IFAD boosts economic growth in rural communities by connecting small farmers to vital information

Rome/New York 23 September 2014 – A Memorandum of Understanding was signed by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), and the Intel® Corporation in order to drive greater food security, job creation and long-term economic growth for farmers and their families in developing countries.

The agreement was signed in New York City by John Davies, an Intel Vice President, and general manager of the World Ahead Program, and Kanayo F. Nwanze, IFAD President. The cooperation agreement promises to increase small farmers’ access to Information and Communication Technology (ICT)-based knowledge platforms via a new Intel software suite called “eAgro Suite”. These software tools will help small farmers with more informed decision making on key aspects including seed and fertilizer selection, harvest planning and sales management.

“Farming, at whatever scale, is a business. To ensure that smallholders continue to play a critical role in global food and nutrition security, they will need access to technology and to information, which is key to their success,” Nwanze said. “No single entity – whether public or private, including smallholder farmers themselves– can succeed by itself. But working together, we can create partnerships that are sustainable, productive, profitable and inclusive. Rural areas need more investment, and also the right kind of investment.”

In a remarkably short period of time, internet and mobile technology have become a part of everyday life for many in the developing world as more than 80 per cent of the population have mobile and cellular subscriptions. Currently one-third of the world has access to the internet, however, many of those connected are living in cities. Still access remains out of reach for many rural women and men. In nine of the poorest countries in the world broadband continues to cost more than 200 per cent of average monthly income.

“We are delighted to be working with IFAD on using Information and Communication Technology (ICT), to improve small farmer productivity. ICT can contribute to increasing yields, lower operating costs and go-to- market, all of which help global food security,” said John Davies, Intel Vice President and general manager World Ahead Program. “The Grameen Intel Social Business Ltd (GISB) has the potential to bring low cost ICT, applications expertise and business models to IFAD’s network of more than 250 supported programs in 90 countries that can help deliver localized solutions to the farming communities.”

Since 2004, IFAD has been working on ICT programmes, including its First Mile Project that provides rural women and men information through mobile phones, the Internet and e-mail while giving them access to other key people in the market chain, including processors, traders and consumers.

Already in Cambodia through the partnership, smallholder farmers have been provided a step-by-step software programme to analyse soil, determine fertiliser requirements, advise on best seeds and deal with pests and diseases. The people trained to use the software — “entrepreneurs” – are given immediate access to a pool of specialists via the software with all the knowledge they need at their fingertips. The software comes from Grameen Intel Social Business Ltd, which was set up by Intel Corporation and the Grameen Trust to respond to global social problems.

Similar software is being used in India, where it has helped small farmers increase their production by around 300 per cent. The initial collaboration will start in IFAD-supported projects in the Asia Pacific Region, with the intention that collaboration may expand to other regions and at the global level.

Reference: http://www.ifad.org/media/press/2014/60.htm