?

That ChatGPT can automatically generate something that reads even superficially like human-written text is remarkable, and unexpected. But how does it do it? And why does it work? My purpose here is to give a rough outline of what’s going on inside ChatGPT—and then to explore why it is that it can do so well in producing what we might consider to be meaningful text. I should say at the outset that I’m going to focus on the big picture of what’s going on—and while I’ll mention some engineering details, I won’t get deeply into them.

DALL·E 2 - DALL·E 2 is an AI system that can create realistic images and art from a description in natural language.

Food Loss and Waste in Fruit and Vegetable Supply Chains

14 March 2023. 2:30pm - 4pm CET Food Loss and Waste in Fruit and Vegetable Supply Chains - IFPRI Seminar

According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about one-third of all food produced around the globe is lost or wasted. This is particularly egregious in a world where one in nine persons is food insecure, and widespread food affordability concerns in low- and middle-income countries have resulted from COVID-related value chain disruptions and the global impact of the war in Ukraine.

This annual event will take stock of efforts around the world to tackle food loss and waste through initiatives like Champions 12.3, a coalition of leaders from governments, businesses, international organizations, research institutions, farmer groups, and civil society dedicated to inspiring ambition, mobilizing action, and accelerating progress toward achieving Sustainable Development Goal Target 12.3 by 2030.

The seminar will also take a closer look at fruits and vegetables, which are among the healthiest but most wasted foods. Given their perishable nature, great care, attention, and cooperation along all parts of fruit and vegetable value chains are required to reduce food loss and waste.
  • Moderator Luciana Delgado, Senior Research Analyst, IFPRI
  • Welcome Rob Vos, Director, Markets, Trade and Institutions Division, IFPRI, and Lead, CGIAR Initiative on Rethinking Food Markets
  • Welcome Jacob Jensen, Minister for Food, Agriculture and Fisheries of Denmark (video recording)
  • Keynote Address Maximo Torero, Chief Economist, Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
Panel Discussion
  • Rob Vos, Director, Markets, Trade and Institutions Division, IFPRI, and Lead, CGIAR Initiative on Rethinking Food Markets
  • Muhammad Yakubu Bubayaro, Founder/CEO, Bunkasa Agritech
  • Shannon Sajdak, Senior Sustainability Manager, Apeel
  • Signe Frese, Director, CSR and Quality, Coop Denmark
  • Liz Goodwin, Senior Fellow and Director, Food Loss and Waste, World Resources Institute (WRI)

The sound and vision of organic farming for rural audiences

14 March 2023.
The sound and vision of organic farming for rural audiences - by AccessAgriculture

Webinar to know more about how media houses (radio, television, newspapers, and web media) can help in disseminating information about organic farming, agri entrepreneurship learning

Recording forthcoming

Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Agriculture Rural Development Water and Environment (ARDWE)

14 March 2023. Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Agriculture Rural Development Water and Environment (ARDWE)

Implementation of Some Key Decisions from the Specialized Technical Committee (STC) on Agriculture Rural Development Water and Environment (ARDWE)
  • Preparations for the Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health Summit
    • Presentation of the AFSH Action Plan
    • Presentation of Soil Initiative for Africa Framework
    • Draft Dakar Declaration
  • Common Africa Agro-Parks as Flagship Program

Africa Fertilizer and Soil Health (AFSH) summit Documents

The summit, to be held in June 2023, will bring together high-level stakeholders to reach an agreement on a 10-year action plan for sustainable productivity growth in African agriculture.
  • The purpose of the Summit is to bring together all relevant stakeholders to highlight the crucial role of fertilizer and soil health in stimulating sustainable pro-poor productivity growth in African agriculture and to agree on an African Fertilizer and Soil Health Action Plan, as well as the Soils Initiative for Africa.
  • The Conference is expected to bring together the African Heads of State, high-ranking government officials, senior policy makers, private-sector players and civil society organizations. Other participants will include representatives of farmer organizations and development agencies, including NGOs, scholars and scientists, and representatives of leading donor organizations.

When the first Fertilizer Summit was held, in 2006, most fertilizer markets in Africa were 
dominated by
domestic and international traders with limited incentives to build robust supply 
channels or provide fertilizers tailored to soil and crop-specific needs. A decade and a half later, there has been a dramatic increase in the utilization of African mineral resources for fertilizer production. 

