The livestock sector typically contributes between 30 and 40% of agricultural gross domestic product in developing countries, and in Africa it provides livelihoods for some 200 million small-scale livestock producers. It is a source of food and nutritional security for producers and consumers and, for some people, livestock are a mobile bank providing security in times of drought or disaster.
This session draws on several ground experiences that illustrate different ways that ICTs are contributing to livestock sector development:
Brief presentations will be combined with interaction to stimulate co-learning, inspiration and identification of "best bet" interventions that could be taken up elsewhere.
I am organizing 2 sessions and represent ILRI on the steering committee. I expect to catch up with latest thinking and experience and meet people I can learn from.
iCow is a trustworthy SMS based information and education platform. The service aims at helping small scale farmers increase their productivity by giving them access to pivotal information. iCow is very simple to use and is not reliant on smart phones. It consists of three flagship features (several more are developed and wait to be introduced):
mKisan is a mobile based extension service aiming to provide actionable information on crops, livestock, market prices and weather based advisories to resource poor farmers, strengthen linkages between experts and the farming community. Service is made available to the farmer through a short code 556780 which is integrated with Mobile Network Operators. Information on livestock under various knowledge domains like General Care and Management, disease management, feeding, reproduction & breeding is delivered through regional Interactive Voice Response Systems (IVRS) supported with SMS, voice messages and a Call Centre. The service is user friendly which is available for 24x7 and can be accessed from any basic low cost handset. An informational gap faced by small holder farmers in Indian villages is due to lack of infrastructure, unreachable extension agents, remote locations, insufficient resources and inefficient extension system. Farmers are reluctant in getting timely information from the extension agents and dependency on them brings loss to animal health or production. Generally the information on diseases and feeding are critical and farmers need immediate advice and solutions to it. For instance, through the service farmers are sensitized and recommended to cultivate and use Azolla as a supplementary feed for the dairy animals during the scarcity of feed especially during summers. Information on animal nutrition and critical animal diseases are also reaching to farmers through SMS’s and voice messages. It also overcomes the literacy barriers by providing information through Interactive Voice Response System. This suite of agriculture and livestock advisory services on mobile is providing information in a most cost effective and efficient manner. The project is operational in six states of India viz. Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Maharashtra. Farmers can easily access any information related to crop and livestock animals in regional language of the state. The initiative of providing a knowledge platform fosters to empower the smallholder farmers having 1-3 livestock by improving the livestock productivity, improved livelihoods, better incomes and decision making ability. At present the project is in its fourth quarter with 1,70,000 unique users (farmers) accessing the service. It is expected that by the next year mKisan will provide the service to One million small holder farmers.
Information on livestock prices and volume activity at markets in Ethiopia/East Africa are generally not available to pastoralists and stakeholders in an easily accessible and transparent way. Information is generally transferred via word-of-mouth or through middlemen and may not always provide accurate and timely information. Data on price differentials across markets is generally not available, and when it is, it is not generally provided in a timely fashion, and thus not useful for risk management decision making. National Livestock Market Information System (NLMIS) was developed to provide a timely price and volume information on livestock markets in Ethiopia, Kenya and Tanzania. The objective was to improve and expand the analytical, reporting, and geographical relevance of livestock price and volume information to wider stakeholders in Ethiopia. The NLMIS allows data entry into the system via short messaging service (SMS) by cellophanes. Coding system allows data collectors to send livestock price and volume information by SMS. The data is stored in central server in headquarter. Stakeholders can request the price and volume information for specific markets using SMS. The data are also made available through the Internet via a market information portal (http://www.lmiset.net). The web portal allows users to view trends in market data over time by animal species, breed, age, sex, and grade. It also has modules for developing reports and for conducting market chain analysis. It integrates market information with livestock early warning system and expandable system to other commodities. The sustainability of the livestock market information system remains a challenging issue. Livestock directly contributes to the livelihoods of more than 70% of Ethiopians and the majority of the pastoral/livestock producers depend on the sale of livestock for their daily livelihood. Information on price is critical for increasing transparency in markets and for increasing integration across markets in Ethiopia as well as surrounding countries. The livestock information plays a major role to improve equal transmission of information and engages more actors to trade effectively in the livestock sector, as well as feeding critical information to the countries early warning system (EWS).
The delivery of extension services in the contemporary environment of developing countries requires innovative and inter-related approaches of knowledge management and use of various ICTs and non ICTs. The knowledge management system of IPMS (The Improving Productivity and Market Success (IPMS) of Ethiopian farmers )project, that operated in four regions of the country from 2005- 2012, considered increased awareness and understanding of knowledge requirements for managing the priority commodities of the farming systems and increased access to appropriate technologies. The project, with its aim of developing a sustainable knowledge management system that makes use of advanced technologies to capture, synthesize, store and share knowledge in the public extension system, tested different tools and processes in support of market oriented agricultural development in 10 pilot districts.
The ICT tools that were selected for the purposed development interventions aimed at facilitating multidirectional knowledge flows, empowerment of practitioners and linkage creation to improve productivity, profitability and sustainability of market oriented agricultural development. Major tools and processes that brought the interventions to fruition include; establishment of agricultural knowledge centers that delivers up to date and relevant information resources for its patrons. Agricultural knowledge centers were, equipped with different ICT tools (computers, TV, video, telephone…) and the centers were used for creating an environment that encourages innovation, idea sharing and brainstorming with their colleagues. ICT tools were further used for enhancement of program delivery of extension service. Another experience is the development of a web based platform, Ethiopian agriculture portal www.eap.gov.et, for availing agricultural resources relevant to Ethiopian agriculture. The portal avails documents on agricultural commodities important to Ethiopia. Other useful online resources, capacity building materials, good practices repository, and useful links on the Internet are also accessible from the portal. Production of participatory agricultural radio programs together with local farmers and experts in local languages; and production of short videos on specific commodity development were additional experiences from the project.
Livestock and Irrigation Value Chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES), is a successor of IPMS, started in 2013, that aims to scale up IPMS best practices in knowledge management on its 31 pilot districts. The LIVES project intends to build on the IPMS interventions on knowledge management. A lesson that LIVES took from IPMS on implementing the above components include; the need for an overall understanding of knowledge as a critical ‘input’ to agricultural development being internalized among program implementers at all levels; importance of continuous engagement in the creation, storage and sharing of knowledge until its fully institutionalized and owned by the respective organizations; and the importance of having all actors on the same page of development agenda.