ICT

Technology as a key to agricultural growth and success in Nigeria

“As we search for a less extractive and polluting economic order, so that we may fit agriculture into the economy of a sustainable culture, community becomes the locus and metaphor for both agriculture and culture.”  ― Wes Jackson, Becoming Native to This Place

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By Olasupo OJO

The prevailing economic situation in Nigeria has prompted the need for a diversification to ameliorate the economic challenges hitting the country in the face. Oil prices have dropped drastically, the Naira was depreciating at an alarming rate until recently, and the prices of commodities have risen.

Agriculture has become the talk on everyone’s mouth, a means to liberate and sustain the economy. Needless to say, that many have forgotten that the 60’s – early 80’s are far from different from the 21st century that we find ourselves. The era when the population was barely 45 million, employment rate was high, the economy was stable and agriculture was a joyous occupation. But the “oil boom” came along and agriculture was long gone. Paying less attention to agriculture resulted in a decline in policy support and public funding for agriculture, strong decline in domestic production and rising level of dependence on agricultural imports. Now, population has grown to over 180 million, oil is losing its value and the naira’s value is dwindling. Isn’t it time to go back to the 60’s? A resounding ‘yes’.

The truth is that agriculture can take us back to where we were. Little wonder then that the government is doing everything within its reach to resuscitate this sector of the economy. The role of the public and private sectors in agriculture, the farmers, youths and women, donor organizations, research institutes, health care organizations and other organizations or agencies that play a role in the agriculture value chain can’t be overemphasized. But, it is noteworthy that just like science and technology have played their roles in our lives in this century, they are also a backbone to achieving the long-term goal of sustaining the agricultural sector of the economy.

TECHNOLOGY

Technology is shaping the world, improving lives, making things easy and transforming the continent. In the world of agriculture too, a lot is being done to improve seeds and increase production. This will also help in restoring increased production of food in Nigeria.

Here are some technological inventions that will definitely improve the agricultural sector of the economy:

Mechanization

The 60’s are far gone, the era of farmers using crude farm implements like hoe, sickles and cutlasses. Painfully, many farmers still use these tools in their farming operations, the effect? Low supply of farm products, poor efficiency and sustenance of products. Mechanized form of farming involves the use advanced technological machines, tools and techniques in rearing plants animals, this will:

  • reduce energy exerted in the agricultural process
  • improve productivity
  • improve life span
  • regular supply of farm produce
  • enhance economic growth

Nigeria faces a Hello tractorslot of challenges in this area. For example, the land use decree (1978) makes acquisition of land difficult in a way making it difficult for peasant farmers to acquire sufficient land mass to practice mechanized farming. Unavailability of infrastructural facilities like good road network, communication facilities and transport system. Illiteracy among farmers and sufficient funding.

The use of tractors, boom sprayers, ploughing machines and pumps are mechanized tools that will help reshape the agriculture sector and help farmers. A revision of the land use decree of 1978 will help farmers acquire more acres of land to practice this form of farming.

AGRICULTURAL BIOTECHNOLOGY

Simply put, agricultural biotechnology is the manipulation of crops and animals or their parts for the production of value added goods and services for man’s use.  It is being used to address problems in all areas of agricultural production and processing. This includes plant breeding to raise and stabilize yields; to improve resistance to pests, diseases and abiotic stresses such as drought and cold; and to enhance the nutritional content of foods. Despite reservations about GMO plants, security and regulatory agencies have stood up to defend advantages of this plants. South Africa for example has recorded remarkable increase, remaining till present the leaders in Africa in the use of biotech crops. In an interview with UK MP Owen Paterson by SASHNEE MOODLEY, South Africa as realised an economic gain of $1.15-billion between 1998 and 2012 from the use of genetically modified (GM) crops or biotech crops. Sudan has also increased its biotech cotton hectares by almost 50% to 90 000 ha. He said, “although humanitarian and environmental groups have disputed the use of GM technology on crops, studies have shown that GM technology adoption has reduced chemical pesticide use by 37%, increased crop yields by 22% and boosted farmers profit by 68%.” Nigeria can definitely increase its crop production through the use of biotech plants, having them available, educating rural farmers on how to successfully maximize profit and strengthen the food growth of the country like other African countries like South Africa and Sudan. Read more on Biotech here from a Nigerian health practitioner.