Although the majority of this production is exported out of the continent, this should not necessarily be the case for the future. Long-term investments in fertilizer production plants and blending facilities are creating a paradigm shift with a focus on building sustainable and competitive distribution channels and customer (farmer) profitability, versus quick short-term profits. African governments also have more openness to the notion of private sector-led fertilizer markets, and hence a willingness to create a conducive policy and regulatory environment. Thus, Africa’s growth in fertilizer consumption combined with converging interests from the public and private sector creates an opportunity to develop a more holistic roadmap that increasingly addresses sustainability issues, including the critical role of soil

The challenge, therefore, will be to transition African agriculture from a soil-mining and low-
productivity activity towards a highly efficient activity with minimum emissions while avoiding the mistakes of overuse and mismanagement of nutrients made on other continents and achieving this at a pace never seen anywhere else in history. There is a need to move from fertilizer use only, to holistic, sustainable management of soils. Therefore, an African Fertilizer and Soil Health Action Plan is urgently required, with high-impact solutions and investments over a 10-year horizon to accelerate access to fertilizers and sustainable management of soils, reduce the yield gaps and contribute to sustainable agricultural transformation in the context of a changing climate on the continent.

In order to inform the discussions and deliberations during the summit, the following studies
have been commissioned:
  1. Mega Trends: Key Trends, Challenges and Opportunities for Agriculture in Africa. Lead – ANAPRI
  2. The impacts of African Continental Free Trade Area on fertilizer sector. Lead –FAO
  3. Farmer's risks and economic use of fertilizer in Africa. Lead - ANAPRI
  4. Fertilizer policy and regulatory frameworks. Lead – ANAPRI and AFAP
  5. The prevalence and cost of soil degradation in Africa: implications and imperative for urgent action. Lead - APNI
  6. Policy directions for incentivizing soil health practices at the country level. Lead - FARA
  7. Promoting sustainable soil management to increase organic resources in farms and landscapes. Lead - FAO
  8. Financing tools identified to strengthen the supply and improve the availability of inorganic fertilizer. Lead – AFAP, AFFM, EBID
  9. Effectiveness and performances of existing financing schemes in overcoming the fertilizer financing constraints. Lead – AFFM, AFAP
  10. Refine the archetypes and create policy guidelines on fertilizer financing, finance archetypes of supply chains. Lead – IFDC, Wallace & Associates
  11. Development of a Monitoring Plan to Track implementation of the AFSH Action Plan. Lead – IFDC
  12. Scoping existing technologies and innovations on effective fertilizer use in the smallholder system. Lead – APNI
  13. Sectoral issues affecting Soil Health. Lead – APNI, FAO.
  14. Mechanisms used to finance the fertilizer distribution chain from import to farmer. AfDB.

Common Africa Agro-Parks (CAAPs) Documents

  • Information Note on Common Africa Agro-Parks (CAAPs)
  • Food and Agriculture for Sustainable Transformation (FAST) Initiative
  • Climate Responses for Sustaining Peace (CRSP) Initiative
Africa is a potential agri-investment destination and offers huge agriculture and food opportunities. According to a World Bank Report Africa Agriculture and Agribusiness Markets Set to Top USD One Trillion in 2030. Agro-processing continues to be a great opportunity for investors. Investors shall get ready to feed and create employment for ' 'Africa's 1.5 billion population by 2030 and over 2.5 billion by 2050, while making some decent profits in the process of making use of the African food market that will triple to USD 1trillion by 2030.
For a first time, the African Union is keen on taking over the continental food market of the current 1.3
billion customers, which shall be operationalized and offered to African business people and investors,
to significantly reduce food imports in the continent.

The Common African Agro-Parks (CAAPs) Programme, which is a mega-initiative to create regional agro-industrial hubs implemented by the African Union was conceptualized to respond to the continent's demand for interventions aimed at: 
  1. increasing the supply of locally produced agricultural goods
  2. reversing projections on African food imports, and 
  3. value-added processing of agricultural products with a view to boosting intra-African trade and investment. 
It is expected that the implementation of the CAAPs will help Africa to take over the African food import market of the approximately $50 billion per year that is currently outsourced to the rest of the world.

