Rethinking finance for agriculture: a new challenge for ICT

Organized by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) and the African Rural and Agricultural Credit Association (AFRACA), and supported by various bodies and foundations, including the Rockefeller Foundation and FAO, the Fin4Ag International Conference took place between 14 and 18 July in Nairobi.

by Elisabetta Demartis, Dakar (Senegal)

890 people from 81 countries partecipated to the event. The geographical area with the highest number of participants was ACP states (African, Caribbean and Pacific), same as where most of the CTA activities are located. CTA provides technical assistance and research in agriculture and ICT.

Experts and technicians in the field of agriculture, bankers, finance experts, policy makers, politicians and stakeholders in international cooperation and civil society met to discuss issues broadly related to agricultural finance. Michael Hailu, Director of CTA, defined it the “world’s largest event on the theme of finance devoted to agriculture”. The role of new ICT and mobile technologies in facilitating farmers ‘ access to credit as well as allowing alternative rural financing forms emerged in all its clarity. In fact, moving from one village to another can be very difficult, especially in rural areas in African countries.

Ensibuuko, Agrilife, AgroCentral or FarmDrive – to name a few – were some of the applications presented at the Plug and Play Day. Over the course of that first day, associations and young enterprises showcased their work within their countries in facilitating access to finance for farmers, ranchers, and fishermen. These projects also aim at developing forms of communication heavily relying on mobile phones. This, in turn, allows for value chain optimization and discovering a market niche to sell local products using the resources of their respective countries. Such a change would reverse the widespread import-export paradigm that is destroying many ACP country local economies.

It is not possible for me to report on all the projects and topics that were covered during this meeting. For this reason, I prompt you to dig into the website and find the speaker roster and topic list.

Why was I there?

Simply put, the CTA offered a scholarship for me to go to Nairobi and showcase the project I will start in November due to the Journalism Grant funding. Participating in the Conference gave our working group the opportunity to start a partnership with the CTA itself. CTA will work with us craft a crowdmap of all projects using ICT for agriculture in Africa, the Caribbean, and Pacific countries. Beginning with the extensive data collected during its fieldwork, the CTA will publish and make available all this information for all cooperation stakeholders to see. The map will also allow associations and individuals to report to us on their initiatives related to this topic featuring their work on the map. We will connect people and institutions creating innovation in the agricultural sector development worldwide.

Along with the creation of such map we will also feature a web series reporting on several projects in Senegal, Kenya, Uganda and Ghana. Ideally, we will alternate trips in crowded cities with the ones to remote rural areas, where farmers use SMS and mobile technologies to improve their work.

You can download my power point presentation here: Leveraging ICTs for agricultural finance: learning from the Plug Play & Day:

Other than showcasing projects like this, the Nairobi Conference has reaffirmed the keen interest of the international community towards innovative forms of communication, particularly when they allow the access to credit and the development of agribusiness. Rural areas need to be helped in this process, as well as local development needs to be boosted..

Read also:

Agriculture: the future of Africa between innovation and tradition.

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