Information and Communications Technology

The Internet is a standing topic in newspapers and on television, and the number of users doubles every year. IT can be used a tool for direct contribution to agricultural productivity and an indirect tool for empowering farmers to take informed and quality decisions which will have positive impact on the way agriculture and allied activities are conducted. The main objective of ICT application, from a development perspective, is that of empowering people through knowledge.  It increases the effectiveness of their development efforts through informed decision making and through their capacity to harness science and various forms of knowledge to achieve the objectives of poverty eradication,
food security and sustainable development. This would be an effective tool for the very large uneducated populace farmers in the country and also help foster a better understanding of farming practice and marketing among the youths who are eagerly delving into farming today.

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Photo Credit- Esoko.com

The 60’s are here in the 21st century, Agriculture should be fully worked on and modified in order to meet the needs and number of populace in the country. Application of technology in agriculture accompanied with the best policies can liberate Nigeria from the shackles of poverty, high cost of living and unemployment ravaging the country currently.

If the youth can farm, Africa’s agriculture will be transformed.

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Africa is currently endowed with a large population of young people with 65% of the population of Africa being below the age of 35. These figures present an enormous opportunity that, if leveraged, could turn around the continent’s food fortunes and drive its economic growth.

During the just concluded Global Entrepreneurship Summit in Nairobi, US President Barack Obama announced a US$1.0 Billion fund for African youth & women. The youth are privileged to be experiencing unprecedented good will from governments, private sector and the donor community.

10 million youth enter the labor market annually. Two out of three inhabitants of sub-Saharan Africa are under the age of 25; Poverty, poor health, hunger and lack of education limit the potential of these youth to increase productivity and agricultural incomes.  With 40% of the total unemployed being youth and 70% of these living in rural areas, it is time the youth stepped up to their place in Africa’s agricultural transformation agenda.

This week, over 300 Youth agriculture entrepreneurs will gather together with private sector and academia at the Olive convention center in Durban South Africa for the CCARDESA Youth in agriculture summit for Southern Africa. The summit is poised to revolutionize and unlock agribusiness opportunities for the youth in this region.

AGRA sees the value and, in fact, the critical need of investing in empowering youth to strengthen and sustain the foundation for African agricultural transformation in the future. This summit provides a great opportunity to increase the understanding of the specific needs of young people, improving the capacity of youth to profitably engage in activities along the agricultural value chain, to improve youth employment and business opportunities along the value chain, increase small holder farm productivity and improve access to markets and financing, and to improve the policy environment for youth participation in agriculture and agribusiness.

Our intention to boost youth engagement and opportunities in agriculture is gaining traction. AGRA is supporting the development and deployment of ICT applications to improve input and output markets through its mfarms application in 17 countries. The number of mfarm beneficiaries over the last 4years is slightly over 73,400. This week, AGRA will also be supporting the development of more ICT solutions for agriculture through a hackerthon that will be running on the sidelines of the summit. The youth are willing to farm, but only if they can generate returns quickly. This therefore presents an opportunity for innovative solutions in financing and access to markets. That way we can have youth engaging in farming in new ways as well as working in the surrounding industries in terms of inputs, services and value adding agribusiness.

You can read the original post on AGRA WEBSITE

Ways ICT Can Transform Nigeria’s Agriculture

What is ICT? 
ICT (Information and communication technology) is an umbrella  term that include any communication device or application, encompassing: radio, television, cellular phones, computer and network hardware and software, satellite systems and e.t.c, as well as the various services and applications associated with them, such videoconferences and distance learning . ICTs are always involving and has been contributing immensely in Agriculture. Appropriate application of ICTs will help any organizations and nations in development plans. The application of  Information Communication Technology (ICT) in agriculture is increasingly important in Nigeria. If ICTs are fully utilized in agriculture field , traditional knowledge could be improved and farmers could benefit from it.

