Agriculture: A knowledge-based Industry
September 14, 2011 Editor 0
Getting the right information to farmers, when and where they need it, in a form (language and tone) they understand and can easily access is as vital to the success of the agriculture sector as the right type of soil, adequate water, sunlight and any other input. For this primary reason, I endorse BIID’s call for information to be considered as an input in agriculture. It holds true beyond the Bangladeshi context.
It is mind-boggling to me that so few countries in Africa, the Caribbean and Pacific, where agriculture remains a key employer and contributor to national income, have created an enabling environment for the growth of agriculture infomediaries. The value of agricultural infomediaries is that gathering agriculture data and providing credible and efficient information services is vital at every stage along the value chain.
The reality is, in much the same way the global economy is driven by knowledge, enterprising agriculturists, consumers and others in the sector now depend on high quality, reliable and efficient information systems built around new technologies, well trained and knowledgeable people. So information is not just a key input for a farmer, informing him of what additives to use, when to plant, where to plant and what is more marketable to plant, it sustains the entire sector.
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Researchers, farmers, middlemen, retailers and consumers need infomediaries as they do not have ready access to agricultural data. So, infomediaries function as ‘translators’, who capture, synthesize and repackage data for different groups within the sector. The rising demand for value added services, combined with a paucity of agricultural data, underscores the strong demand for agricultural infomediary services. In fact, Mobile-based agricultural support and market research is among the most attractive growth sectors in places like Kenya. There’s also potential elsewhere as ICT infrastructure strengthens. The high rate of mobile phone ownership among farmers across developing countries with large agriculture sectors shows how palpable these opportunities are.
The livelihood of farmers have been hampered by ad hoc marketing systems and broader issues of information asymmetries for centuries. Poor communication between producers and buyers results in inadequate planning, and ultimately an unstable market environment.
Inadequate and inefficient information is bad for the sector…. let’s fix that! Recognizing its key role as an input is a key step.
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