February 9, 2023

FROM THE MARGINS

The future is Agriculture 4. 0. Slowly but surely, the breakthroughs in 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 particular 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 of 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 farming sector.

Digital roadmap

There is a lot of potential for our agricultural sector to improve. The economy as measured simply by gross domestic product (GDP) — the total value associated with goods and services produced in a 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 services and industry sectors. Agriculture contributed 8. 5 percent, much lower compared to its 9. 6 percent contribution in order to the GDP in 2021.

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

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

Inclusive digitalization

Financial exclusion is prevalent in farming, so pursuing BSP’s National Strategy regarding Financial Inclusion is important. To ensure that will poor 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 particular banking system generated a total of ₱6. 5 trillion loanable funds in 2020, but only six % went in order to agriculture, according to the particular Agricultural Credit Policy Council. The banks’ overall compliance to the Agri-Agra Law was only 10 percent, which is 15 percent short of the mandated credit quota. With conformity declining over the past 10 years, we need to develop appropriate lending and incentives framework to encourage banks plus financial institutions in order to lend to the agriculture field.

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

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

d) We need to train maqui berry farmers around the use of technologies. The 2016-2017 Rice-Based Farm Household Survey (RBFHS) notes that while ICT entry of farmers is high at 93 percent, just 31 % used ICT tools inside their rice cultivation. The low turnout has been due in order to the farmers’ discomfort within using technologies and clearly needs to be addressed.

Some recommendations

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

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

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

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

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

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