ICT has created more awareness over the years and still creating more by getting farmers even those at the grass root level vital information needed to promote and market  their produce, prices: fall and rises of market produce, weather information e.t.c  this were able to achieve by introduction of cell phone to the farmers. According  to the statement  extracted from one of the article of Nigeria’s minister of agriculture Professor Akinwunmi Adesina , stated:   “The national bureau of statistic has estimated the number of farmers in Nigeria to be 14 million. The FAO also has reported a similar number. From the result of our sampling which showed that 71% of  the farmers do not have any phone, we can project to larger population of 14 million and arrive at an estimate of  10 million farmers who probably do not have phone”. Lots of significant change has been made over the years. Farmer now have access to first hand information with the help of mobile phone.

ICT can transform Nigeria’s  agriculture in different ways because it  can go a long way in making agriculture more reckoned with and acceptable among the Nigerian youth  and people  in the  world at large. ICT has the ability to remodernize  and repackage the way agricultural activities is being carried out  and also has the ability of changing the perception of Nigerian youths by making it look cool and more sophisticated.

 

Some of the ways ICT will or can transform Nigeria’s agriculture are:

Publicity: The world is now fast becoming a global village whereby you can be in Nigeria and yet participating in an ongoing events in France or Canada, events such as : Agricultural conferences or seminar, symposium, workshop, summit  e.t.c. All these can be done in real time with internet aided facilities with which Nigeria’s farmers that are well informed and enlightened can benefit from it, by so doing other farmers at the rural community level can also get trained by the enlightened ones, they can as well put it into practice at their various levels. Social media has really been of help during our generation, I always say that our generation is blessed and more opportune; we are well informed than any previous generations that have ever been in existence. Twitter, Facebook,Google+,wordpress,blogs, all these are  vital mode of sharing information that has a lot to do in transforming agriculture in Nigeria and in the world at large. ICT is a vital tools in agricultural publicity simply because the two goes hand in hand for a transformation, it’s a two ways phenomenon.

GPS Innovation: ICT can help immensely in agriculture transformation and one of the various ways is the innovation and usage of GPS (Global  Positioning System), the use of the GPS makes practical a systematic  sampling of an agricultural field of any size or shape. With portable software, so that soil sample may be taken. With systematic soil samples, the appropriate amount of fertilizer can be applied to different part of the field. The use of the GPS can easily pay for it self  in the cost of saving on fertilizer and other chemicals. Once crop is planted, the same GPS guided procedure can be used to survey the plant disease or insect. Data on field size and needs size can be collected and available computer software used to calculate the materials list for the treatment of the field.

 

Data Storage: This is another way  ICT can transform agriculture, keeping the records of agricultural produce goes beyond manual handling sometimes, data add a powerful dimension to agriculture. Livestock  is a good example  of data storage: keeping the data of animals, birth rate , mortality rate , till the time day grow for sales will help in detailing running cost of Agricultural produce, this process can be carried out by using software packages like: Microsoft word, Microsoft excel, Microsoft Access e.t.c.

Agriculture and rural transformations are key development strategy for south west states in particular and Nigeria in general. Nigeria has a vast rural community with majorly unsophisticated base. Therefore, ICT  becomes vital key in other to foster development and transform agriculture to make it more admirable among the youths. This implies that if the rural communities must not be left behind in the effort to creating knowledgeable society in which ICT becomes key to socio-economy development, there is the need now, to bridge the gap in the digital divide in information technology aimed at building capacity of rural dwellers  to enhance agriculture and rural transformation.

 

Increased agricultural investments in Africa, an absolute necessity

Ten years ago, African leaders peered into the future and decided to plan ahead. They agreed to invest at least 10% of their national budgets into Agriculture in what is called the Maputo Declaration. Unfortunately, so far, only a handful of countries have lived up to that promise.

These include Ghana, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mali and Burkina-Faso. Others, in contrast, are yet to fulfill this agreement. Nigeria, for example, has reduced its allocation annually, with a mere 1.47% allocated to agriculture in the year 2014. The question, therefore, is what needs to be done?