The CAAPs constitute 5 large common agro-industrial zones that will be established in suitable agro-
ecological areas in Africa for the selected commodities, one in each of the 5 geographical regions in Africa, that will serve as major agricultural development hubs with transboundary mega agro-industries and food supply corridors on the continent. Each agro-industrial zone will therefore be dominated by specialized agricultural commodities to produce sufficient quantity of the commodity that can gradually offset the import bill of such commodities.

A CAAP Demonstration Project is defined as an agro-industrial park with an agriculture value chains development that promotes regional integration and boost intra-Africa trade by covering at least two countries that come into agreement to produce, transform, and trade with a view to boost the production and transformation of agricultural commodities for job and wealth creation in the region within the context of the African continental free trade areas.

Monday, March 13, 2023

Is digitalisation beneficial for small-scale producers?

Paquette, D., Ontieri, E., Day, B., Schmidhuber, J. & Tripoli, M. 2023. Agricultural technology ecosystems in East Africa – Taking stock in Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda. Rome. # 90 p.

Paquette, D., Ontieri, E., Day, B., Schmidhuber, J. & Tripoli, M. 2023. Agricultural technology ecosystems in East Africa: Taking stock in Kenya, Rwanda and UgandaSummary. Rome, FAO. # 40 p.

FAO launched an initiative to assess the existing impediments for scaling innovation and technology in food and agriculture (AgTech) and to identify options to improve the enabling environment for AgTech-focused businesses. 

The initiative offers a tool for decision makers to promote the uptake of AgTech, investment and entrepreneurship in Africa, ultimately to advance agricultural productivity and food security. Together with the Yield Lab Institute, FAO’s Markets and Trade Division (EST) developed a methodology for the assessment and applied it in three East African countries: Kenya, Rwanda, and Uganda. 
  1. Digital solutions are expensive: We researched the ability of other value players to pay on behalf of farmers e.g. seed providers baking in weather index insurance for customers
  2. Digital Infrastructure: Cant afford smartphones, cant afford data, cant afford electricity to charge them limits the technology you can deploy to feature phones or dumb phones. Rwandan government and startups like AgUnity are buying smartphones for farmers.
  3. Digital literacy: Depends on literacy, school years, exposure etc
  4. Demographical divide: Decision makers/farm owners/more risk averse are older, the more technology literate/less rick averse are younger
  5. Rural/urban divide: Even the internet connection standards available in rural areas limit connectivity to offline data collection that is stored awaiting a connection to process/upload e.g. HelloTractor. Having to switch across multiple standards makes the product expensive
"Here is the paper we just published on our prior study of the AgTech ecosystem in East Africa covering small holder farmers and their problems. I've authored the same white paper in the past for Brazil and I am currently authoring one for West Africa." Eric Ontieri. Research Consultant at FAO & The Yield Lab Institute (

Digital Agri Hub e-conversations

Digital innovations play a crucial enabling role in transforming agriculture and food systems in low-and middle-income countries. With the rise in use of digital agriculture tools, it is imperative to also be more aware of the limitations of digital solutions and of the entire D4Ag “ecosystem”.
  • The Digital Agri Hub recognised the importance to spark conversations on certain “stereo-types”, backed by experiences shared by the D4Ag community. Therefore, starting 27 February 2023, Digital Agri Hub launches and curates a conversation around some potential clichés in this domain. The Digital Agri Hub expect exchanges to lead to a more objective, prudent and realistic attitude on how to approach and present digitalisation for small-scale producers in low- and middle-income countries. 
  • It can also open new avenues for solving issues that are at the basis of these possible stereotypes.
  • The discussion will be maintained on the DGROUPS platform:
The 5 e-conversations are about: 
  1. The co-design of digital solutions by small-scale producers 27/02/2023-06/03/2023
  2. Is digitalisation beneficial for small-scale producers?  
  3. Smart farming 
  4. Gender and D4Ag projects 
  5. Independent evidence of D4Ag impact

1st e-conversation: the co-design of digital solutions by small-scale producers

Human-centred design  
  • Understanding the challenges, bottlenecks and pain points of the potential users is a fundamental requirement. This is best done by a business analyst (or equivalent). The challenge (read failure) happens when the analyst approaches the problem with a programmer/ app developer mentality. 
  • Non-young Sma;; Scale Producers SSPs generally struggle with digital technologies. There is the need for segmenting SSPs since some of them have no technical knowledge of digital innovations to better contribute at the start of design but can provide feedback as these services are deployed with them.  
Shared resources  

2nd conversation: Is digitalisation beneficial for small-scale producers? 

