Digitalisation for Agriculture (D4AG) | Lunch and Learn outcomes

On 6 October, a discussion amongst FNS policy makers and experts took place on how digitalisation can be a tool in achieving food and nutrition security and what policy choices should be made in the near future in this regard. The discussion was centred around the question: “What policy choices could be made to facilitate digitalisation for achieving food and nutrition security?”

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Outcomes from the Lunch and Learn

The Lunch & Learn highlighted that digitalisation for agriculture is an inspiring trend, one where 10 years ago not much  attention was paid to. Speakers from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicated that they should carefully look at  what impact digital services and products supported in their policy have on food and nutrition security (FNS) challenges for smallholders' day-to-day practices. The food and nutrition security policy wants to particularly focus on: nutrition and health, productivity and sustainable ecological land use. However, a question arose in what ways these services really do improve the income of smallholders in relation to climate adaptation resilience? 

The discussion following on the various presentations highlighted that the focus on digitalisation should be from the perspective of the smallholder as when developing financially, sustaining services and products. It would be good to pay more attention to what is in it for them and how they are supported by these particular services. 

With regards to aggregators, the discussion placed importance on considering the relation farmers have with digitalisation and which farmers should gain access to digitalisation as marginalised farmers groups, such as women and ethnic minorities, who are often excluded. This is not due to a connectivity gap, but a usage gap, as those mentioned are generally not sufficiently literate or familiar to know how to handle smartphones or other digital tools. The need for a more human-centred design of digital services, which is more inclusive and encompassing, was concluded. And there is also more need for understanding the specific needs of farmers in their access to or finance for markets, in order to further empower them via digitalisation.

Another aspect that was highlighted was the financial viability of digital innovation. When farmers are confronted with more than one provider, supported by different donors, how can they make good independent choices for themselves? Also it was stated that when donor money is used to provide applications to farmers for free,  there is a risk for financial viability for those digital innovations that are trying to offer the same service without donor funding. In short, there is a challenge between donor funded and private funded applications.

The discussion all in all concluded that there is a call upon government policymakers with food and nutrition security programs to facilitate knowledge development in access to markets to make these digital innovations sustainable and inclusive for smallholders. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs acknowledges that it is important to take into account the entire food system, including the political components and different actors when focussing on digitalisation.

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