Inclusive Agriculture


LIRNEasia’s Lead Consultant Economist, Harsha de Silva, gave a keynote speech at the 30th National Information Technology Conference being held in Colombo, Sri Lanka from 9th to 11th July 2012. Talking from an national economic development perspective, Harsha articulated the role of ICTs in growth as a transformative economic catalyst that can provide a platform for more equitable development especially in Agriculture. His slides are HERE
The smallholder quality penalty, defined below, is the key concept emerging out of the agriculture supply chains work conducted by LIRNEasia in 2010-12: The Smallholder Quality Penalty is the financial penalty on the market price imposed on the smallholder by the first-handler (mostly a collector) due to the uncertainty of produce quality. This allows the first-handler to offset potential losses due to the perception of lower quality when selling to the next handler downstream. Thus the SQP exists in most transactions in supply chains that involve smallholders. SQP is based on perception and maybe partly justified. Smallholders are often resource-constrained and are unable to make the investments necessary to ensure quality.
On July 4th, we were pleased to be able to share some of our research and explore areas of common interest with colleagues at LUMS, thanks to the kind invitation of Vice Chancellor Adil Najam. The slides we used to initiate the discussion are here. But they do not fairly depict the content of the conversation. Here is how it was reported on the LUMS website. Two representatives of LIRNEasia, a think tank that researches information and communications technology (ICT) across Asia, spoke at the LUMS Faculty Lounge on July 4, 2012 for an event organised by the Internet and Society Initiative.
LIRNEasia and the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority co-hosted an event titled “What can telecommunications do for Agriculture?” in Islamabad on 3rd July 2012. The event was intended to stimulate cross-sectoral conversations between the telecommunications and agriculture sectors in Pakistan and was the first event of its kind in Pakistan.   The presentations from the event are given below: Welcome note by Dr Muhammad Yaseen, Chairman PTA Session 1: Information needs and ICT access by the poor Dr. Rohan Samarajiva, LIRNEasia How the poor use ICTs: Findings from multi-country studies of Teleuse at the Bottom of the Pyramid Ms.
LIRNEasia and the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority are jointly organizing an event on the role of telecommunications in agriculture at the Serena Hotel in Islamabad on 3rd July 2012. The event aims to increase cross-sectoral conversations and work in promoting the use of ICT applications in agriculture. LIRNEasaia is being represented by our CEO Rohan Samarajiva and research managers Sriganesh Lokanathan and Nilusha Kapugama More details to follow later.
An oped by Khairul Islam and Nilusha Kapugama on how mobiles can help match supply and demand for cold storage space for Bangladesh potato harvest has been published in Daily Star. The most widely accessible form of ICT in Bangladesh is mobile phone. An information management system can ensure that information on the availability of space can be sent out to traders and farmers. The cold storage owners are a part of the Bangladesh Cold Storage Owners Association. The association can collect the information about the availability of space from members.
LIRNEasia has been working on making agriculture markets more efficient since 2007. Here, in a discussion of decelerating growth in India, is a justification for our focus and our intention to do more work in agriculture. Agriculture employs about half of India’s work force, for example, yet the agricultural revolution that flourished in the 1970s has slowed. Crop yields remain stubbornly low, transport and water infrastructure is poor, and the legal system is hostile to foreign investment in basic agriculture and to modern agribusiness. Note that the earlier general growth bursts of Japan, South Korea and Taiwan were all preceded by significant gains in agricultural productivity.
A new report on the information needs and communication patterns of smallholders as well as agricultural micro-enterprises is now available on our website. The report is based mainly on the findings of smallholder and agricultural-micro-enterprises surveys, which were carried out as part of the Teleuse@BOP4 study. Some findings from the qualitative component of Teleuse@BOP4 have also been incorporated. |Executive summary | Full Report (PDF, 1.9Mb) |
Theme: Can ICT benefit the small farmers? “Putting Farmers First” Chair: Mr. Vikas Nath, Associate Director, Future of the United Nations Project, Switzerland Speakers: Dr. Harsha de Silva, Member of Parliament, Consultant Lead Economist, LIRNEasia, Sri Lanka Can ICT benefit small farmers? Tackling Smallholder Quality Penalty  |Presentation | Ms.