Small-scale farmers are defined as farmers operating on two hectares of land or less. Similar limits in the size of holdings applies to producers in the livestock, agro-forestry, aquaculture sectors. There is a mantra that digitalisation is a pathway out of poverty and food-insecurity for them.
Is this true? Or does digitalisation only work for large-scale producers? Who are the small-scale producers who ultimately benefit from digitalisation, and what are the eventual preconditions? Are there examples of viable business models which can support such solutions apart from public/donor funded ones?

Shared resources  
Extract of some contributions

Director at AGInnovate. AGInnovate. Kenya

There is a lot of literature and general positive feedback that highlight the potential positive impacts of digitization in smallholder agriculture. 

However, the question of whether investment in digitization actually leads to profits for farmers is complex and depends on various factors. Firstly, it is important to note that digitization alone is not a panacea for smallholder agriculture. There are several other factors that need to be in place for digitization to have a positive impact on farmers' profits, such as access to finance, markets, inputs, and extension services. Digitization can help improve efficiency, reduce transaction costs, and enhance access to information, but it cannot solve these underlying problems on its own. (...) While digitization has the potential to improve smallholder agriculture, investment in this area should be approached with caution and should be part of a comprehensive strategy that takes into account the broader needs of the sector. 

From: Arsene Birindwa Advisor AdvisorDigital Agri Hub

Although large-scale farmers may have access to significant resources and economies of scale, digitalization has opened up new opportunities for small-scale producers to expand their reach and improve their production processes. By leveraging digital tools and platforms, small-scale farmers can now access new markets, enhance production efficiency and quality, and reduce transaction costs. However, the impact of digitalization on small-scale farmers is not always straightforward. Digital technologies can be expensive, and not all farmers can access the necessary infrastructure, such as reliable internet connections and smartphones. Furthermore, the content provided on digital platforms may not always be appropriate or relevant to the needs of small-scale farmers. For small-scale producers to harness the potential benefits of digitalization, there are several essential preconditions that must be met. These include access to affordable digital technologies and infrastructure, the availability of relevant and accessible content, and supportive policy and regulatory frameworks. Without these preconditions, small-scale producers may face significant barriers to effectively using digital tools and platforms, limiting their ability to compete in the global market. 

From: Dr. Gilbert arap Bor, Eldairy Farm - Kapseret, Kenya & Lecturer, Marketing and Management, Catholic University of Eastern Africa, Eldoret, Kenya

Small-scale producers around the world are already using digitalized agriculture in a number of ways:
  1. In Kenya, the current e-voucher system for the distribution of subsidized fertilizer is a very clear form of digitalization of agriculture. Farmers receive an sms (e-message) with invites them to report to their nearest National Cereals and Produce Board (NCPB) or the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC) to get their subsidized fertilizer. All registered Kenyan farmers - Smallholders, medium scale or large - have and continue to benefit from this technology which is ongoing as I write this.
  2. At least every Kenyan farmer is already digitalized in that they have mobile phones and they participate in digital finance. They make and receive payments for whatever agricultural activity using Mpesa or Airtel Money.
  3. Many agricultural co-operatives are currently sending their members loan funds and produce income using Mobile money. Similarly, the members are repaying their loans, members fees, and others through the same system.
  4. In as far as actual technical farm production, farmers are able to use their mobile phones to ask for and receive technical advice. If a farmer's crops have been attacked by any insects or any other form of disease, the farmer can take a photo of the leaves of the plant and sent it to an agrovet or an agricultural officer and will receive almost instant feedback on what the problem is and what to do about it. This area is not completely exploited and needs further intervention.
  5. Farmers pay the employees using mobile money.
  6. Farmers receive weather forecasts using their mobile phones. For example, the Kenya Agriculture & Livestock Research Organization (KALRO) has developed an ap - Kenya Agricultural Observatory Platform (KAOP) which gives farmers throughout the country accurate weather forecasts.

