Publish Date: 12 Apr 2016
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The second ‘ICT and Agriculture: Realising the Development Dividend’ mini conference was held on 18 February 2016 in East London.

The mini conference was hosted by the NEMISA ICT for Rural Development e-Skills CoLab (based at WSU), together with ECSECC and WSU Centre for Community Engagement and Internationalisation. The staging of this mini conference fulfills a key outcome defined at the successful launch seminar in March 2015. It was hosted by the same three partners and attended by over 60 delegates.

The conference shared some of the existing and potential practices taking place by role players. It showed the context in which ICT can, should and is being used to help increase agricultural productivity, capacitate small and emerging farmers, and encourage the participation of women and youth, among other objectives. There were also examples of how training in ICT and training using ICT are critical components of this. 

The mini conference was opened by Prof Khaya Mfenyana, Interim Vice-Chancellor, WSU. The conference was placed in a provincial context by the MEC for Rural Development and Agrarian Reform, Hon Mr Mlibo Qoboshiyane. Among other points, the MEC highlighted the need for a provincial database covering the agricultural landscape and systems (or applications) that provide real-time data of benefit to farmers. Examples include weather reports and market prices.

The following plenary presentations were made: 
  • Using ICT to develop agricultural value chains in Africa (Dr Vuyokazi Mahlati, African Financial Group) – This outlined the importance of value chain development to grow and transform Eastern Cape, African and South African agriculture. The use of ICT can be a major contributor to improved organisation, communication and connecting the right people. Dr Mahlati unveiled the Ivili Loboya app which will be used to connect smallholders and processors in the Eastern Cape wool and cashmere sector. 
  • Enhancing rural ICT access in the Eastern Cape (Mr Ayanda Madyibi, Provincial CIO from the Office of the Premier) – He spoke on the current status of broadband roll-out in the province and related activities. These included establishing the Provincial Broadband Steering Committee and subcommittees. The EC e-Skills CoLab co-chairs the skills sub-committee with the Eastern Cape Development Corporation.

There were also panel discussions on the main themes of the conference: 
  • To what extent can ICT help increase agricultural productivity through providing access to knowledge, information and technology?
  • How can ICT be harnessed to bring rural women and youth into the agricultural sector?
  • What is the potential contribution of ICT to capacitate small and emerging farmers? 
  • What ICT training is needed to bridge the digital divide in the agricultural sector and how can ICT be used to provide sector-related training?

The way forward was presented by Ms Lorna van der Merwe from the EC e-Skills CoLab. The conference was closed by Prof Denis Jumbam, Dean Faculty of Natural Sciences, WSU. 

The conference had two main outcomes – establishment of an ICT and Agriculture working group and a digital repository. The intention is to find ways to direct these initiatives towards a larger effort. 

A more comprehensive report can be found here. 
The event was also reported on by The Herald on 19 February 2016

Please contact ECSECC to obtain a copy of the presentations. 

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