Recognizing the relevance of ICT development solutions for improved agricultural extension services, and its contribution towards timely adoption of available best fit practices, the BENEFIT Partnership programme participated in a one-day “ICT for agricultural extension in Ethiopia” conference on April 11, 2019 at ILRI campus. The conference was organized by MoA in collaboration with ILRI, Farm Radio and Digital Green. The main objectives of the conference were (i) to enhance the understanding of the current and potential ICT solutions for agricultural extension services in Ethiopia; (ii) to establish a technical working group to facilitate dialogue, joint learning and collaboration among ICT solution providers, users, policy makers and investors; and (iii) to generate inputs for the development and implementation of a guideline, for the ICT pillar of the National Agricultural Extension Strategy.
The conference was attended by policy makers from MOA, officials of development partners, ICT solution providers, agricultural practitioners, donors and agricultural extension professionals.
Content wise, the conference started with an official opening session that emphasized the importance of appropriate public measures to improve the agriculture sector. The presentation showed, even though Ethiopia’s national agricultural extension systems has more than 60,000 Development Agents (DAs) and about 14,000 Farmers Training Centers (FTCs), the coverage of the service is limited with an estimated reach of 25% (14 million smallholder farmers). In this regard, the importance of ICT in the agricultural extension services was mentioned in terms of its contribution to (i) strengthen the skill and knowledge of actors especially in terms of empowering extension agents; (ii) the possibility of expansion the reach of the extension services; and (iii) improving the contents of the agricultural extension services through digital feedback systems.
A panel discussion was held following the poster presentations of 14 ICT solutions implemented in Ethiopia by diverse actors. The conclusion of the discussions made can be summarized as follow:
- MoA to play a leading role in strengthening the collaborations among ICT solution producers, agricultural research organizations, agricultural service providers, market actors and end users (farmers and pastoralists);
- Engaging with both public and private actors to ensure the expansion and improved access to required ICT infrastructure; and
- The need to ensure relevance and quality of content by improving not only extension-farmers linkage but also strengthening Research-Education-Extension-Farmers’ linkage. This requires for the ICT solution providers to consider these dimensions of extension service provision.
The conference was concluded by highlighting that ICT application in the agricultural service is at its infant stage and the need to continue the discussion by organizing follow up events by the organizing committee members (MoA, ILRI, Digital Green and Farm Radio).
By Dawit Alemu (PhD), The BENEFIT Partnership Manager, Ethiopia