From: Reaction of  Ednah Karamagi (Program Director at AVAP Farmers Association, Uganda) to the contribution (shared resource) of Eric Ontieri. Research Consultant at FAO & The Yield Lab Institute.
  1. Digital solutions are expensive: Depends on which you are looking at. The word "expensive" is relative. To a farmer, it depends on the value they place in the tabled solution. If they see value, they will save from their produce and engage. It is important to note too that among the farmers, their income levels vary too. What I have just said may not apply to the poorest of the poor. When poverty levels trickle in, "priorities" takes precedence.
  2. Digital Infrastructure: Cant afford smartphones, cant afford data, cant afford electricity to
    charge them limits the technology you can deploy to feature phones or dumb phones.
    You will be surprised at how many famers today own smart phones ... and the number is increasing. Main source is from their children and grand children. For the data, i cant speak ably for other countries but for the case of Uganda, with all these telecom wars, each telecom company presents varing packages with an aim to entice the users. This gives farmers a wider plate to choose the bundle they can afford. Again, like said before, "value, value, value". This is critical to the smaller scale farmer
  3. Digital literacy: Depends on literacy, school years, exposure etc. Many NGOs though, in Uganda, train the farmers on practical use of the phone; that the phone can be used for more than phone calls and SMS. Many know ... the percentage is what i cannot talk about because i dont know
  4. Demographical divide: Decision makers/farm owners/more risk averse are older, the more technology literate/less rick averse are younger. Not for the case of Uganda. Many farm owner/managers are youth. These youth go abroad and return with loads of money. They buy large chunks of land and many engage in specialised farming, not mixed farming; e.g chicken alone, rabbitry alone, etc. Maybe also it could be because the government is always talking about benefits of engaging in agriculture, giving loads of opportunities here and there.
  5. Rural/urban divide: Even the internet connection standards available in rural areas limit connectivity to offline data collection that is stored awaiting a connection to process/upload e.g. HelloTractor. Having to switch across multiple standards makes the product expensive. Not the case of Uganda. We have 4G basically everywhere. We still have dark spots, yes, but they are not as many so as to create a noticeable impact.
From: Kelvin OdooboShambapro Limited, Kigali, Rwanda

Lots of young people are picking interest and actually engaging in agriculture as a business – agribusiness, but they are just below the radar. From my almost two decades experience in the East and Southern Africa region there seems to be a big divide between the kind of farmers that are usually target beneficiaries of public sector (Government and NGOs) and those that actually respond to private sector players. In some areas there is overlap between those two groups but usually the first group are usually those that grow staples, and are a target because their specific value chains are those that are considered crucial for national or regional food security.

Naturally, the value chains are less intensive, have lower price margins and are subject to price
fluctuations resulting from the ‘political’ nature of these crops i.e., they are easily affected global shocks, national produce inflows and outflows etc. These group finds it difficult to digitalize because most of the factors affecting their ability to produce bumper yields and get profits are subject to external factors e.g. rains, fertilizer availability (subsidies), public funded extension knowledge etc.

Interestingly, the young agripreneurs are going into more business-oriented value chains that are usually more demand-driven, less subsidized, where good agriculture practices are learned more from peers, internet and less from traditional extension sources.

These young farmers are in it mainly for the money, they are hungry to learn and use digital tools because that is their unique advantage.

They do greenhouses, passion fruits, spices (horticulture), poultry, piggery – the kind of things that find a natural growing market without specific value chain support in urban areas of Africa. For many of them, this is a side hustle, something they do away from their main employment or source of income. This group is slowly taking over their space in agribusiness in the region between commercial farming and subsistence farming but are usually below the radar of the public sector because they are classified economically more for their main job or education. They do agribusiness quietly, over the weekend and do not want their employers to know that they are as bold as they are or sometimes their families because of the negative age-old perception towards agriculture.

They don’t have a lot of money. They use their savings from their main hustles to invest in farming. They are more likely to adopt technology that makes it easier to run their farm businesses as pioneers and sometimes they lose because they are the guinea pigs, but they are much more resilient and risk more because they are in it for the money.

