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9 World Bank Digital Agriculture Programs Improving Food Security

By Wayan Vota on January 10, 2023

agriculutre technology innovation

Digital agriculture is the use of information and communication technologies across the agriculture and food system. According to the World Bank, agritech can help improve food security by reducing costs, helping farmers make more precise decisions, and improving access to information, knowledge and markets. In this way, digital agriculture is helping to improve yields, cut food loss and waste, and help farmers receive fair pay for what they produce.

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World Bank Digital Agriculture Programs

Here are five ways digital agriculture can improve food security and smallholder farmer resilience, according to the World Bank. Each focus area also has a corresponding World Bank program.

  • Climate-smart agriculture: This is a practice that helps farmers adapt to climate change, reduce greenhouse gas emissions, and enhance food production. In Rwanda, the Land Husbandry, Water Harvesting, and Hillside Irrigation project has helped control erosion, intensify yields on existing land, and provide greater protection from droughts.
  • Digital extension services: These are services that provide farmers with timely and relevant information on agronomic practices, weather forecasts, pest management, market prices, etc. through mobile phones or other digital platforms. In Indonesia, the World Bank supports a digital platform called e-Sintap that connects farmers with extension agents and experts.
  • Digital financial services: These are services that enable farmers to access credit, insurance, savings, payments, etc. through mobile money or other digital channels. In Tajikistan, the World Bank provides a $50 million grant to help mitigate food insecurity impacts on households and enhance the resilience of the agriculture sector by expanding access to digital financial services.
  • Digital market linkages: These are platforms that connect farmers with buyers or traders through online platforms or mobile applications. They help reduce transaction costs, improve price transparency, and increase market access for smallholders. In Kenya, the World Bank supports a platform called Twiga Foods that connects urban retailers with rural producers of fresh fruits and vegetables.
  • Digital data analytics: These are tools that use big data and artificial intelligence to generate insights and recommendations for improving agricultural productivity, efficiency, and sustainability.¬†They can help monitor crop health, soil conditions, water availability, etc. and provide tailored advice for farmers. In India, the World Bank supports a platform called CropIn that uses satellite imagery and machine learning to provide crop advisory services to smallholders.

World Bank AgriTech Programs for Food Security

Agritech refers to any digital technology that can enhance agricultural productivity, efficiency, sustainability, and resilience. This may include digital technologies such as mobile phones, satellite imagery, big data analytics, etc. Here are eight ways that the World Bank is showcasing thought leadership on agritech programs that are improving food security:

  • Agriculture Observatory, which accesses and deploys high resolution agrometeorogical data to help detect and respond proactively to food shocks before they become famines.
  • Global Food & Nutrition Security Dashboard, which shares information on acute food security and responses across countries and regions.
  • A Roadmap for Building the Digital Future of Food and Agriculture: A strategy that outlines six key actions for governments, development partners, private sector actors, civil society organizations, and farmers to leverage digital opportunities in agriculture.
  • Digital Agriculture Country Profiles, which provide an overview of the state of digital agriculture in 40 countries and identify key opportunities and challenges for scaling up digital solutions.
  • Food Loss Reduction Initiative, which supports innovative solutions that reduce post-harvest losses along value chains using digital technologies such as sensors, blockchain, artificial intelligence and drones.
  • Bite+ Digital Ag Series, which explores the transformational potential of digital agriculture to feed the world in a way that delivers healthier people, healthier economies, and a healthier planet.
  • Future of Food: A report that explores how we can harness digital technologies to improve food system performance and resilience and outcomes.
  • Table for 10 Billion: A podcast that discusses how digital agriculture can be the key to food security and help achieve zero hunger by 2030.

World Bank Advice on Using Digital Agriculture Solutions

According to the World Bank, there are six key actions for governments, development partners, private sector actors, civil society organizations, and farmers to leverage digital opportunities in agriculture:

  • Create an enabling environment for digital agriculture: This includes developing policies and regulations that foster innovation, competition, inclusion, data protection, etc., as well as investing in digital infrastructure and skills.
  • Strengthen digital platforms for agricultural services: This includes supporting platforms that provide farmers with access to information, inputs, finance, markets, etc., as well as ensuring interoperability and quality standards among different platforms.
  • Promote data-driven agricultural solutions: This includes enhancing data collection, sharing, analysis, and use for decision making at all levels of the food system, as well as promoting data literacy and governance among stakeholders.
  • Foster innovation ecosystems for digital agriculture: This includes creating spaces and mechanisms for collaboration, experimentation, and learning among different actors in the digital agriculture space, as well as supporting entrepreneurship and scaling up of successful solutions.
  • Leverage partnerships for digital agriculture: This includes building coalitions and alliances among public, private, and civil society actors to coordinate actions, share resources, and align incentives for digital agriculture development.
  • Monitor and evaluate digital agriculture interventions: This includes establishing frameworks and indicators to measure the impact, effectiveness, efficiency, equity, and sustainability of digital agriculture interventions, as well as using feedback loops to inform learning and adaptation.

There are obstacles to using digital agriculture solutions, however. Without a strong technological infrastructure equally available to all, it is possible that the changes discussed here could lead to a deepening of the divide between haves and have nots. Farmers who have the means and wherewithal to invest in new technology will have easier access to crucial information and markets.

A lack of compatibility between different data sources means it can be difficult to see a full picture of conditions in the market and the environment. Concerns over data privacy and proprietary systems also contribute to the difficulty. And there is also a concern that those who develop, own, and operate the digital solutions may try to keep the knowledge, power, and revenue generated for themselves.

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Written by
Wayan Vota co-founded ICTworks. He also co-founded Technology Salon, MERL Tech, ICTforAg, ICT4Djobs, ICT4Drinks, JadedAid, Kurante, OLPC News and a few other things. Opinions expressed here are his own and do not reflect the position of his employer, any of its entities, or any ICTWorks sponsor.
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