Agriculture


On the 1st of November, the LIRNEasia team travelled to Jaffna with some southern farmers (who already sell their products to the export market), exporters and experts in agriculture. For some of them, this was their first visit to Jaffna.
Agricultural Instructors are a central component of the agricultural value chain. They are in charge of the agricultural advisory service and even help farmers to find markets and make cultivation decisions. There is, however, only a thin line between these extra activities they perform in addition to providing the advisory service. The central argument is that agriculture instructors often have enough incentive to effectively operate within the value chain. This means they may perform activities that are understood by some as implying a “conflict of interest”.
Yesterday I participated in two panel discussions at the Sri Lanka Internet Governance Forum 2017. IGFs are primarily intended to permit an exchange of ideas among public, private and civil society stakeholders, helping to make the overall process of governance better. Government was represented on both panels as was the private sector. The audience was not the most informed or energetic, but that was possibly because the organizers conducted proceedings in English. In the first panel the theme was SDGs.
For some, it’s something they are used to. But for others it’s a new experience. They carefully touch the icons on the smart phone with tentative fingers and say “Puthalata, duvalata nang meva pulavan” (Our sons and daughters can easily do this) The group of farmers who gathered last week in Dambulla came from different areas in the Matale and Anuradhapura districts. Some had travelled long distances. They were a diverse group – ranging in age from twenties to fifties.
Sri Lanka’s unemployment rate is low (4.4 percent in 2016), yet its youth (15-24 yrs) unemployment rate is 22 percent. Unemployment among the more educated (above GCE AL) is 8.3 percent, almost double the overall rate. The participation of women in the labor force is 34.
I will be moderating the session on E-agriculture challenges, opportunities & solutions – Global experiences at the e Agriculture Solutions Forum 2016 organized by FAO and ITU in Nonthaburi, outside Bangkok, August 29-31, 2016. The objective of the session is to share initiatives on e-agriculture – the challenges and opportunities from public and private sector. I believe the invitation stems from the role LIRNEasia played in shaping FAO’s and ITU’s approach to developing e agriculture strategies. Since 2006, LIRNEasia has been working on agricultural value chains with a focus on knowledge, information and technology. Currently LIRNEasia is testing a mobile app intended to assist smallholders adhere to standards for export.

ICTD 2016

Posted by on June 14, 2016  /  0 Comments

The 8th International Conference on Information and Communication Technologies and Development (ICTD 2016) was held from 3- 6th June 2016. The conference held at the University of Michigan, saw a variety of sessions on different topics. LIRNEasia participated in the session on ‘Debating Open Development: Sharing and Interrogating Experiences of Developing Cross-Cutting Theory in ICTD’ organized by the Strengthening Information Society Research Capacity Alliance (SIRCA). This session provided an introduction to the SIRCA III Research Programme. LIRNEasia has been selected as one of the teams to conduct research in the empirical phase of the SIRCA III Programme.

Coding for a cause

Posted by on September 21, 2015  /  0 Comments

While the rest of the Sri Lanka slept peacefully, a considerable number of young and enthusiastic programmers gave up sleep this weekend – but for a good cause. Anyone dropping in to the WSO2 offices in Colombo the early hours of Saturday or Sunday morning would have been greeted by the sight of exhausted but determined coders hunched over laptops, tapping away. Among them were three teams working on a problem put forward by LIRNEasia. This was the scene of the Code4good hackathon which started on Friday evening (18th) and ran non stop until Sunday evening. Though the intense work happened this weekend, preparation began much before.
WSIS is the is the UN’s annual gathering of ICT for Development stakeholders.  The main organisers are ITU, UNESCO, UNDP and UNCTAD, though there is significant participation from other agencies such as UNDESA, FAO, UNEP, WHO, UN Women, WIPO, WFP, ILO, WMO, UN, ITC, UPU, UNODC, UNICEF and UN Regional Commission .   The 2015 WSIS Forum, held in Geneva 25-29 May, was special in that this was the place where WISIS met the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the successor to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).  Most of the sessions at this year’s WSIS Was organised around specific SDGs that the nations of the world are considering unto at the end of this year. LIRNEasia CEO Helani Galpaya was invited by UNCTAD to participate and give input on how c7.
In our work on agricultural supply chains, we looked at how small holders could participate in export value chains because these were the most difficult cases and also where the money was. At least at the beginning of the adoption process, the greatest demand for ICT based innovation is likely to come from these supply chains. Air freight services are a necessary condition for most high-value agricultural exports. In this article on what the full liberalization of Sri Lanka’s Mattala Airport, I discuss the complementarity. For the most part, air freight services are produced jointly along with air passenger services.
One of the most important ways by which research influences policy is for the researcher to become a policy maker. In 2006-07 Harsha de Silva was leading LIRNEasia’s ag info research. As Deputy Minister for Planning and Economic Affairs, this is what he’s telling audiences now: Farmers are not poor because they don’t get the subsidy, farmers are poor because their agricultural markets are not working. There is no way in which officials can sit in the food department and solve the problems of the volatility of the prices in vegetables. It can never be done.
Dr. Gordon Gow is Associate Professor in Communication and Technology, University of Alberta delivered a speech “Stewarding Technology for Inclusive Innovation,” at the SSHRC Success Stories 2014 event
The Sri Lanka Department of Export Agriculture (DOEA) sponsored two campaigns in the Kurunegala district, with ginger farmers in the north area and pepper farmers in the south area. Both campaigns were intended to improve the efficiency and timeliness of communication between DOEA extension officers and local farmers. Both campaigns used text messaging and both showed that there was interest from farmers in this form of communication, despite challenges with using text messaging on their phones. Many of the older generation farmers said they needed help to use text messaging but found the information useful. They asked for a voice-based system to complement the SMS system.
Last week I had the opportunity to speak to the leadership (200+) of one of Sri Lanka’s largest conglomerates at their quarterly meeting. I decided to anchor my talk on research LIRNEasia had conducted over the past years that had relevance to the company. We had drawn inspiration from a finding of the Growth Commission, co-chaired by Michael Spence, in developing our research. This was on the importance of connecting to global value chains. It is difficult for a smallholder or a micro enterprise to connect to a global value chain directly.
Little data is as bad a term as big data. Really tells you very little. But sadly that is what the New York Times has chosen to use. And I have not had time to come up with something little more insightful. David Soloff is recruiting an army of “hyperdata” collectors.

Big data in agriculture

Posted by Rohan Samarajiva on October 4, 2013  /  0 Comments

Several years ago, I was in Chennai learning about what Ashok Jhunjhunwala’s teams were working on. One idea Ashok had was that of basing agricultural extension advice tailored to micro-climatic and soil data. So when a farmer calls/texts, the advice he would get would be specifically for his land and the climatic conditions relevant to that land at that time. I’ve talked about this with many people since, but only as a theoretical construct. I was skeptical the enormous data base that it required could ever be constructed (and maintained, since the soil and climate conditions changed all the time).