The findings of the potato study conducted in Bangladesh under LIRNEasia’s 2010-2012 research cycle were shared with stakeholders in Dhaka on 10 April 2012. The dissemination workshop was attended by high level representatives from the government agencies such as Bangladeshi Agriculture Research Institute, Agriculture Information Service (AIS) of Ministry of Agriculture, Bangladesh, large scale exporters, processors and cold storage providers from the private sector. The stakeholders engaged in a productive exchange after the study findings were presented. The issues discussed included the availability and utilisation of cold storage, the quality of the potato seeds available in Bangladesh and suitability of some of the potato varieties grown for processing and exporting.  The discussion of cold storage brought about further issues such as the under-utilisation (40%) of the cold storage available in some storage spaces, in spite of excessive demand in others.
The findings of the jute study conducted in Bangladesh under LIRNEasia’s 2010-2012 research cycle were shared with stakeholders in Dhaka on 9 April 2012. The dissemination workshop was attended by high level representatives from the government agencies such as Bangladeshi Agriculture Research Institute, the Jute Research Institute as well as representatives from the Food and Agriculture Organisation in Bangladesh and private organisations. The findings brought a lively debate about the prevailing issues in the jute industry such as the quality of the seeds in the market and retting techniques as well the quality of the jute produced. There was also discussion about the use of Information and communication technology such as mobiles to bring about some of the improvements in efficiency. The workshop was organised by Institute of Informatics and Development (IID) and Development Research Network (DNET), Bangladesh.
   At the invitation of FAO, our CEO, Rohan Samarajiva, Research Manager, Nilusha Kapugama and I spent two days (April 3-4, 2012) in Bangkok participating in a regional FAO/ NECTEC workshop on the use of mobile technologies for food security, agriculture and rural development. The workshop brought together representatives from the agriculture ministries/ departments of 10 countries in Asia (Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam), FAO personnel as well as the private sector, including operators of Mobile Agricultural Information Services (MAIS). LIRNEasia research on the use of mobiles by the poor as well as in rural development set the stage for most of the sessions. Rohan, presented the latest findings from the Teleuse@BOP surveys; Nilusha presented some findings from the agricultural micro-enterprise survey (growers & non-growers); and I talked about the lessons and challenges of the current crop of MAIS in the region.  The workshop interactions, especially the working group discussions facilitated by Rohan and myself, were eye-opening.
It has been an intense and productive two days. There will be more than one set of reflections. This is the first, written from the airport on the way out of Bangkok. We have been worrying about the quality of information supplied to growers and other actors in the supply chains. What if the price information that is supplied is inaccurate, or worse, tampered with by those wishing to corner the market?
LIRNEasia‘s  agricultural supply chain work from our current 2010-2012 research cycle was shared with the media at a dissemination event in Bangkok, Thailand. The event was intended to highlight some of the findings from the meta-study of ICT interventions in Thailand conducted for LIRNEasia by Deunden Nikomborirak. Presentations by the speakers are included below. Rohan Samarajiva, PhD., Chair & CEO, LIRNEasia Innovation for inclusive & efficient agricultural supply chains Nipon Poapongsakorn, PhD, President, Thailand Development Research Institute (TDRI) Supply Chain Management in Thailand Deunden Nikomborirak, PhD, TDRI Towards a Knowledge-based Economy: Case studies of the use of ICTs in enhancing agricultural value chains in Thailand Nilusha Kapugama, LIRNEasia Lessons from the supply chain studies in Bangladesh, India and Sri Lanka Sriganesh Lokanathan, LIRNEasia Overcoming the Smallholder Quality Penalty
Yesterday, I gave a guest lecture at a Carleton University using the Rann Vijay Kumar video (constituting its official launch) and the attached slides. The focus was on agriculture. I was surprised the course was required. Guess this constitutes a significant achievement in terms of establishing ICT for development as a field of study.
The second of the videos features Rann Vijay Kumar, an agricultural first handler from Samasthipur in Bihar, India. He regularly buys vegetables and cereals directly from farmers, which he then stores and sells to wholesalers. He relies heavily on his mobile phone: to stay in touch with both his supplier farmers and buyers, and to know the latest market prices. Prior to using a mobiles, he used public phones, or passed messages around. Today, he travels less and talks more.