Social Inclusiveness in the Cassava value chain through ICT and Mobile Apps

BAPPA SE Marc Ghislain

Africa is one of the few continents that still retain a significant quantity of natural resources, flora as well as fauna. Taking a keen look at the agricultural sector as a whole, you will agree with me that, among all the sub-regions of Africa, the Central African part is highly blessed with a wide range of diversified agricultural commodities.

This seems quite interesting, however, it raises some questions: do they value or utilize these agricultural products efficiently and effectively? What are the main constraints that hinder the proper agricultural development of the region? Are all stakeholders involved in the process working synergistically? Where are the youths and women within the process? To which level do they incorporate the use of ICT to promote their agricultural commodities as a whole and cassava in particular? These are questions that call for answers.

The use of ICT in the  agricultural development process in the Central African region is really to limited, compared to other African countries like Rwanda, Kenya, South Africa, etc., who are far more ahead in that domain and have well consolidated their grounds, in mainstreaming their agricultural development process to be more inclusive, thanks to ICT tools and technology.

From my point of view, access to relevant agricultural information technologies, for all food products and especially within the cassava value chain, can be a promising approach to improved food security; and bringing together practitioners, decision-makers, extensionists, youth and women, in a forum to find ways of improving the cassava value chain – as CTA and partners are doing with this meeting – is very important.

Unlike other cash crops likes cocoa, plantains, oil palms, maize, etc., cassava can be considered as one of the crops, that can and should contribute effectively to enhance the role agricultural commodities play in the economic growth process of many African states. This is considering its ability to thrive in less productive soils, need for less inputs compared to other crops, its potential to increase farm incomes, to help close the food gap, and to reduce rural and urban poverty. Cassava has other advantages, one of which is drought tolerance; this makes it a highly suitable food crop during periods of drought and famine, and especially in a climate change regime that many African countries now face.

Practical use of ICT and Mobile Apps in agricultural value chains

Nowadays, many young people can’t imagine life without their phones, especially those with Smartphones with popular mobile apps such as Facebook Messenger, Whatsapp, Imo, Snapchat, Instagram, just to name a few.  Some of these apps have been incorporated into the agricultural research and development process and the results are really promising.

Let me share a firsthand experience I have had, thanks to ICT tools and mobile apps,  within the cassava value chain in particular and with agriculture as a whole:

While browsing one day on Facebook, with my Smartphone, I came across a home country agricultural group known as ‘AGRICULTURE LEADER’ which I joined immediately. A week or two after, a call for mobile phone numbers was launched on the group page, for all those wishing to be part of the Whatsapp group known as ‘CLINIQUE AGRICOLE’ and after sending my number, I was added there too.

I would say that it has been worth being part of the group. I have had the opportunity to perceive the passion of youth and women in agriculture, thanks to Whatsapp. Within a short time, the number of members (256 max) rose to its maximum and now, it’s quite difficult to be introduced. Members are all passionate about agriculture, and working in the agriculture and livestock domain – thus we have a very pluralistic and highly inter-disciplinary platform.

Every Sunday, we have an in-group (online) workshop, in which a particular agricultural commodity or ARD related topic, is chosen and shared by a member.  After that, the floor is open for questions/answers, exchange and interactions, related to the topic proposed. It is from there that I knew better about the whole cassava value chain and much more.  Members share pictures of their farms, problems they face on the field, diseases that affects their crops and livestock, and all find relevant solutions that, when applied in the field, bring splendid outcomes in terms of production, merchandising, transformation, etc.

This is one of the ways ICT tools and mobile apps promote youth and women inclusiveness within the agricultural value chain, and this approach can be adapted to the cassava value chain also. This is why CTA and partners have brought together different stakeholders this week to have discussion on the needed tools and approaches to improve the cassava value chain in the Central Africa region. Follow the discussions online through the hashtag : #Cassava2016

Copyright © 2016, CTA. Technical Centre for Rural and Agricultural Cooperation

CTA is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union (EU). CTA operates under the framework of the Cotonou Agreement and is funded by the EU.