Poverty, hunger, food insecurity and wastage are sadly characteristics that African countries – like Nigeria my country – all have in common. This is indeed sad because Africa is blessed with all we require to feed ourselves and the rest of the world. Aside this is the increasing youth unemployment that is becoming an increasing burden to our economies. All these are issues we all know and have many times discussed. But of course we cannot keep dwelling on problems.

Less talk, more action

So let’s talk about solutions. In my opinion, the examples of successful African countries need to be studied carefully and, if possible, copied. The viable policies, implementation plans, programs and projects underpinning these successes should be replicated especially among countries in the same region with similar socioeconomic conditions. There is also a need to move from paying lip service to actions that show a true sense of commitment to agricultural investment. As a young person I must mention the need for viable empowerment programmes for the youth in agriculture.

Solutions driven policies

Governments need to pay attention to the next generation of farmers who are highly energetic and also interestingly trying to find a path in the sector. This will also help dispel some of the negative impressions around agriculture. Our leaders need to develop solution driven policies that will create an enabling environment for these young people looking to create a future through farming.

They also need to develop partnerships and collaborations with the private sector for the capacity-building of youth and women in agriculture, develop the value chain, improve access to market locally, regionally and globally. Governments also need to be proactive in providing infrastructure that make rural economies beneficial for agri-producers and other rural dwellers. Of course a better ICT-driven extension service that will let all players in the sector have prompt access to needed information is also of high importance.

In investing in agriculture, African countries have a lot to benefit. Poverty alleviation, massive employment generation, women empowerment, foreign exchange and trade, quality nutrition for citizens and of course the ability to not only feed themselves but others. Doing agriculture by increasing investment in the sector should not be an option; it is indeed a necessity that must be paid attention to more than ever before. Our leaders need to move on from just admitting agriculture is important but also take all required action to increase investment and transform the sector. They just have to DO AGRIC.

This blog post by the author was first published on the ONE Campaign website

ONE is campaigning for African leaders to keep their promises to invest in Agriculture. Join the campaign and sign our DO Agric petition now.

Apply Now: Young Social Reporters wanted for the #Fin4Ag Conference! DL-April 9

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The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), in collaboration with the African Rural and Agricultural Credit Association (AFRACA), is organising its 2014 International Conference on Revolutionising finance for agri-value chains, “Fin4Ag” from 14-18 July 2014 in Nairobi, Kenya.
The purpose of the conference is to help decision-makers to break through the walls that so often prevent innovation, in this case for smallholder-inclusive agricultural finance. The conference has an international focus. Delegates will represent different economic segments of society including the private and public sectors (including Central Banks) and civil society, resource users’ organisations, development practitioners and academics. It will include many experienced professionals from developed and developing countries, having solid experience in smallholder-inclusive value chain finance
Social reporting for the Fin4Ag conference

To raise awareness on the event, engage on-site participants and reach out to a wider audience remotely, CTA wants to repeat last year’s experience (ICT4Ag13) and have a Social Reporting Team for the Fin4Ag conference.

The Fin4Ag social reporting team is composed of 2 sub-teams; on-site social reporters and online social reporters.
On-site social reporters
15 social reporters will be selected to participate in a two-days’ training on the use of digital media for social reporting. Part of the training will also be on Finance for Agriculture value chains, which will give the reporters an over-view on the theme of the conference. The training will also provide an opportunity for the reporters to get hands-on experience, ask questions and practice.

At the end of the conference, the social reporters will be awarded a certificate. Out of the 15 youths, 5 will be from Kenya, the host country.

Online social reporters
Other interested social media enthusiasts who are not selected as on-site reporters will have the opportunity to be part of the larger social reporting team that will participate and contribute remotely to the outreach of the event.

