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.
We immersed ourselves in agriculture for 3-4 hours yesterday in conversation with visiting colleagues from the University of Alberta, working up a proposal on food security. When asked for a definition of food security, they responded in terms of shorter distances food was transported. I was reminded of the archetypal “bad” food value chain that got much play when there was fire in one of the Swiss road tunnels: potatoes grown in Poland, transported by truck (despite Europe’s vaunted and subsidized railways) to Italy for processing, and then hauled back as French Fries across those same tunnels back to Germany and Poland. It seems common sensical that food that puts on less miles would be better. So what are such value chains in Sri Lanka?
This is not exactly BOP applications, but the spirit is the same. In our current research on how ICTs can help bridge information and knowledge gaps in agricultural value chains, we would like to come up with practical suggestions through which suppliers can make their customers happier and both can improve their financial condition, and who knows, even become happier human beings (I have been spending time in Bhutan, as you can see). The excerpt comes from a longer story. “It’s not true anymore that only the Procter & Gambles of the world can afford to do this,” he said. “You don’t have to run a wave of $100,000 focus groups across the country to learn things anymore.
LIRNEasia celebrated Sri Lanka’s 63rd anniversary of Independence by discussing how to bridge the information and knowledge gaps in the rubber and pineapple value chains in the country, based on the extensive value-chain research conducted by LIRNEasia researchers led by Sriganesh Lokanathan over the past six months. In addition, we initiated research planning for value-chain research in Bangladesh, India and Thailand that will constitute the Knowledge-Based Economies module of LIRNEasia’s current research cycle. Participants from Bangladesh, India, Korea, Nepal and Thailand participated in the rich discussion. Experts from within Sri Lanka included agriculture and demand-side research specialists. The summary report will be posted shortly.