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Agriculture and Rural Development

In Africa, technology and human capital go hand in hand

Sheila Jagannathan's picture
Photo: eLearning Africa
Rwanda’s progress from the devastating civil war two decades ago to one of the most rapidly developing African countries is a remarkable narrative on development.

Twenty-four years ago, the country was torn apart by civil war and one of the worst genocides human history has known; one in which more than a million people were killed in only three months.

Now, with years of sustained economic growth—predicted to be around 6.5% this year, the country is well on the way to achieving many of the ambitious development goals set out in the Rwandan Government’s ‘Vision 2020.’ This strategy seeks to move away from agriculture and rely instead on services and knowledge as the new engines of economic growth, with the objective of achieving middle-income status in the near term.

I had the privilege of getting a snapshot view of Rwanda’s success during the few days I spent in the country last month attending elearning Africa 2018, the continent’s largest conference on technology-assisted learning and training. The choice of Kigali as the location for this year’s conference is highly symbolic: Rwanda has put education and skills at the heart of its national strategy, and can send a powerful message to other African countries about the importance of investing in human capital to support overall development.

How can digital technology help transform Africa’s food system?

Simeon Ehui's picture
Also available in: Français 
Photo: Arne Hoel/World Bank
There’s no question that agriculture is critical to Africa’s biggest development goals. It is fundamental for poverty reduction, economic growth and environment sustainability. African food market continues to grow. It is estimated that African food markets will triple to US$1 trillion from its current US$300 billion value. Farming accounts for 60% of total employment in Sub-Saharan Africa—and food system jobs account for even more. In Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia, the food system is projected to add more jobs than the rest of the economy between 2010 and 2025.

And yet, Africa’s agriculture sector is facing serious challenges. Agricultural productivity in Africa lags behind other regions. One in four people in Sub-Saharan Africa are chronically undernourished. Africa’s food system is further strained by rapid population growth and climate change. The food security challenge will only grow as climate change intensifies, threatening crop and livestock production. If no adaptation occurs, production of maize—which is one of Africa’s staple crops—could decline by up to 40% by 2050. Clearly, business as usual approaches to agriculture in Africa aren’t fit for transforming the sector to meet its full potential.

Digital technology could be part of the solution. But how can digital technology help transform Africa’s food system?

It’s instructive to look at startups, which are an emerging force in Africa’s agriculture sector.

Need better maps? Take it to the crowd!

Charles Fox's picture
A detailed map of the Kibera slum in Nairobi, Kenya. Open Street Map
Amateur mappers the world over have long known that they can support global development, from the comfort of their homes, through one simple tool: OpenStreetMap (OSM). What has been less clear is how we can build this effort into the fabric of World Bank operations.

OSM has revolutionized geography. It is the ‘Wikipedia’ of mapping: anyone can edit the map by tracing features such as roads and buildings against free, high-quality satellite imagery. In contrast to other map services, the platform is entirely open:  anyone can download a layer of the roads and buildings that make up the map. It is built for the people, by the people, in all regions of the world. It epitomizes the best features of open digital collaboration: leading-edge technology made freely available to all, regardless of location. Because everyone can contribute, OSM maps are often much more complete than commercial alternatives—especially in areas that are hard to survey, such as informal settlements].

The World Bank makes frequent use of OSM for research purposes, and occasionally supports one-off initiatives to complete OSM maps in specific areas, e.g. after natural disasters (Nepal and Haiti are recent examples). But we have put less effort into nurturing the community of altruistic mapping volunteers who make OSM so special, and play a critical role in keeping the map updated over time.

A recent series of initiatives, however, is bucking that trend.
 

Agriculture 2.0: how the Internet of Things can revolutionize the farming sector

Hyea Won Lee's picture
Nguyen Van Khuyen (right) and To Hoai Thuong (left). Photo: Flore de Preneuf/World Bank
Last year, we showcased how Vietnamese farmers in the Mekong Delta are adapting to climate change. You met two shrimp farmers: Nguyen Van Khuyen, who lost his shrimp production due to an exceptionally dry season that made his pond too salty for raising shrimp, and To Hoai Thuong, who managed to maintain normal production levels by diluting his shrimp pond with fresh water. Now, let’s suppose Nguyen diluted his shrimp pond this year, another year with an extremely dry season. That would be a good start, but there would be other issues to contend with related to practical application. For example, when should he release fresh water and how much? How often should he check the water salinity? And what if he’s out of town?
 
