Scaling up ICT innovations for CSA

In 2015, during the 2nd Extension Week held in Ethiopia, the ICT working group put ICT innovations high in AFAAS agenda. In partnership with other international development partners like CTA, GFRAS, AGGRA, the working group organized a set of activities to enhance awareness and sensitization of AFAAS stakeholders in the use of ICT for RAS in Africa. A dozen of young innovators were invited to present their ICT solutions during the plug and play session co-organized with CTA (www.ict4ras.org) and innovation demo sessions, web 2.0 trainings, multimedia production trainings and a video competition enriched activities of the 2nd Extension Week. The ICT working group shall put ICT innovations higher by linking it to an actual central topic: Climate Smart Agriculture.

There is no doubt that both ICT and CSA are hot topics in actual context. The sub-theme “scaling up ICT innovations for CSA” will attract a diversity of interested individuals, organizations and institutions and provide an opportunity for different knowledgeable and/or experienced stakeholders to showcase how ICT and CSA are closely interlinked and serve the pro-farmers food and nutritional security agenda at the same time helping in the adaptation and mitigation vis-à-vis of climate change.

The rationale is that, it is estimated that about 75% of the world’s poor live in rural areas, with agriculture being their most important income source (Lipper et al. 2014). Population in Africa is among the most rural compared to any other continent. According studies made by ILRI, Africa contains many vulnerability hotspots in the West African Sahel, the Great Lakes area, coastal areas of Eastern Africa and the dry zones of Southern Africa. Well known for its natural resource and wealth, Africa is actually under serious threat from various angles but maybe more concerning are the persistent poverty and malnutrition on the continent which might be multiplied in the next decades due to climate change. Changes that are required are massive and urgent. While it is recognized that efforts must be intensified, means and good-will at different levels seems not to follow the urgency of the situation.

It is estimated that climate change will result in an 8-24% loss of global caloric production from maize, soy, wheat and rice by 2090 (Elliott et all. 2015) and Sub-Saharan Africa will be hit particularly hard: it is estimated that maize yields will drop by 5% and wheat yields by 17% before 20150 (Knox et al. 2012). Climate is changing and agricultural practices and systems must also change if Africa want to avoid catastrophe. We need to develop innovative approaches and tools to tackle what is likely to be the most complex challenge that food production systems in Africa will ever face.

How can we increase agricultural production, reach food and nutrition security, and develop adaptation and mitigation options? This might be where ICT can be of great help. We need new ways of working, new communication and collaboration tools, new educational tools for speed and mass trainings, new alert systems adopted and adapted for all stakeholders at all levels and ICT can be of great help if used properly. Furthermore, there is a wealth of knowledge regarding CSA but the missing links are between knowledge, action and possible retroactions. There is therefore, urgent need to for deeper and massive understanding of the problem in short period of time, become more effective and efficient in implementing practical, concrete solutions. And this is why Extension in general and ICT in Extension more particularly plays a key role. ICT is a powerful effect multiplier. New tools and methods must be developed if not already available to showcase, share and widely spread CSA knowledge and practices. Collaborative efforts are already initiated and coordinated between individuals, institutional and organizations in some countries and in some advanced regions of the world. Africa must grab the opportunities that ICT offers. ICT can enhance and accelerate information sharing, alerting, information exchange and collaboration, learning and training, collecting data and monitoring.