I have met such agripreneurs in Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, South Africa etc. Most
of them have parents who belong to the previous category. They throng Facebook farming groups and twitter spaces to learn more from peers every evening between 5pm and 9pm on weekdays. These are really the future of agribusiness in Africa. But they are not targeted usually by the public sector because that sector puts too much emphasis on food security and the famers at the lower end of the pyramid (for good reasons) yet a good chunk of the target beneficiaries really would opt to do other income generating activities if they had a choice or obtain more funding.

The young people do not get most of this support because they are not well targeted [but] because they have smart phones, do tik tok, watch their news on social media,
don’t have any issue with data bundles
and always want to upgrade to the latest internet connectivity channels because internet s not a cost to them but a key investment that connects them and equalizes them to other global citizens without leaving their homes etc., so they do not look like the kind of ‘farmers’ who are waiting for government subsidies for farm inputs or for a government official to find market for their produce for them etc.

They already use digital tools for many other parts of their life, and are not complaining about 4G network penetration because they know the hacks around this. They live in urban or peri-urban areas but they adventure out into deep rural areas to find cheap land with good future prospects often. They belong to investment clubs with their peers and are hungry for investment opportunities including agribusiness.

These are the kinds of farmers that I would appeal those who are in the public sector to dedicate a small portion of their attention to target specifically for financial and non-financial support in a business-wise way, not for grants or donations. It could yield some surprising results and help us in that huge problem of trying to lower the average age of farmers in Africa.


From: Maureen Agena ICT4D/Ag Consultant, Uganda

Based on my experience working with small holder farmers especially in eastern Africa, I must add that although digitization has a big potential to improve small holder agriculture, there are existing bottlenecks that must first be addressed.
  • Access (Network infrastructure, language), extension services, markets for the products, inputs like seeds/fertilizers and so many more. The underlying bottlenecks inhibit growth and progress of small holder farmers. If those are addressed, then digitizing the processes becomes an issue of making them seamless and convenient for farmers. 
  • Ownership is what will guarantee the effectiveness of investing in digitization. There must be political will, which then informs policy and investment. The digital solutions must be demand driven by the farmers and they must solve a broad range of challenges and add value. That's all they care about.
  • Small holder farmers should also be willing to spend on functional digital solutions, only then can you guarantee sustainability and uptake. This way, there is a reduction in duplication. 
  • Funding digitization on its own is not enough, farmers must undergo training on record keeping, value addition and so much more. 
  • But generally work within existing Government frameworks to complement existing and planned interventions and to avoid working in silos.


From: Md Shahid Uddin Akbar CEO Bangladesh Institute of ICT in Development (BIID)
Based on progress of e-Agriculture of Digital Agriculture of last 2 decades, I strongly vote for more on establishing basic services [like infrastructural facilities, availability & access to extension / business development services, basic ICT services (Phone, Internet)
access to finance and marketing] for small scale producers / farmers instead of high sounding AI, IoT or Blockchain. 

Let’s make the market eco-system more efficient and competitive for the small scale producers / farmers rather than creating market for the high-tech solution providers & experts.

  • The B-Lab idea is based on the proposition that it is sort of an umbrella organization with a focus
    on young people in the rural areas who want to become real entrepreneurs, especially in agriculture sector.
  • Service of B-Lab will be guaranteed from a dedicated professional team at back office in Dhaka along with 24/7 online service availability and BIID acts as a leading but also a facilitating organization. 
  • Youth segments age group within 18-39 are being targeted with special focus on students & women communities. 
  • BIID as mandated for ICT4D (Information and Communication Technology for Development), it fosters usage of ICT in all sphere of B-Lab activities and service delivery.

From: Jacob van Etten, Digital Inclusion, Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT (CGIAR)

I agree that SSPs may not always benefit and also agree with those who say that digital transformation is an important part of agricultural development now and in the future.

