February 2008

e-Agriculture News

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 A new technology initiative for Rajasthan (India) farmers  

 Rajasthan's Cooperative Department is playing an instrumental role in making cellular technologies available to the rural farmers spread across 31,000 villages across the state. The State Cooperative Department is busy extending communication networks throughout the rural villages and in conjunction with Indian Farmers' Fertiliser Cooperative Limited (IFFCO) has launched a scheme called the Kisan Sanchar Yojana. Under the aegis of this scheme, a pre-paid mobile package has been floated. The package consists of a SIM card called the Kisan Sim Card or a Green Card. Subscribers to this package are entitled to receive free SMS's  and Voice messages in Hindi language and make local calls at a meagre 50 paisa per minute. Subscribers will also receive regular updates on weather, farming technologies, fertilisers, new  e-Agricultural ventures, livestock, commodity prices, etc.
  
In order to make this scheme a success, IFFCO has entered into a strategic partnership with  Bharti Airtel to set up IFFCO Kisan Sanchar Limited in Rajasthan. Airtel will not only provide communication services to farmers in the rural areas of the state with the help of Rajasthan Cooperative Department, it will also set up mobile towers, Public Call Offices (PCOs) and Internet cafe. The department is supposed to procure mobile handsets for farmers at marginal prices through its retail outlets in rural areas. Gram Seva Sahkari Samiti is the nodal agency to distribute the mobile handsets, SIM cards and recharge coupons to the farmers.

Conference on agriculture revisited in Missouri

The farmers of state of Missouri in the United States of America have once again shown their proclivity towards applying higher and better forms of technologies in agriculture. Farmers from across Missouri gathered recently at a Lake of the Ozarks resort for the Missouri University's annual farm computer users' conference, a revisit of the grand farmer's summit that happened in the year 1979. 

The summit showed the keenness of the farmers to take recourse to advanced mapping, navigational and forecasting technologies while applying modern methods in agricultural activities. The revisited Missouri summit included topics ranging from basic spreadsheet use for managing finances to implementing 'precision agriculture' techniques to maximise crop yields through computer-driven soil testing and fertiliser applications. In the get together, farmers revealed their interest in electronic gadgets and other  advanced computational tools to foster crop yields, forecast weather changes, plough land in accordance with mud conditions etc. Norman Brown, a dignitary to the meeting, endorsed upon the application of a farm-friendly software that compiles crop summaries, cost analyses, livestock feeding schedules in modern agricultural and farming practices.

A new e-Agriculture initiative in Iloilo City, Philippines

Iloilo city, one of the renowned agricultural hubs of Philippines is embarking on a new initiative to introduce a comprehensive programme called e-K Agrikultura which will facilitate the dissemination of information on Agribusiness and fisheries. The Department of Agriculture (DA) through its Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) is trying to inform the agriculturists, farmers and fisherman about the new cropping techniques, rural infrastructural credit, e-Farming procedures, etc. The programme uses various types of ICT tools for the improvement, enhancement and integration of e-Learning facilities for the agricultural stakeholders. The programme primarily includes four major components of information, viz, knowledge products preparation, dissemination and management; enhancement of community-based  knowledge systems; expansion of the e-Pinoy FARMS, and development of commodity production resource management system (C-PREMS); and strengthening and maintenance of  e-Partnerships for agriculture and fisheries development.
 
In order to make e-K Agrikultura a grand success, BAR is trying to involve experts and specialists in the field of Information Communication and Technology, community development, agribusiness and marketing and development management to support and make agriculture and fisheries part of the daily activity. The move is mainly to encourage grass-root farmers to become technology conscious, self-dependent and strategic decision-makers.

Digicel & Agriculture in Papua New Guinea (PNG)

Papua New Guinea (PNG) on of the major agricultural hubs of Oceania, is trying to develop agricultural infrastructure with the usage of modern technology and communications. Peter Kili, Rural Industries Council (RIC) information and education officer of Papua New Guinea (PNG), at the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) workshop at UPNG (University of Papua New Guinea), opined that a deregulated communication and information industry will be more effective in bringing rural development and increased agricultural production.

According to Kili, modern telecommunication facilities like telephone, Internet and other fibre optic services will facilitate the dissemination of information on prices, markets and matters of quality control. Rightly so, transgressing government's communication and information mechanism, private provider Digicel is playing a crucial role in developing comprehensive rural communication network in and around large farming areas across the country.  It is however argued that Digicel's monopoly should be controlled in order to ensure competitiveness and lateral efficiency.