Social reporting for the Fin4Ag Conference is a voluntary task. However, CTA will be covering the cost of travel, accommodation, food and daily subsistence allowances for the 15 selected on-site social reporters. This opportunity forms part of CTA’s strategy to support the youth by involving them in its activities and building their capacity.
Selection criteria for social reporters

On-site Reporters:
Be a National of an *ACP country;
Be aged between 18 and 30 years;
Be involved in agricultural economics/finance, agribusiness or related fields;
Possess proven basic skills in the use of social media;
Be competent in the use of English or French language;
Be a good communicator and commit to contribute actively to the Social Reporting Team before and during the Fin4Ag conference;
Be in position to take along a WIFI-enabled laptop to the training and the Fin4Ag conference;
Available to attend the social reporting training and the Fin4Ag Conference in Nairobi from 12 – 18 July 2014;
Be in possession of a passport with a validity date at least six months beyond the Fin4Ag conference (at least until 18 January 2015). Note: This criterion is not applicable to Nationals of Kenya.

Online Reporters
There is no restriction on the age and country for remote social reporters
Being part of the team will provide various networking and capacity building opportunities.

How to Apply
If you are interested in applying, please complete this online form: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/Fin4AgSR
Note: All candidates interested in being part of the social reporting team (both on-site and online) have to complete the application form.
Please submit your application by 9 April, 2014 (23:59 CEST).
The 15 selected social reporters will be notified by 5 May 2014 receiving a confirmation letter. The other applicants will also be notified about the outcome of their application and informed about the modalities to contribute to the social reporting team remotely.
Contact

Further information or clarification can be directed by email to the ARDYIS project team at ardyis-project@cta.int with “Fin4Ag Social Reporting” as subject line.

Submit your individual or institutional blog and win up to 3000 Euros!

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The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation ACP-EU (CTA), in collaboration with FARA, Yam-Pukri, CAFAN, AYF, ANAFE, SPC/PAFPNET and e-Agriculture is pleased to launch the 2nd Edition of the Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloCo Awards).

This contest is organised in the framework of the ARDYIS project, which aims to raise youth awareness and improve their capacity on agricultural and rural development issues in ACP countries using Information and Communication Technologies (ICTs).

The aims of this blog competition are to:

  • Put into limelight issues, successes and challenges faced by youth engaged in: agriculture in urban and rural areas;
  • Encourage the production of information and the use of new information and communication technologies by young farmers’ groups and organisations interested in the “youth in agriculture” question;
  • Promote the sharing of information on the issues of agriculture and rural development in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries.

1. Who can participate?

The YoBloCo Awards are open in two categories:

a. Individual category

This category is open to students in agricultural training courses, young farmers, journalists or other young people interested in ICT or agriculture.

b. Institutional category

This category is open to local or national

  • young farmers’ organisations;
  • young members of farmers’ organisations;
  • young members of any organisation interested in agriculture, rural development and ICT.

For this competition, an organisation is understood as any type of non-profit or for-profit association, cooperative, forum, network or related grouping, excluding government institutions. Organisations that receive funding from governments but are not formal governmental institutions can be eligible if they fulfil all criteria.

If the organisation or grouping submitting an entry is not officially registered in the country, it should be recommended, via a letter of recommendation, by a national partner organisation, which is officially registered.

When young members of an organisation are submitting an entry in the “Institutional category”, they should apply on behalf of their organisation. If the entry wins an award, it is the organisation, which will be declared winner and will receive the cash prize. The blog creator or a representative of blog creators (if it is a team) will be invited for the prize giving ceremony and receive a trophy on behalf of the winning organisation. When a team applies on behalf of their organisation, the person representing the team must be specified in the application process. The cash prize won would be sent to the organisation.

For both categories, the young people participating must be between 18 to 35 years old (by the time of submission) and be nationals of ACP countries signatories of the Cotonou Agreement (see Note 1 below).

2. How to participate?

Individuals or organisations who wish to submit a blog and take part in the competition will have about 4 months to prepare or update their blogs with content related to agriculture (see Section 3 below). Blogs and all required information/documents will be submitted via an online form between December and January 2014 (the link to the blog submission form will be provided on this page as from 2 December 2013).

Prior to the blog submission, all people/organisation interested to be updated regularly on the competition can subscribe on this link: http://eepurl.com/GAJA9

3. Content of eligible blogs

The blog submitted can be a newly created one, or an existing one but which has been recently updated with content related to agriculture. However, mainly blog posts from the commencement of the competition will be judged.