Nguyen’s story illustrates some of the problems global agriculture faces, and how they unfold for farmers on the ground. Rapid population growth, dietary shifts, resource constraints, and climate change are confronting farmers who need to produce more with less. Indeed, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) estimates that global food production will need to rise by 70% to meet the projected demand by 2050. Efficient management and optimized use of farm inputs such as seeds and fertilizer will be essential. However, managing these inputs efficiently is difficult without consistent and precise monitoring. For smallholder farmers, who account for 4/5 of global agricultural production from developing regions, getting the right information would help increase production gains. Unfortunately, many of them still rely on guess work, rather than data, for their farming decisions.
 
This is where agriculture can get a little help from the Internet of Things (IoT)—or internet-enabled communications between everyday objects. Through the IoT, sensors can be deployed wherever you want–on the ground, in water, or in vehicles–to collect data on target inputs such as soil moisture and crop health. The collected data are stored on a server or cloud system wirelessly, and can be easily accessed by farmers via the Internet with tablets and mobile phones. Depending on the context, farmers can choose to manually control connected devices or fully automate processes for any required actions. For example, to water crops, a farmer can deploy soil moisture sensors to automatically kickstart irrigation when the water-stress level reaches a given threshold.

Nuestro sistema agroalimentario necesita información adecuada – ¿Cómo asegurar que eso suceda?

Diego Arias's picture
Also available in: English | Portuguese, International
Photo: CIF Action/Flickr
Para la mayoría de la gente, ver el pronóstico del tiempo en la televisión es una actividad común, ocasionalmente divertida y sin riesgos.  ¡El meteorólogo hasta puede hacernos reír! Pero cuando el ingreso de una familia depende de la lluvia o la temperatura, el pronóstico es más que un programa informativo o entretenido.  La información puede ser la clave del éxito o del fracaso de un agricultor.  Los agricultores conocen los riesgos a enfrentar en el camino y entonces usan el pronóstico del tiempo y otros datos de precios, plagas y enfermedades, cambios en condiciones de crédito y regulaciones para planificar las fechas de cultivo, cosecha, venta, y el uso de insumos como fertilizantes y herbicidas para plantas, y vacunas y alimento para animales.

La disponibilidad y la calidad de dicha información de riesgos agrícolas son altamente importantes para los agricultores y el posible impacto de información puede resultar muy costosa, lo que resulta en decisiones erróneas y pérdidas de ingresos por parte del agricultor.  Los sistemas de información que no tienen fuentes confiables y/o tienen malos protocolos de procesamiento de datos, producen resultados en los cuales no se puede confiar.  En otras palabras, “basura que entra, basura que sale”.  La información es una parte integral de la gestión de riesgos agropecuarios, no solamente en el corto plazo para cubrirse contra eventos adversos, sino también en el mediano y largo plazo para adaptarse al cambio climático y poder adoptar prácticas resilientes.  Los programas de gestión de riesgos agropecuarios y de agricultura climáticamente inteligente (Climate Smart Agriculture en inglés) no tendrán mucho impacto a no ser que los agricultores puedan tener acceso a información confiable para la implementación de los cambios necesarios en el campo.

Invertir en sistemas de información de riesgos agropecuarios es una forma costo-efectiva de asegurarse que los agricultores – y otros actores de la cadena agroalimentaria – tomen las decisiones correctas.  Pero en una gran parte de los países, los sistemas de información de riesgos agropecuarios evidencian una gran falta de capacidad y escasez de financiamiento.  Por ejemplo, México, un país con un sector agropecuario importante, no tiene información de precios del mercado local de productos agrícolas como el maíz, y es por esto que un nuevo proyecto financiado por el Banco Mundial tiene como objetivo ayudar a resolver este problema.  Pero México no es el único.  Argentina acaba de resolver este problema, también con apoyo del Banco Mundial, con la creación de un Sistema de Información de Precios de Mercado para los 7 granos básicos.

