ICTs for Sustainable Agriculture: An Answer to Food Security

United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal 2:

“End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture.”

This can only occur through the promotion and adoption of sustainable agriculture in the form of a food production and delivery system that meets society’s needs in the present without compromising the needs of future generations. Sustainable agriculture embraces the environmental, economic and social conditions that challenge food security. By taking a whole systems approach, agriculture, when done sustainably, has the potential to relieve hunger and create lasting change.

Sustainabile agriculture can be achieved when the farmers are supplied with adequate, appropriate, accurate and timely information. Agricultural information has the key role in facilitating the participation of people relating to sustainable development.

Globally, the emerging concept of e-agriculture incorporates the sophisticated use of innovative information and communication technologies (ICT).

ICTs have the potential to revolutionize the agricultural sector due to their affordability, accessibility, and adaptability. This technology empowers different stakeholders involved in the value chain to perform tasks quickly, efficiently, and with greater ease and accuracy.

ICTs can help farmers improve local economies and the quality of life by making informed decisions. These ICT tools can be our new arsenal in the fight against hunger and in feeding the billions.

ICTs for Improved Prediction and Monitoring

Monitoring of environmental and soil conditions can make farming more profitable and sustainable and can lead to increased productivity, significant profits and savings. In this regard, ICTs can be useful for various purposes including land-use planning, crop forecasting and early warning systems. In addition to that, ICT tools can enable farmers to exploit their farming potential by getting timely, accurate and relevant information on sustainable agricultural practices, water management, pest and disease control, soil testing and post-harvest management techniques.

Information Sharing

Information and knowledge plays a key role in enhancing sustainable agricultural development and addressing food security.

ICTs can provide farmers with useful and beneficial information, such as new farming techniques, weather reports, and crop prices. This is also referred to as e-agriculture and the following are some practical examples of this use of ICTs:

Image result for e agriculture

Rural Radio

Radio is a relatively inexpensive communication medium and has fairly wide coverage. It can provide farmers with information about farming conditions. FAO Rural Radio in Africa has a food security channel with programs on food production and productivity. These radios did not only aim at modifying agricultural methods but they also aimed at changing the state of mind through profound behavior modifications.

Mobile Phones

The use of mobile phones to distribute food market information offers great advantages for consumers and food producers. Farmers can use mobile phones to receive text messages with market information on commodities (market price, supply and demand).

For example, e-Choupal in India and  Tradenet in Ghana offer mobile phone and web based services that help farmers achieve better yields and secure better prices by allowing them to receive accurate weather forecasts and local price information direct to their mobile phones, and in their local language. In addition, use of mobile phones has become more common for exchanging information such as for disease surveillance and pest tracking.

Telecenters

Community telecenters in rural areas with access to the Internet, telephone and fax services can play a vital role to make relevant information available to the farmers. Farmers can use these services to enhance communication with potential buyers and to access information on improved farming techniques.

ICTs and Agri-Markets

With the help of ICTs farmers can get information on the location of profitable agri-markets, enquiring about who is paying the highest price and even contact with their potential buyer to sell their produce online. They can also benefit from mobile banking and government credit programs with reduced transaction costs. Apart from this, there are more-specialised applications, esp softwares, for supply chain and financial management that can increase the accuracy of the farm operations.

ICT-enabled marketing and access to markets plays a major role, especially for information on market prices and demand. ICT-enhanced marketing and certification strengthens the capacity of small-scale producers to increase revenue by improving their position on local and international markets.

Bridge the Communication Gap

ICTs can help bridge communication gap and improve interaction between farmers and agri-scientists to better identify farmers’ specific problems. Researchers can get critical agricultural information like incidence of pests and crop-yields using mobile-based applications. Data collection is faster than traditional methods; more people can be interviewed in less-time using minimum resources.

Conclusion

By 2015, when monitoring of the Millennium Development Goals ended, 72 of 129 countries reached the Millennium Development Goal 1 to halve the number of hungry people, or reduce it to below 5 percent, from 1990 to 2015.

Much of that result has to do with agriculture. Agriculture is the largest source of income for poor, rural households. In fact, 500 million small farms provide up to 80 percent of the food consumed in a large part of the developing world. Investing in technology and building ICT skills of farmers helps ensure food security for the poorest populations and consistent food production for local and global markets and can also help to achieve the  goals for a sustainable development model.

Sustainable agriculture is not only responsible for granting food and nutrition security to all human beings but it is also responsible for social stability and health. It provides work opportunities to families, men, women and youth, and largely contribute to the economies.

Information and communication technologies has a central role to play in achieving and maintaining sustainable agricultural production and food security.

The access to the right information at the right time gives them the capacity to make informed decisions that affect their livelihoods and thereby play a major role in ensuring food security.