Business News of Sunday, 22 January 2017
Participants at the end of the 68th Annual New Year School and Conference (ANYSC) have called on government to formulate a National E-agricultural Policy to promote national development through agricultural modernisation using Information and Communication Technology (ICT).
A communique issued at the end of the New Year School recommended that government, through the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, in consultation with key stakeholders should as a matter of urgency formulate a National E-agriculture Policy to regulate the emerging industry and to promote speedy and wider adoption of the use of ICT in agriculture.
It said in ensuring the modernisation of agriculture through ICT, adequate awareness should be created by the sector Ministry in the use of docu-drama, hosting of policy fairs, the creation of jingles and ringtones, some form of advertisement on social media, billboards, cinema vans and the strengthening of various community information centres.
It noted that national e-geospatial database should be developed for all farmers in Ghana and this should be integrated into the systems of all agricultural agencies and other corporate bodies such as banks, telcos, among other requirements.
The communique noted that the ICT unit of Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDAs) should be upgraded and expanded with the increased capacity of personnel to drive the vision of e-agriculture; adding that the ICT units at the various districts should also be empowered to localise the policy.
It recommended that there should be a robust and reliable ICT infrastructure in the rural domain for e-agriculture.
The communique said this infrastructure should include the extension of electricity to all farming communities, upgrading of telecommunication networks to the length and breadth of the country and provision of ICT-enabled gadgets such as phones, Global Position System (GPS) monitors, broadband spectrum, computers and others. It urged the Ghana Meteorological Agency to adopt ICT tools such as mobile phones to disseminate weather information to farmers in the form of text and voice messages.
It noted that selected farmer groups should be educated and equipped with the necessary logistics to aid in the dissemination of relevant information to farmers.
It said the various platforms and stakeholders involved in the use of ICT in agriculture should be harmonised to provide a central robust platform that would be used to promote access to quality weather and market information. The communique recommended the adaptation of content to local needs, languages and context should be given much attention as much as possible.
It said the Ministry of Communications, the telcos and other stakeholders should promote the customization of mobile technologies (e.g., handsets and memory card) that could be designed to provide specific services to farmers and extension agents.
It said that government, through the Ministry of Communications, should promote the deployment of appropriate ICT tools and services at each stage of the agricultural value chain.
It recommended that an Agricultural Development Fund is set up using a percentage of revenues accrued from the export of agricultural produce to support the sector’s modernization drive.
The communique pointed out that the fund should also be used to subsidise interest rates and provide incentives to financial institutions that give credit for agribusiness activities.
To promote the adoption of e-extension, it was strongly recommended that MoFA should integrate ICT services into the extension services to increase outreach, scope and depth of extension services while reducing costs.
It said financial institutions should be encouraged to develop insurance products to mitigate risks associated with agricultural financing. The communique said there should be a special fund to support youth in agriculture; stating that in particular, the state could create an ‘Agri-Fund’ targeted at the youth to attract them into the sector.
The theme for 68th ANYSC was “Promoting National Development through Agricultural Modernization: The Role of ICT”.
It was organised by the School of Continuing and Distance Education, College of Humanities, University of Ghana, under the auspices of the MTN, Eximbank Ghana, and The Kosmos Innovation Centre.
The aim of the 68th ANYSC was to create the platform for passionate discussions on how ICT could be integrated into agriculture, to modernise the sector for sustainable national development and to make recommendations to government.