Our food system depends on the right information—how can we deliver?

Diego Arias's picture
Also available in: Español | Portuguese, International
Photo: CIF Action/Flickr
For most of us, watching the weather forecast on TV is an ordinary, risk-free and occasionally entertaining activity. The weatherman even makes jokes! But when your income depends on the rain or the temperature, the weather forecast is more than just an informative or entertaining diversion. Information can make or break a farmer’s prospects. Farmers get a sense of the risks they face down the road and plan their planting, harvest, use of inputs like fertilizers and pesticides, crop and livestock activities and market sales around weather reports and other information—on prices, local pests and diseases, changes in credit terms and availability, and changes in regulations, among other things.

The availability and quality of such agriculture risk information is hugely important for farmers, and the potential impact of bad information can be quite costly, leading the farmer to make wrong decisions and eventually lose revenue. Information systems that have unreliable sources and/or poor data processing protocols, produce unreliable results, no matter how complex the data processing model is. In other words, one can have “garbage in – garbage out.” Information is integral to agriculture risk management, not only in the short term to hedge against large adverse events, but also in the medium and long term to adapt to climate change and adopt climate smart agriculture practices. Climate-smart agriculture programs and agriculture risk management policies are toothless unless farmers have reliable information to implement changes on the ground.

Investing in agriculture risk information systems is a cost-effective way of making sure that farmers--and other actors along the food supply chain-- make the right decisions. But agriculture risk information systems in most countries suffer from lack of capacity and funding. Mexico, a country with an important agriculture sector, does not have information on market prices of agriculture products like maize, which is why a new Bank project aims to strengthen their capacity in this area. Mexico is not alone. Argentina solved this same problem recently with World Bank support, creating a market price information system for basic grains.

Nosso sistema alimentar precisa de informações corretas - como garantimos isso?

Diego Arias's picture
Also available in: English | Español
Photo: CIF Action/Flickr
Para a maioria das pessoas, assistir à previsão do tempo na TV é uma atividade corriqueira, sem riscos e, às vezes, divertida. O apresentador até faz piadas! Porém, quando a sua renda depende da chuva ou da temperatura, a previsão passa a ser mais do que uma atividade meramente lúdica. Muitas vezes, essas informações são decisivas para o trabalho dos agricultores. Eles se inteiram sobre os riscos que enfrentarão mais à frente e, assim, podem planejar o plantio, a colheita, o uso de insumos (como fertilizantes e pesticidas), atividades agropecuárias e vendas no mercado com base em boletins meteorológicos e dados sobre preços, pragas e doenças locais, mudanças nos regulamentos e na disponibilidade e condições de crédito, entre outros.

A disponibilidade e a qualidade das informações sobre riscos agropecuários são de enorme importância para os agricultores; se estiverem erradas, isso custará caro para eles, que podem acabar tomando más decisões e perdendo dinheiro. Sistemas com fontes não confiáveis ​​e / ou protocolos deficientes de processamento de dados produzem resultados não confiáveis, independentemente da complexidade do modelo de processamento. Em outras palavras, seria uma situação garbage in, garbage out - "entra lixo, sai lixo. ” A informação é uma parte integrante da gestão do risco agrícola, não só em curto prazo - na proteção contra eventos adversos de grande porte - mas também em médio e longo prazo, na adaptação às mudanças climáticas e adoção de práticas agrícolas que protegem o clima. Programas agrícolas inteligentes e políticas de gestão de riscos agropecuários não adiantarão nada se os agricultores não tiverem os conhecimentos para subsidiar as mudanças necessárias.