A blog that deals with, or contains posts/articles on subjects other than agriculture must include, consistently (see Note 3 below), new articles related to agriculture, in order to be considered eligible.

In the context of the YoBloCo Awards, “new articles” or “new posts” refer to texts published between the launch of competition until its closure (please check section 7 below for the deadline). Posts/articles considered for the competition must be in French or English and can be related to one or several ACP countries.

Articles on the blog should cover themes or issues such as:

  • Challenges, success and issues faced by Youth in agriculture and related activities;
  • Climate change, environmental conservation, natural resource management;
  • Agri-business (marketing, commercialization, processing, etc.);
  • Agricultural production and Food security;
  • Agriculture value chains and agricultural policy;
  • Actions, policies and strategies related to youth involvement in agriculture;
  • ICT use in the agricultural sector (how can ICTs promote agriculture or how can ICT support innovation in agricultural value chains, ICT and agriculture policies, ICT and extension services etc.);
  • How are ICTs improving (or can improve) youth opportunities in rural areas;
  • Agro-tourism;
  • Contribution of Diaspora in ACP Agriculture;
  • The role and importance of Family Farming and Smallholder Farming in alleviating hunger and poverty, providing food security and nutrition, improving livelihoods, managing natural resources, protecting the environment, and achieving sustainable development, in particular in rural areas. (see Note 4 below);
  • Any other agriculture related theme or issue.

4. Selection process

There are two different processes for the two blog categories.

a) Individual Category

The eligible individual blogs submitted will first go through a public evaluation process, whereby the online audience will vote for, and comment on the blog that they like the most. Following the public evaluation, 15 finalists will be selected based on the number of votes they will receive, and they will finally be evaluated by an independent jury composed of expert in the field of ICTs and Agriculture. The first prize for this category is 1500 Euros and other prizes will be awarded!

b) Institutional Category

Blogs in the institutional category will also go through the public evaluation process, whereby the online audience will be required to leave comments on the blogs that they like the most (there is no limit on the number of blogs to comment). The jury will then choose the best blogs per region for this category and will take into account comments made by the public. The prize for this category is 3,000 Euros per winning organisation. In addition, some of the most appreciated blogs by the public may receive special rewards from organisers if the jury does not select them.

Updates on the whole voting process and results will be shared regularly on the YoBloCo Blog and entrants who are subscribed and submitted a blog will also be informed by email.

Votes and comments on blogs will end in March, 2014.

5. Selection criteria

The main selection criteria are the following:

  • Quality of language in posts
  • Originality of posts/articles (most posts should be written by the entrant)
  • Quality of analysis in the posts
  • Frequency/Consistency of blogging
  • Animation of the blog
  • Presence of agriculture related content (especially since the launch of the contest for existing blogs)
  • Overall technical quality of the blog

For the institutional category, additional criteria are:

  • Presence of information on the organisation’s activities
  • Presence of information in youth in agriculture issues

6. Prizes

A. Individual category

  • 1st Prize:  1,500 Euros
  • 2nd Prize: 1,000 Euros
  • 3rd Prize: 800 Euros

B. Institutional category

  • 3000 Euros per region (West Africa, Central Africa, Southern Africa, East Africa, Caribbean and Pacific)

C. Special Prizes

  • Best female blogger: 1000 Euros (only individual blogs will be eligible for this prize)
  • Best blog on Family Farming (see Note 4 below): 1000 Euros (an individual or institutional blog may be eligible for this prize)
  • Best blogs with business potential: at least two blogs will be selected, out of the best finalist individual blogs selected by the public, to receive mentorship and incubation opportunities  (See Note 5 below)

D. Runners-up

  • A number of runners-up in will receive a certificate of participation

Winning blogs and other best blogs will be promoted by CTA and its partners’ various channels.  In addition, authors of winning blog or other best blogs will have the opportunity to be involved in future activities of CTA or its partners.

7. Deadline and key dates

Launch of the competition: 8 October 2013

Submission of Blogs: 2 December 2013 – 31 January 2014

Online Evaluation (public): February – March 2014

Jury Evaluation: April – May 2014

Winners Announced: June 2014

The date of the prize giving ceremony will be announced subsequently.

