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IICD Hosts Expert Exchange Session on ICT4Agriculture

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Sep 20 2013, Netherlands [NL], Agriculture

As a member of the Agri-ProFocus partnership that promotes farmer entrepreneurship in developing countries, IICD hosted an Expert Exchange meeting in which staff from both organisations were able to consult each others’ experience.

The Expert Exchange allowed participants to engage in discussions around using ICTs to support information networking and community building in Agriculture in more depth and to identify how both organisations’ core competencies could best complement each other. 

Agri-ProFocus was keen to learn from IICD’s more than 15 years of experience in using ICTs to support information networking and knowledge sharing in development. Despite a different thematic focus, both organisations support information sharing networks in Africa, Latin America and Asia – the so-called Agri-Hubs in the case of Agri-ProFocus and the ICT4D knowledge sharing networks in the case of IICD (see e.g. Burkina-NTIC, i-Network Uganda).

“I like this meeting because of the intervision approach between two teams of professionals who exchange information on very specific issues that you face in your work” said Jan Willem Eggink from Agri-ProFocus network development. “Our organisations have a lot of experience that we all can profit from, IICD has been managing online platforms in other countries for more than 15 years and that helps us reflect on our strategies.”

IICD staff shared its insights and critical success factors for networking and online community building, touching upon issues such as working with low ICT literacy levels, encouraging active engagement, interaction and knowledge creation on (online) media tools, integrating and aggregating communities across countries and thematic groups, and more. Much time was spent discussing IICD’s experiences with using different media and channels such as Facebook for young farmers, the challenges and opportunities associated with different mobile-based services for informing and engaging farming communities, such as national SMS campaigns using short codes versus targeted SMS ‘narrowcasting’ approaches, interactive voice-response (IVR) services and mobile phone hotlines to specific information providers.   

The second part of the Expert Exchange explored insights that IICD’s work in ICT for Agriculture has generated, and how this experience and expertise can best be channeled to serve other agriculture and farmer entrepreneurship related stakeholders, both in the countries where Agri-ProFocus supports Agri-Hubs, as well as in the Netherlands. 

Several Agri-Hubs have proven their value in putting ‘hot topics’ on national agendas and changing the landscape in which stakeholders operate. An example of obvious interest to both organisations was the case of community building and action around repositioning the role of Market Price Information Systems in Uganda. 

The on-the-ground experiences that IICD’s partners generate in integrating the use of ICTs in their agriculture-related activities, and the challenges that they encounter in their institutional environments which hamper them in their efforts, coupled with the ability of the Agri-Hubs to agendize issues and mobilise coalition building, are valuable assets worth linking up more structurally. 

The Expert Exchange confirmed Agri-ProFocus and IICD’s joint conviction that informed use of ICTs is essential for smallholder farmers, farmer organisations, farmer entrepreneurs and commercial companies to enhance their capacity, position and success in farm-firm relations as well as more harmonization of existing efforts. Both organisations are enthusiastic about potential joint activities, linking IICD partners and Agri-Hubs, and helping agricultural stakeholders harness the potential that ICTs provide to support their work. 

To learn more about IICD-supported National ICT4D Networks you can read our thematic brief on the Ghana Information Network for Knowledge Sharing (GINKS)

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