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Taking Agriculture to the Next Level: How ICTs Will Get Us There

“Agricultural development is one of the most powerful tools to end extreme poverty, boost shared prosperity and feed 9 billion people by 2050”

December 9, 2015

By Lauren Bowen and Carol Bothwell

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN, 75% of the world’s agricultural resources are in the hands of half a billion family farmers scattered across the globe. Their small establishments, often less than two hectares in size, produce more than 80% of the world’s food, making them vital contributors to global food security and essential influencers of the health of our farms, forests, fisheries, pastures and the very stability of our planet’s ecosystem. This is exactly what United Nations leaders were thinking when they sat down at their mutual table to discuss the tenets that would be the foundation for the eagerly awaited (SDGs).  

“Agricultural development is one of the most powerful tools to end extreme poverty, boost shared prosperity and feed 9 billion people by 2050” the World Bank states. In a world where food security is such an imminent concern and famine runs rampant, it is clear that improving agricultural development is crucial and a key goal we must collectively aspire to.  

But how might we innovate to accomplish this? How does technology fit into the picture? What’s the major change in work that needs to happen in order for the agricultural SDG to be met? 

Improving farming methods is a key piece of the puzzle and a natural fit for technologies that feature things like mobile access to educational resources, farmer advisory services, geospatial analytics of farm land conditions and more. Linking farmers to markets is also crucial as mobile access to market information and financial services, supply chain management systems, and online trading platforms have great potential to improve the agricultural sector. Philip Kiriro, president of the East Africa Farmers Federation, states, "We are now seeing agriculture as a business, rather than a philanthropic or social sector."  

As mobile penetration rates continue to rise, farmers have the potential to gain access to a vast number of mobile agricultural services that can improve their farming businesses, as well as strengthen their engagement with agricultural markets by improving the precision with which small-scale family farmers can produce crops at greater yield and in better ways.  

ICTs enable the innovations that are required to achieve the SDGs in agriculture by facilitating interactions between stakeholders and improving the flow of knowledge and information along the entire agriculture value chain. From the input provider of seed and fertilizer, to the businesses that transport, store, package and sell farmed products along the way, farmers gain back time and resources as the system grows more efficient.  

Innovations like these show immense promise if we are willing to harness them. As leaders in nonprofits and tech companies alike, the ball is in our court. What will you do next? 

In the acclaimed SDG ICT Playbook: From Innovation to Impact NetHope and CRS worked with a broad number of collaborators across the nonprofit and public sectors to identify key intersections between the United Nations’ , information communications technologies (ICTs), and key poverty-related issues we face as a global whole. The result? A guide that equips nonprofit organizations to apply financial and technological resources to innovations that will actually move the needle in areas like food security and the healthful agricultural production of family farmers worldwide.  

Find out more about how technology can take development to the next level in the full report: SDG ICT Playbook: From Innovation to Impact.  

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