O investimento em sistemas de informação de riscos agropecuários é uma maneira econômica de garantir que os agricultores - e outros atores da cadeia de fornecimento de alimentos - tomem as decisões certas. No entanto, na maioria dos países, os sistemas de informação de riscos agrícolas sofrem de falta de capacidade e financiamento. O México, um país com um setor agrícola importante, não tem informações sobre os preços de mercado de produtos agrícolas, como o milho. O Banco, por isso, lançou um projeto que visa fortalecer a capacidade do país nesse setor. O México não está sozinho. A Argentina resolveu esse mesmo problema recentemente, com o apoio do Banco Mundial, ao criar um sistema de informação com os preços de mercado de grãos básicos.

The rise of artificial intelligence: what does it mean for development?

Leebong Lee's picture

Video: Artificial intelligence for the SDGs (International Telecommunication Union)

Along with my colleagues on the ICT sector team of the World Bank, I firmly believe that ICTs can play a critical role in supporting development. But I am also aware that professionals on other sector teams may not necessarily share the same enthusiasm.

Typically, there are two arguments against ICTs for development. First, to properly reap the benefits of ICTs, countries need to be equipped with basic communication and other digital service delivery infrastructure, which remains a challenge for many of our low-income clients. Second, we need to be mindful of the growing divide between digital-ready groups vs. the rest of the population, and how it may exacerbate broader socio-economic inequality.

These concerns certainly apply to artificial intelligence (AI), which has recently re-emerged as an exciting frontier of technological innovation. In a nutshell, artificial intelligence is intelligence exhibited by machines. Unlike the several “AI winters” of the past decades, AI technologies really seem to be taking off this time. This may be promising news, but it challenges us to more clearly validate the vision of ICT for development, while incorporating the potential impact of AI.

It is probably too early to figure out whether AI will be blessing or a curse for international development… or perhaps this type of binary framing may not be the best approach. Rather than providing a definite answer, I’d like to share some thoughts on what AI means for ICT and development.

Electricity and the internet: two markets, one big opportunity

Anna Lerner's picture
The markets for rural energy access and internet connectivity are ripe for disruption – and increasingly, we’re seeing benefit from combining the offerings.
 
Traditionally, power and broadband industries have been dominated by large incumbent operators, often involving a state-owned enterprise. Today, new business models are emerging, breaking market barriers to jointly provide energy access and broadband connectivity to consumers.
 
As highlighted in the World Development Report 2016, access to internet has the potential to boost growth, expand economic opportunities, and improve service delivery. The digital economy is growing at 10% a year—significantly faster than the global economy as a whole. Growth in the digital economy is even higher in developing markets: 15 to 25% per year (Boston Consulting Group).
 
To make sure everyone benefits, coverage needs to be extended to the roughly four billion people that still lack access to the internet. In a testing phase, Facebook has experimented with flying drones and Google has released balloons to provide internet to remote populations.
 
But as cool as they might sound, these innovations do nothing for the one billion people who still live off the grid… and don’t have access to the electricity you need to use the internet in the first place! The findings of the Internet Inclusion Summit panel which the World Bank joined recently put this nicely: “without electricity, internet is only a black hole”.
 
That’s why efforts to expand electricity and broadband access should go hand in hand: close coordination between the energy and ICT sectors is probably one of the most efficient and sensible ways of making sure rural populations in low-income countries can reap the benefits of digital development. This thinking is also reflected in a new generation of disruptive telecom infrastructure projects.

Burkina Faso’s digital ambition: transforming through eGovernment and digital platforms

Samia Melhem's picture

Burkina Faso has embarked on a journey to put public data infrastructure at the heart of social and economic development. But what does this mean? And why should ICT and digital data be a priority when a large segment of your population still cannot access to the internet? This is precisely the question that the upcoming World Bank-funded eBurkina project is meant to answer.

First Burkina Faso open data e-services realized with support from the World Bank

Burkina Faso, a low-income landlocked country in West Africa, has the ambition to reform public administration differently. More specifically, the country sees ICT and digital innovation as a key opportunity to accelerate development and meet the objectives of its national development strategy (PNDES). This approach is consistent with the World Development Report 2016 on Digital Dividends, which found that, when used properly and with adequate policy interventions, ICTs can be a powerful tool for social and economic development.

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