June 15, 2017

Innovation vs. strength: What is the future of ICT in extension?

Written by Rikin Gandhi

This article originally appeared on Spore.

The disruptive force of technology is difficult to predict. As those of us in the space can attest, agricultural extension is due for a transformation, but there won’t be a ‘silver bullet’. We know the future lies in different approaches for different circumstances, with each more accountable to catalysing a deeper impact for smallholder farmers.

Digital technologies have reached even the most remote corners of the world and can be a key lever for change. While it is interesting to imagine what will change for smallholder farmers a decade from now, perhaps, even more importantly, it is worth considering what will not. Smallholder famers will want to reduce their production costs, increase their returns and reduce their risk exposure. Extension services must enable smallholder farmers to achieve this.

Technology alone will not close this divide. Technology can be powerful in amplifying good, but only when partnered with organisations and individuals that realise its potential, including conventional government-run extension services, but also the broader constellation of actors, such as researchers, creditors, agro-dealers, etc.

Technology can serve as a platform to link these actors in the food and agriculture system, but exactly how varies from location to location. In the Feed the Future Developing Local Extension Capacity project, we use the best-fit framework (Birner et al., 2009) to map the extension ecosystem across 22 countries in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa, and Latin America to identify key opportunities to catalyse change.

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