According to technology proponents, innovations such as Web3, the third generation of the internet, and simple video-based technologies in local languages have the potential to promote change in agriculture in developing nations.
ICTforAg conference refers to initiatives to develop a decentralized version of the internet based on blockchain technology and centered on user ownership, can reverse old data structures and return control to farmers.
The interactive virtual event, which took place last week (9–10 March), aimed to look at methods to use information technology to help low- and middle-income countries construct more resilient agricultural and food systems.
“Typically, farmer data is held in repository systems, controlled by the private sector or governments as a way to provide services,” said Rikin Gandhi, co-founder and executive director of Digital Green, a non-profit organization that uses technology and grassroots partnerships to empower smallholder farmers to lift themselves out of poverty.
According to Digital Green, Web3 might provide tools to give smallholder farmers more control and ownership of their data through data sovereignty, which is the idea that data is subject to the laws of the country in which it is stored.
Gandhi discusses how smallholder agricultural groups collaborate with the public and private sectors, civic society, and business. During the process, he says, a lot of data is collected and maintained in trust on behalf of the farmers by these businesses.
“Our objective is to cooperate with this broader ecosystem with the goal of empowering these farmer groups so that they can determine how their data is shared, regulated, and, in some situations, even monetized,” Gandhi explained.
FarmStack, a suite of software tools that enables peer-to-peer, decentralized data sharing and allows data providers and farmers to define regulations on how data may be shared, for how long, and with whom, according to Henry Kinyua, East Africa head at Digital Green.
“FarmStack is enabling organizations to identify data needs so they can improve services they offer to farmers,” Kinyua said on the sidelines of the meeting. “FarmStack is directly connecting farmers themselves through co-operatives and other partners, creating digital farmer networks for data ownership and governance.”
Alexander Valeton, MD of Yielder, an agricultural information, communication, and training platform, believes that digitization of agriculture in underdeveloped nations must be done from the ground up, and that data monetization should not be a priority.
The blockchain technology promotes the collection of trustworthy data and gives transparency to all parties concerned. From the point of creation to the point of death, blockchain can track every stage of a product’s value chain. For building data-driven facilities and insurance solutions to make farming smarter and less susceptible, trustworthy data from the agricultural process is extremely useful.
“It’s a misconception to believe that every new digital technology created in the West can alter agriculture in the poor world,” he added.
“These innovations must address the demands of smallholder farmers in developing nations, be user-friendly, cost-efficient, and successful,” he said.
According to Valeton, the goal of upgrading agricultural technology, particularly in low-income countries, should be to reduce hunger and poverty, in keeping with the UN Sustainable Development Goals.
“Decentralizing agriculture is a good idea,” he added, “but the main goal should not be to transform farmers into data sellers.”
Simpler technologies, according to the gathering, are also potential change-drivers in agriculture in low- and middle-income nations.