Is There a Role for Mobiles to Support Sustainable Agriculture in Africa?
This paper from the Proceedings of the 2nd International Conference on ICTs for Sustainability (ICT4S 2014) reviews findings from detailed consultation with 50 global experts in Agriculture and Information Communication Technologies (ICTs). The study explores how ICTs (particularly mobile phones) could be used to accelerate the uptake of sustainable agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa.
The paper develops a detailed conceptual model, built around the smallholder farmer, for understanding the flow of information through the agriculture sector.
The main conclusion is that the application of ICTs in agriculture is sustainability neutral; that is, ICTs are equally applicable to the expansion of conventional, high external input dependent agriculture, or to the development of more sustainable, agro-ecological approaches. The rapid growth in mobile phone penetration in developing countries offers a significant opportunity to support a transformation in agricultural development and food systems, but without a co-operative and focused effort across different stakeholder groups - local practitioners, private sector partners, donors, expert institutions, and national governments - the potential for mobiles to empower sustainable agricultural development is unlikely to be maximized.