Thursday, 30 January 2014

“Role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) in Agriculture by Pacific Youth and Smallholder Agriculture Enterprises”

ROLE OF INFORMATION AND
COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGIES (ICTs) IN AGRICULTURE
BY PACIFIC YOUTH AND SMALLHOLDER
AGRICULTURE ENTERPRISES

Bula Vinaka Everyone!

It has been a while since I posted up another piece. I was just thinking of sharing with you a blog post that I had worked on 2 years ago with my sister Ms. Titilia on the “Role of Information and Communication Technologies (ICT’s) in Agriculture by Pacific Youth and Smallholder Agriculture Enterprises”.

It is important for youths in our Pacific Region to learn and understand more about the importance of Information Communication Technologies (ICT) in the Agricultural field.

NAME AND LOCATION OF ENTERPRISE: “Island Express Company”


We had conducted a survey on a smallholder enterprise known as Island Express Company in Nausori which exports taro to New Zealand. The company director is Mr. Viliame Naqelevuki

BACKGROUND ON AGRICULTURE ENTERPRISE:    

Principal Crop: Fresh Taro mainly tausala and maleka dina variety.
 Figure 1: Tausala variety in the shed.

Date Established: 01/10/2010

Members/farmers involved: Namosi, Naitasiri, Taveuni, Bua, Savusavu farmers and farmers in the Central Division.

Staff: Staffs employed are from the nearby village or communities.

Women do the cleaning and men do the packing and scaling of taro’s and packed into the container. Whilst processing, biosecurity officers will inspect, certify and release phyto certificate.

Figure 2: Women cleaning the taro
Figure 3: Men packing the taro


Average size of farming enterprise: Island Express does not look at the size of the farming enterprise but the availability of taro. Whichever farmer has taro ready to harvest the company goes to buy from them.

Production/Supply side: The taro variety that is in demand for export is “tausala” and “maleka dina” taro. Most farmers (suppliers) farm on a larger scale and takes 6-7 months to harvest the taro.  The company also educates farmers or encourages farmers to farm on a larger scale hence farmers would be able to produce more therefore earn more money. During grading the company would advise farmers which taro variety is best suited for export purposes and which ones is best suited for our local markets.

At the moment supply is low whilst demand is high. This has also affected the size of the taro.
   


Figure 4: Farmer supplying taro to the buyers
Transport: Island express provides transport to and fro from the farming sites in either to provide assistance such a as manures etc. to the farmers and also to assist in the harvesting of taro’s.

Harvesting: Once taro is ready for harvesting, the farmers calls there buyers. Island Express hence places there orders and advices the farmers on the day of their visit and the farmers would harvest there taro’s on that particular day of visit. In order to fill 1 whole container, at least 13 tonne (430 x 30kg bags) of fresh taro has to be packed. Processing is done every week depending on the availability of boat for export.

Value Adding Market: Taro is exported to New Zealand.      


Figure 5: Taro packed
DEMONSTRATED ROLE OF ICT (document contribution of ICT like mobile phones)

The term ICT in my own understanding would mean: “Gathering and dissemination of information’s and communications of individuals through internet i.e. emails, blogs, skype, video conferencing, television, radio, media advertisement, posters, newspapers, pamphlets and mobile phones, etc.

The main phases of the agricultural enterprise:
·         Supplying of manures to farmers
·         Placing of taro orders
·         Grading and educating farmers
·         Harvesting
·         Transporting of taro’s
·         Weighing on scale
·         Cleaning
·         Packing and
·         Marketing.

ICT is needed to manage an agricultural enterprise efficiently and it is important that the information’s and knowledge gathered is accurate or complete in order to deliver good decision makings.

Information’s about the agricultural enterprise’s task/functions and schedules of mentioned phases are disseminated to the farmers in means of traditional methods i.e.  Newspapers, pamphlets, posters, radios and television etc. This normally takes a longer time for information to reach the farmers hence verbal communication, phone calls and use of internet via emails are used as it is more efficient than the traditional methods.

Island Express had stated that their means of communication with the farmers (suppliers) is mostly done through mobile phone calls as it is easier and faster. Not all farmers have access to internet for communication via email with their buyers hence the use of mobile phones. Also most of the telephone companies offer special promotions like free bundle of calls and texts locally so this is not costly for both producers and consumers. Also internet network is not available in all the rural areas where farmers live. Some parts of Fiji e.g. the interior of Namosi, where there is no Vodafone, Digicel and Telecom Fiji Limited Network Coverage, farmers use satellite phones to contact Island Express when the taro is ready for harvesting or vice versa where Island Express calls the farmers to place orders on taro’s to be bought.

We should also bear in mind that a mobile phone has features such as a camera on phone. Farmers would be able to capture photos of pest and disease from the field with much finer resolution and then refer to Research organizations such as Biosecurity, SPC, etc. for identification and verification. This would assist in answering to the queries of farmers; hence enhancing their knowledge on the new found pests and diseases on their farm.


In other parts of Fiji for instance the interior of Namosi and Naitasiri (Tubarua village) none of the mentioned ICT tools above is available to the farmers including satellite phones and this is where verbal communication comes in. The staffs have field visits to the farms and verbally inform the farmers on their schedule e.g. date of grading, etc and also to educate farmers on what taro variety is high in demand from the export market. The staff of Island Express would have to drive up to Sawanikula point to meet the farmers with their taros. There are certain farmers in Tubarua village that lends their horses for hire to other farmers. One horse would carry a maximum weight of 140kg worth of taro on horseback per trip to the pickup point which is Sawanikula. A farmer and horse would have to cross the same Wainimala River 21 times to get to the pickup point.  
Figure 6: Taro being transported to pick up point
Markets in developing regions are about distributing information and most markets assume that everyone knows this information, e.g. cost of produce and processing times. Some farmers are not aware of market price in the urban areas and also internationally. One village would be selling at a different price from the other village. Mobile phones play an important role of keeping both parties i.e. producers and consumers informed on the costs of produce both locally and internationally.


Figure 7: Taro packed in container


Figure 8: Ready for export

In conclusion, mobile phone is seen to play a vital role of ICT in Agriculture. It connects both producers and consumers technologically in order to disseminate informations and communicate with each other. 

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