Regional Collective Action on Inclusive Digital Transformation of Agriculture in Asia Pacific
ICT specialists from member state countries, agritech players, agricultural input suppliers, academic and research institutions (of the 21 Member countries of APAARI), the Asian Farmers’ Association for Sustainable Rural Development (AFA), and the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA).
Digital Agriculture (DA) has been shown to have the potential to increase agricultural production, help adapt to and mitigate the effects of climate change, bring about more efficient use of natural resources, reduce risk and improve resilience in farming, and make agri-food value chains much more efficient.
However, it is also important to note that digital solutions for these purposes have primarily been demonstrated in advantaged and homogeneous contexts, primarily large-scale agriculture and research projects. Small-scale farmers, who produce between 35% (FAO) and 70% (GRAIN, ETC Group) of the world's food, either use them minimally or don’t use them at all. This means that small farmers are not able to take advantage of the benefits of digital transformation and that these solutions are not being widely adopted at the scale needed to make a real impact.
On the one hand (farmers’ perspective), only well-resourced farmers are able to access advanced digital technologies, thus widening the rural divide and exacerbating already existing power imbalances; on the other hand (society’s perspective), the promise of more sustainable production and that of transparent “farm to fork” systems rely on the assumption that all actors participate in the agricultural data value chain, and without convinced and informed participation of small-scale farmers these promises will never be realized. This is supported by research on digital agriculture adoption, which has found that factors such as lack of access to finance, lack of digital literacy and lack of information about digital agriculture technologies are major barriers for small-scale farmers.
The partners in this Collective Action understand that the key to fully realizing the benefits of digital agriculture lies in the participation of small-scale producers in the design and governance of digital solutions, as well as in the negotiation of data practices and business models. In order to achieve this, the action will focus on empowering small-scale producers to co-create effective practices and business models that work for them, while encouraging other actors in the digital agriculture value chain to embrace inclusive practices and models.
To achieve this, the action will take a bottom-up, staged approach that can be implemented in different regions and coordinated through an Inter-regional Task Force on Inclusive Digital Agriculture. The stages of this approach include:
- Surveys to assess the needs and concerns of farmers
- Multi-stakeholder consultations to co-design fair business models and best practices for digital transformation
- Capacity development tools and events
- Input for launching pilot implementations
- Advocacy for policies
Overall, this Collective Action is about working together to build a digital agriculture landscape that benefits everyone, particularly small-scale producers who are often left out of the conversation.
The needs identified and the models and best practices devised during the Action will be the basis for capacity development, pilots and advocacy.
All findings and material produced or used in the Action as well as other relevant publicly available resources will be adapted and organized in an Online Resource Kit for Inclusive Digital Agriculture co-designed with the partners representing small-scale producers.
- Small-scale producers are empowered to develop business models and negotiate practices that make them benefit from DA.
- All actors in the DA value chain are more open to practices and business models that work for small producers.
- Thanks to a more farmer-fair DA value chain (technology, money, data, knowledge), farmers embrace DA technologies with full awareness of benefits and challenges, and capacities to negotiate.
Enabling farmers as key actors and co-innovators in the design, governance and benefit sharing of Digital Agriculture (technologies, data and infrastructures), as well as the promotion and support of pertinent policies and best practices, so that solutions are inclusive, context-specific and fit to help them increase productivity and income, reduce risk, use natural resources sustainably and mitigate/adapt to climate change.
APAARI leads the regional phase of this Collective Action in the Asia Pacific region, starting July 2022. APAARI shall:
- Facilitate participating countries’ NARS extension to reach out to their networks to collect the inputs on farmer-centric needs/constraints assessment and conduct survey as part of the preparatory process to capture feedbacks on voice of farmers as the public extension system dominates the provision of knowledge and information to smallholder farmers
- Convene workshop/consultation on Inclusive Digital Transformation for agriculture that shall bring together a cross-section of stakeholders to identify priority issues in the agriculture value chain in the Asia Region that could be addressed using emerging technologies in pre-production phase, on farm management phase and post-production phase of crop life cycle. APAARI in partnership with FARA, will facilitate the cross learning environment for sharing experiences and knowledge management
- Form working groups (WGs) with the responsibility of designing appropriate plans of action around the broad thematic areas, requiring focused effort to identify solutions based on emerging technologies for intelligent crop planning, smart farming, addressing challenges in post-harvest value chain operations