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ICT holds some answers to challenges faced in Agriculture

(by Nazima Raghubir)

The importance of Information and Communication Technologies to Agriculture was underscored when stakeholders meet to discuss “Strengthening ICT in value chains in the Caribbean”.  This is the focus of a two-day workshop which opened under the theme “Towards increased integration in ICTs for growth and productivity”.

The workshop aims to validate and examine the Regional Study of ICT’s In Agriculture Value Chains. This study was conducted in five countries in the Region and commissioned to examine the status of the usage of ICTs in value chains.

Dr. Arlington Chesney, Director of Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) used the opening of the workshop to stress the changing dynamics of agriculture in the region. He said that ICTs hold the key to aiding in the restructuring of the Agriculture sector.

 “It is moving it from one that is dependent on labour and land primarily to one that is dependent on information and technology.”

Director of the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development (CTA) Michael Hailu explained that the use of ICTs has created “huge opportunities” for farming communities.

The use of mobile phones for example has been described as one way farmers have been able to transform the ways they approach agriculture.

“The innovations are actually taking place in the developing countries and not the developed ones, so like in Africa you see on a daily basis innovations that are supporting different aspects of farming, CTA  has paid a lot of attention of this for many years, we really want to take ICTs closer to farmers so they can benefit.”

 Guyana’s Agriculture Minister Dr. Leslie Ramsammy sees the use of ICT in Agriculture as a strategic trap that can capture young people’s interest in Agriculture. He estimates that farmers in the region carry an average age of 60 years. That creates a need for younger generations in the sector if the region wants to continue to charter a course to be able to feed itself.

“We have to bring our youth into agriculture… make agriculture more attractive to young people, we have to make ICT relevant in the sphere of activities they are engaged in.”

The Minister told those present at the opening that evidence suggests that farmers are going on the internet, using it for research, comparing farming and agriculture techniques and outcomes and also depending on ICT to aid in their production.

“I am in my bed and a farmer is calling me at 3 in the morning and a farmer is calling me to tell me the hydro met office has failed to send him the weather forecast for the day on their cell phones, the farmers are making use of ICTs and that provides a major opportunity for us in the ministries of agriculture for us in the institutions and so because we do not have to persuade the farmers…”

This workshop which started on Sunday is part of the agenda of Caribbean Week of Agriculture which is being held in Guyana under the theme “Linking the Caribbean for Regional Food and Nutrition Security and Rural Development”.

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