Partners in GFAR have started a Collective Action (CA) on Inclusive Digital Transformation of Agriculture (CAIDA). The first regional phase was launched in August 2021 in Latin America and the Caribbean (LAC). The second regional phase is being launched now in Asia Pacific (AP), coordinated by the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI).
The kick-off workshop of the Asia Pacific Collective Action on Inclusive Digital Agriculture was held on 4 and 5 August 2022 in Bangkok, as a hybrid event.
Representatives of several partners of the Asia Pacific CAIDA were present in person, from:
• APAARI, coordinator of the CA in Asia Pacific
• Asian Farmers’ Association (AFA), representing small-scale farmers of the region in the CA
• NARS: India, Laos, Iran, Papua New Guinea
Other participants joined virtually, from the NARS of Pakistan, Bhutan, Vietnam, Samoa, Bangladesh and Nepal, and from the Asian NGO Coalition for Agrarian Reform and Rural Development (ANGOC).
Some of the important points of the discussion are highlighted below:
- Samitha Haldar from APAARI, who coordinates the Action in Asia Pacific, illustrated the mission and spirit of the CA, highlighting the key role of small-scale farmers in setting the priorities and therefore the key role of AFA in designing the survey, reaching out to their members and facilitating the Farmers’ Declaration.
- Valeria Pesce from GFAR presented the GFAR approach to CAs, the specific objectives of the CA on Inclusive Digital Agriculture, and the mechanisms for sharing knowledge and learning among the regions: in particular, the prototype of the INCLUDAS platform created in the CA in LAC, where all resources and findings produced in the CA will be shared, the Knowledge and Learning Hubs (KLH) where CA partners can engage, and the shared GFAR Monitoring Evaluation and Learning (MEL) system.
- A dsicussion on the scope of the Action, with comments from some of the NARS regarding the need for policy perspective and for an institutional mapping, clarified that this Action needs to be focused on its priorities: the participatory approach and starting from the actual needs of farmers. Ravi Khetarpal, Executive Secretary of APAARI and Chair of GFAR, reiterated that the action aims at clarifying the mechanisms for co-design, identifying sub-typologies of small farmers and which good practices are good for each, and empowering farmers to become more involved in multi-stakeholder platforms.
- Irish Baguilat from AFA described the rationale for the survey and its relevance in the context of AFA’s strategy, and illustrated the process to co-design the survey with the NARS in the region that will administer it in their farmers’ networks as well. As for the modalities, she highlighted that they wil use mixed modalities, from online/printed survey to focus groups and email consultations.
- Representatives from all NARS commented on the modalities for administering the survey, focusing on challenges of connectivity and agreeing on mixed online and offline modalities, with final consolidation in an online form managed by AFA.
- Regarding the questions in the survey, it was agreed to build on the survey questions that have been used in the similar survey in the LAC region, also to make comparisons possible at the global level; it was also agreed that partners will have to reach a common understanding on "classifications" (types of farmers, types of technologies) to obtain standardized but granular and context-specific answers.
- Discussions on level of statistical representativeness led to the conclusion that at the regional level it is not feasible to ensure scientific sampling, and it is not necessary for the purposes of the regional scenario and basis for the declaration, as AFA’s network and outreach methods are sufficient to consider an agreed number of respondents from each country as representative. At the national level, depending on availabiity of resources and capacities (NARS are not funded under this action), statistical sampling may be more accurate.
- Discussions on data analysis led to the agreement that the analysis will be conducted primarily by AFA at the regional level, while each NARS can decide to do more advanced analysis on the national data as well as on the regional data according to their needs and capacities. Relevant data will also be used for the GFAR MEL.
- Seven of the NARS’ representatives presented the situation in their country concerning digital agriculture, following a common presentation structure designed around opportunities, challenges, drivers and game changers.
Common challenges among countries revolve around infrastructure and rural connectivity, costs of IT equipment, and smallholders’ literacy, but in many cases also heterogeneity of farmers and
Opportunites and drivers are different in different countries (from India with its strong substrate of SMEs offering digital solutions, to the improved legal framework in Vietnam, to Iran with its extensive and capillar newtork of extension agents). Policy support seems good in all countries, although there are strong differences in capacities to deliver public services. Some NARS’ representatives mentioned as enablers and game changers new public digital platforms for e-commerce or onine public advisory services.
While only some NARS explicitly mentioned farmers’ organization among the game changers, all of them highlighted the role of extension services.
- In a final facilitated “commitment” exercise, all partners agreed to specific commitments according to their roles: APAARI will coordinate; AFA will take the lead on the survey design and analysis and later on the Farmers’ Declaration; the NARS will nominate an expert as liaison with APAARI for the Action, will contribute to the survey design – with the option of adding specific questions for their country – , will administer the survey in their country – primarily through the public extension services, but anyinformal network can be used -, provide the data to AFA and participate in the multi-stakeholder consultations.
The survey will be administered between September and October 2022.