February 9, 2023

FROM THE MARGINS

The future is Agriculture 4. 0. Slowly but surely, the breakthroughs within technology that have transformed other industries is changing agriculture. Connectivity, mobile adoption, artificial intelligence, and other emerging technologies are transforming the whole agricultural value chain.

Last Nov. 22, I attended the INDX 2 . 0 Summit organized by FINTECH Alliance. ph, the largest association of financial technology players which collectively generates 90 percent of digital-initiated transactions volume in the country. The summit brought together more than 250 participants for in-depth discussions on the electronic transformation associated with our key economic sectors: agriculture, education, health, energy, transportation, and finance, among others. I was honored to be invited as a panelist on the digitalization of the particular agricultural sector.

Digital roadmap

There is a lot of potential for our agricultural sector to improve. The economy as measured by gross domestic product (GDP) — the total value of goods and services produced in the specific period — grew by 7. 6 percent in the 3rd quarter of this year. But the main contributors in order to GDP growth came from the particular services plus industry industries. Agriculture contributed 8. 5 percent, much lower compared to its 9. 6 percent contribution to the GDP in 2021.

Digitalization offers the potential to address the productivity, sustainability and resilience challenges in the farming sector. Developing a Digital Roadmap with regard to Agriculture could help the government promote plus integrate precision agriculture and digital technology in local farming practices. This Roadmap should incentivize public-private partnerships to help small farmers in the poorest provinces, plus support digital monitoring of the agricultural worth chain and supply chain, both at the regional and the farmers’ level.

Giving small farmers access to technology-enhanced farming practices, information on market prices of commodities, fertilizers, pesticides, machineries, and some other farm inputs would greatly increase their efficiency and resilience. This type of info should be made available in order to the direct tillers associated with the land, not just agribusiness firms and those with large farmholdings.

Inclusive digitalization

Financial exclusion is prevalent in farming, so pursuing BSP’s National Strategy for Financial Inclusion is important. To ensure that poor maqui berry farmers will not be left behind, these barriers to digitalization need to be addressed:

a) There is limited access to agricultural financing, which also limits digitalization. The banking system generated a total of ₱6. 5 trillion loanable funds in 2020, but only six % went to agriculture, according to the Agricultural Credit Policy Council. The banks’ overall compliance in order to the Agri-Agra Law has been only 10 percent, which is 15 percent short of the particular mandated credit quota. With compliance declining over the past 10 years, we need to develop appropriate lending plus incentives framework to encourage banks and financial institutions to lend to the agriculture field.

b) Access to technology is also limited, along with ICT systems and devices hardly affordable to farmers, their families and cooperatives.

c) Problems related to our internet infrastructure affect the delivery of monetary services, especially in places with little or no connectivity. The authorities must deliver its promise of providing free Wi-Fi to assist our own farmers.

d) We need to train farmers upon the use of technology. The particular 2016-2017 Rice-Based Farm Household Survey (RBFHS) notes that while ICT access of farmers is high at 93 percent, just 31 % used ICT tools in their rice cultivation. The low turnout had been due to the farmers’ discomfort within using technologies and clearly needs to be resolved.

Some recommendations

The private sector could support inclusive digitalization in the farming value chain by offering capital investment (e. g., investing in agriculture and agri-enterprises, R& D in farming technology plus partnering along with banks/MFIs/cooperatives that provide credit score to farmers) and supporting efforts to develop data analytics in agriculture. This will be needed to promote platforms that will monitor natural disasters like typhoon, floods, earthquake and other calamities. To ensure efficiency plus increase production, farming data like soil analysis, crop-area suitability, irrigation management, farming best practices, among others, also need to be shared. There should be no monopoly of the data. Data analytics must be accessible to all stakeholders, especially small maqui berry farmers, who should have access to data upon payment of reasonable fees, if needed.

To address the particular RBFHS findings, DA-Phil Rice launched the Infomediary (information mediation volunteers) Campaign and tapped students from rice-farming communities in order to help entry information regarding farmers. It resulted inside close to 20, 000 inquiries sent by text nationwide, proving that farmers are willing to adopt plus use systems with a little help. We can emulate and expand the campaign to tap NGOs, MFIs, LGUs and other personal agribusiness companies as infomediaries.

A Big Brother-Small Brother Approach can also be adopted, where small farmers are helped by big agribusiness companies via joint ventures. In Indonesia, intended for instance, one commercial agribusiness company is usually 65 percent farmer-owned plus 35 % agribusiness-owned; the company provided the particular technological/material requirements, while the farmers provided labor and management. We could look at this and similar models, such as compact gardening that have been done in the past.

While digitalization is not a panacea, we could explore ways in order to modernize the agriculture industry. What Thomas Jefferson once wrote to George Washington remains relevant today: “Agriculture is our wisest pursuit because it will in the end contribute most in order to real wealth, good morals and happiness. ”

(Dr. Jaime Aristotle B. Alip is definitely a poverty eradication advocate. He can be the founder from the Center for Farming and Rural Development Mutually-Reinforcing Institutions (CARD MRI), the group associated with 23 organizations that provide social development solutions to eight million economically-disadvantaged Filipinos plus insure more than 27 million nationwide. )

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