SSPs will not always benefit: access to digital services is generally limited for SSPs by low digital literacy, non-inclusive design of solutions, lack of access to devices, infrastructure, etc. However, we should not only look at individual SSPs' access to digital services, but also to how digital services can play a role in service delivery in general. Digital services do not always reach farmers directly, but help to improve the efficiency of information exchange, data analysis, as done by service providers. Perhaps we should  not only be looking at the end of the pipeline and analyze how digital transformation is affecting all players in the agricultural and food sector.

If we analyze the overall 'digital ecosystem' (different digital services and how they interact), we may discover that the limitations are not at the endpoint, but elsewhere.

A worrying trend is that digital business models tend toward vertical integration. This means, for example, that input suppliers created digital services that link with extension, with aggregators, etc. This seems to be the most viable business model to 'monetize' investment in digital services. Farmers are not always ready to pay for information on its own, so bundling services makes sense. They will pay for it as part of the fertilizer or seed. An important reason is that consolidation works from a digital perspective, as organizations or individual farmers are less likely to deal with one app for each task. Also, farmers will buy more inputs if they also have a market to sell, so vertical integration makes sense from that perspective as well.

However, this could also lead to a few players consolidating the market and less market power for farmers and their organizations. In the end, SSPs will indeed not benefit, but not because they are missing out, but because they are more effectively exploited by large players.

This does not mean that agricultural transformation needs to be stopped. It means that we need a critical look at the digital ecosystem to avoid this situation and invest in different things, for example:
  1. investments in integration + standards development so that new players can easily come into the system;
  2. governance rules for digital business that limit the opportunities for strong monopolies to emerge, rules that oblige players to make their solutions as inclusive as possible;
  3. public digital infrastructures -- to create services where private players won't go.
This is a complex issue, as we still don't fully understand what is going on. It will be very important to map digital ecosystems and how they evolve to make this issue more visible. My hope is that the Digital Agri Hub can help us to better understand this!

FromSander Janssen Team leader Earth Informatics at Wageningen Environmental Research
Reading through your discussions, I had three thoughts on how digitalization can lead to impact:
  1. Access to information (market prices, best practices, ideas, etc) is crucial. This leads to farmers doing things differently, and being able to strengthen their agency in their activities. With farmers doing things differently (new crop, new way of cultivation, etc), the immediate benefit is not always clear, as it is not linear. It is often not that ‘I change this, and then I get that’ (e.g. I put more fertilizer, I get more yield). However, over time, a different ways of doing things and being connected helps to build resilience, to innovate from the ground up, and gradually change the farming practices. But we need more nuanced thinking about benefits than just expecting immediate benefits. Here the point of transformation comes in, how can digital help us all to achieve that?
  2. Market power of small scale producers is problematic, as there are always many small scale producers and few buyers. Digitalization helps here to give producers insight in prices of products and inputs, and thus strengthens the negotiation position and sketching out what is possible and what not. However, it is still important to realise that this is a structural set up, and issue, which requires digital to be combined with organizations like cooperatives and farmer organizations, in order to organize more market power for small holders
  3. There are still many structural problems for digital to operate smoothly, e.g. lack of connectivity, digital literacy, relative complicated solutions, standardization and portability of digital solutions themselves. This means that it is not always easy to operate, but also puts some emphasis on two other points: a. the importance of ‘simple’ solutions that are really focused on improving the access to information in rigorous way; b. importance of co-design or user centred design (our previous topic in this e-conversation) to ensure that solutions are build directly into the context of small scale producers, to find out what works there (so no technology push, but user pull).
From: Peter BallantyneConsultant, Communications and Knowledge Management

I think we need to unpack your question a bit more: "How true is the mantra that small-scale producers benefit from digitalisation?"

Asking - can SSPs benefit? and do SSPs benefit? The answer to both is probably 'yes' or 'yes, if' some of the conditions suggested by many people here are met. Do all SSPs benefit? There are some big questions around power and unintended impacts where benefits may be more easily grasped by the people who already have assets, and certain left behind or vulnerable groups may just get further left behind. The challenge I suppose is for all SSPs to get some benefits.