ICT-based Agri-hub in Mokopane to aid subsistence farmers

The role of ICT in agriculture was reinvented with the launch of an agri-hub in Mokopane a town in the Limpopo district of South Africa. The area in and around Mokapene has long been taking recourse to diverse agricultural activities to foster agricultural and pastoral growth.  The  European Union (EU) along with the Limpopo government has played an instrumental role in the launching of agri-hub in Mokopane and EU has authorised 'Bohwa Bja Rena Community Trust' to pivot the project. The trust, a conglomerate of more than 300 farmers, received  25,700 hectares of land back in 2001 as a part of the land redistribution programme. Bohwa Bja Rena Community Trust, in order to make this project a success, has entered into a liaison with Limburg Farming Enterprise and Bruboer Group to export thousands of tons of citrus fruit. According to Annami Bruwer of Limburg, ICT Agri-Hub will add value by facilitating the development of better breeding stock and, through  Agri-business's auction facility, a steady flow of sales.

e-Krishi in Bangladesh

In yet another effort to reinvent e-Agriculture, the Bangladesh Govt, working at tandem with UNDP, has organised 'National e-Krishi Vision Consultation' programme.  The e-Krishi draft has been principally designed to serve the farmers community with advanced information on agriculture, seeds, high-end crops, fertilisers and pesticides. The programme calls for the use of ICT's in the disbursement of agricultural and farmland information. The programme also intends to create a platform for media to obtain necessary agricultural information from their website. The initiative has been made operational by Access to Information (A2I) Programme of e-Governance cluster of United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the concerned ministries of the Bangladesh Govt. In order to implement and execute the programme, a meeting was organised on the 17th of January 2008 from 09.30 am to 01.40 pm at Conference Room, Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council (BARC), Farmgate. Among the people present were Dr. C. S. Karim, Honourable Adviser, Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Syed Ataur Rahman, Secretary, Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock, Mr. M Abdul Aziz ndc, Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Mr. Manoj Basnyat, Country Director, UNDP Bangladesh.

India-Italy agriculture partnership

A vista of partnership has opened with the Union Cabinet signing a MoU between India and Italy in the field of agriculture and phytosanitary issues. The MoU, signed on the 16th of January 2008, will be valid for five years and will be open for renewal provided both the parties accede to it.

The agreement will not only ensure better bilateral cooperation between the two countries, it will also encourage technology transfer and agribusiness investments. As per the MoU, Italy will set up argi food parks throughout the country and a food testing laboratory will be opened in Kolkata. According to the Union Agriculture Minister Sharad Pawar, Italy will import marine products, poultry meat, milk and durum wheat from India and in return will export wine, processed food, meat, coffee, agri processing machines and post harvest technology. Paolo de Castro, Ministery of Agriculture, Food and Forestry Policies, opines  that the new accord will boost the market conditions for Indian agricultural products almost accounting for 200 million Euros. He further added that the trade agreement will ensure that more Italian agricultural products enter the Indian market.  

Nigeria's Agrovision

Nigeria has been doing nicely with its ICT projects. Emmanuel Ekuwen, National President of Association of Telecommunication Companies of Nigeria (ATCON), opinionated that ICT initiatives would help the country boost agricultural and food production.Recently, Teledom Group, a leading indigenous ICT solutions provider,  along with National Information Technology Development Agency (NITDA) has launched a unique programme called Agrovision.

Under the aegis of this programme, farmers will have easy access to vital planting, harvesting and storage and transportation information. According to Ekuwen 'Agrovision is a programme we have developed in Teldom in collaboration with relevant government agencies in order to help farmers boost agricultural and food production. It is an Information and Communication Technology driven programme that provides farmers with the agro-ecological mappings of the crops and soil types in Nigeria. In every farm, there will be an automatic weather station that captures the relevant meteorological data such as the intensity of rainfall, soil moisture, radiation, wind direction, atmospheric pressure, temperature and other agro-meteorological data. These data will be collated and then transmitted to a central collation facility in the National Weather Centre. There is a super data base and server that will relate the captured data from the farm and use it for computation at the central location of Agrovision at the National Weather Centre. All these are done online – real time.'  

Alcatel-Lucent reaches the rural folk of Malaysia

Malaysia's rural folks are all happy with a recent venture undertaken by Alcatel-Lucent to deliver high-speed Internet services to the benefit of the farmers. The communication solutions provider believes that broadband community centres are the best way to deliver high-speed Internet services to the rural clan.  According to Alcatel-Lucent's Vice-President Val

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