READ MORE DETAILS HERE

‘Innovation Platform can help increase farmers’ incomes’

4316157064_664c462083Wale Adekunle, a professor of agronomy, and currently, director of partnerships and strategic alliances, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), speaks with OLUYINKA ALAWODE on how the concept of Innovation Platform can help farmers, scientists and other stakeholders achieve greater impact in productivity. Excerpts:

Innovation Platform

This is a concept that we coined during the period I was working at the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA). This was when I was in pursuit of ways to help farmers achieve greater productivity in their farms. We started from working as sole scientists who deliver the products of their research to extension workers in a linear and sequential version, to working with farmers and extension officers through the farming systems approach. This approach helped us in getting the input of farmers into research works.

Later, when it was clear that we needed more partnerships, I started to work on multi-stakeholder approaches and this led us to the development of Innovation Platform as a framework that brings together all possible partners who have roles to play in the development of technologies and their use for the derivation of socio-economic benefits.

An Innovation Platform is basically a physical forum but could be strengthened virtually, that is, all the stakeholders connect with one another through ICT. Usually, it brings players from along the value chain and beyond to include farmers, researchers, extension agents, input dealers (seeds, fertilisers, agrochemicals, agric mechanisation and agric lending and insurance) transporters, standards organisations, policy makers and end marketers.

Innovation Platform engages researchers in an integrated version to cover seven thematic areas, which include productivity, natural resource management, markets, policy, product development, nutrition and gender that are the basic areas that can lead to agricultural transformation in a country like ours.

The platform could be either for operations or strategic purposes. Strategic platforms are always at higher levels while operational platforms are always at the grassroots, where the operations are taking place. But the operational platform is always a mirror of the strategic platform.

Partnerships on the Innovation Platform is based not only on the need to generate technologies but also to solve both institutional and infrastructure constraints that may hinder the adoption of the technology, when it is developed or presented to the users.

Types of innovation platforms

We have quite a number of platforms in existence today. Through the proof of concept research, which FARA led within the sub-Saharan African Challenge Programme, we established 36 innovation platforms across Nigeria, Niger, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Malawi, Mozambique and Zimbabwe. But today, we have a lot more through the work of other partners including the CGIAR, research institutes in different countries, private sector working in certain countries, and even NGOs both locally and internationally.

Innovation platforms are now used everywhere. Partners on the platforms come together to discuss the challenges and opportunities within a particular system or commodity chain, prioritise them and systematically address them for the benefit of all players who have been recruited to serve different essential function.

Users

Innovation platforms have been used by farmers’ organisations to promote impact in terms of yield and incomes. Researchers have used it to promote stakeholder contribution to research agenda and also to promote potential of adoption. Private sector in both the input and output markets have also used it to increase their profit margin.

Benefits

Through the innovation platforms, farmers have been able to get greater access to information related to the production, processing and marketing of their commodities, greater access to technologies, increased yield and greater access to both input and output markets all leading to increased yield and incomes for greater food security and poverty reduction. Inputs dealers and output marketers derive additional benefits in terms of profit. As for extension agents and researchers, they derive satisfaction that their technologies are being adopted. Policy makers are happy they are reaching farmers.

Food security

Innovation platforms can help increase food production and farmers incomes. They also help in job creation as they promote the performance of agribusiness players.

Other sectors

They can be applied in other sectors, indeed the concept is an innovation systems approach which was borrowed from the industrial sector. Factories hardly produce commodities without stakeholder involvement.

Agricultural transformation

Based on the challenges we were given by the Science Council of the CGIAR, we have been able to prove that this approach works better than conventional approaches in increasing yields, increasing incomes, reducing poverty and improving economic development. It is an approach that can be used for agricultural transformation.

Background

I bagged a bachelor of agric from the Obafemi Awolowo University (OAU) and I did PhD in agronomy at the University of Ibadan. I worked for about 20 years at IITA and I have been working at FARA for about six years.

Original article can be found here