In the conversation here, we have tended to move quite quickly to equate 'benefitting' with 'using' and I think we should more clearly differentiate between what an individual SSP can do, and benefit from, herself with a phone, for example, and the benefits an SSP can get from a more efficient and targeted digital extension system, digitally-enabled farmer coop, digitally-informed local government, etc.. Smallholders can surely also benefit from digital innovation elsewhere in the value chain, even if they are digitally unconnected themselves?
From: Sadie Shelton, University of Vermont, USA, Alliance of Bioversity International & CIAT

The Agroecological TRANSITIONS Program's Inclusive Digital Tools project (ATDT) is exploring how digital tools can be more inclusive of all smallholders, especially farmers at the greatest risk of exclusion like women and those with limited digital or linguistic literacy.

We found that smallholders don't always need to be the end user of a tool to benefit from it's use (e.g., a digital application designed for agricultural extension agents to communicate with more efficiently with a greater number of farmers, or for monitoring progress toward farmer's goals).

Here are some CGIAR outputs focusing on digital tool use by SSPs from ATDT: SEE REPORT AND BRIEFS ABOVE.

There is a larger context of digitization. Where is your data being stored and to whom is the benefit going?

Even in the realm of app design, the dominant paradigm is easily seen at work. The first thing an app developer does is figure out the database your information will be stored in. Long ago, our sovereignty was removed, and we became an ID number in the database of everyone’s services. We’ve been duplicated and rehashed over and over, so now, when a marketer wants to know something (anything) about us, the corporations that sit in the background collecting and assembling all of our ‘stolen’ datapoints, then share and sell these details to one another. It’s happening at blistering speed to determine what ads and other content you will ever see. It has been the goal of my life’s work to help the “other 5 billion” avoid this fate. You are worth more as a living breathing human, than to become a recipient of Fecebook’s “free” internet service.

So, to answer your questions and where they lead to… yes, everyone should embrace the digital tools that help productivity, sustainability, and mutual support, BUT those tools must be made from the ground up to protect individual sovereignty. This becomes especially important when we look at disaster and conflict resiliency. Think about it, if any population required a corporate spoon to eat with, then at the first glitch in the schedule many would go hungry. Similarly, if anyone depends on the services of an entity out of their control, then they are at risk, and any disruption causes the system to collapse. Even if it is temporary, humans cannot rely on a centralized for-profit ecosystem to protect their individual wellbeing.

The solution, I believe, is to create an infrastructure that treats every single individual as a sovereign independent entity. Everything they do is contained on a blockchain as a verifiable ‘receipt’ of one’s actions. Of course some information is private between you and whomever you interact with, but you ought to be incomplete control of what is made public. The benefit of having any public metadata is that you become relevant for goods and services others are searching for.

In such a system, all of your data as a farmer belongs to you, and anyone that wants it must come to you for it. That way, you get paid directly by the marketers instead of them paying a third party to collect details about you and share them with all the other data aggregators.

When you are in control of your data, you are free to share it with other farmers near you, or even stream out a portion, like rainfall and sunshine. That way, the humans in an area become the weather service, alerting neighbors to conditions before affecting their crops.

The benefits of such a system in disaster are mainly that interaction and resource sharing can occur immediately, that community can be rebuilt immediately with just the members present, and when connectivity is restored all the interactions get reconciled and the outside world has a very clear picture of what is needed and where.

However, instead of sending well fed, well educated surveyor-experts, the agencies and governance will be responding to direct requests from individuals and the communities they gather into for sharing needs and resources. Huge cost and efficiency gains happen here along with the more important element of self-directed recovery, which mitigates trauma and improves resiliency. Self-efficacy in general promotes healthy society, but none of the Big Aid orgs or the UN are geared to allow it. Yet they speak about it daily.

To really offer sovereignty means giving up control of the data ownership and management. I believe firmly that we are finally at a place where the value of data to organizations and governance has outstripped the benefit of controlling its gathering and storage. I believe the Western paradigm does not require the status quo as much as it requires better data quality. For the very best data quality and freshness, you must interact directly with the individual citizen. Since they ALL have a cell phone, or can get to one within a short walk, there is no longer any excuse for sending out ‘survey teams’ or for ‘experts’ telling you how to live.

The secret has always been about the data being communicated, allowing the controlling elements to make decisions for you. That time has passed.

So yes, embrace what the technology actually provides and insist on sovereign designs, not the dreams being sold to you by organizations that actively or passively implement the current extractive paradigm, either knowingly or through their ignorance.