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Can telecoms technology boost farming yields? A lesson from Cambodia.

Issue

Farming is the lifeblood of Cambodia. Some eighty percent of the country’s population lives in rural areas, and around 37 percent of the total workforce is directly engaged in the agriculture sector.

But despite significant encouragement from the Government, agricultures role in the economy is diminishing, and productivity and production in recent years has showed signs of slowing, with the productivity of most small farms remains low.

While there’s significant potential to expand the production and processing of high yield varieties of rice, cassava, sugarcane, and other crops, the existing systems are poorly organized and inefficient.

Supply chains are long and populated by multiple intermediaries, among whom communication and knowledge sharing is weak.

More than 80% of Cambodia’s farmers now use mobile phones and of those 20% use smartphones.

Insight

More than 80% of Cambodia’s farmers now use mobile phones and of those 20% use smartphones. High-speed internet is available at affordable rates and social platforms, including Facebook, are widely used to disseminate information.

But despite the availability of this infrastructure, traders use their own channels to determine prices, while a lack of access to reliable market information leaves farmers at a disadvantage.

Might it be possible to use cutting edge communications technologies to remove some of the blockages in the supply chain? Could an “e-platform”, combining and streamlining existing technologies to serve the specific purposes of the farmers, help remove some of the bottlenecks?

Innovation

An e-agriculture platform based on smart data management and farm management systems now connects the various stakeholders and helps farmers overcome current challenges.

At the heart of the system is an “e-market place” that connects producers and buyers, allowing them to access the same set of market information and lessen the need for multiple intermediaries.

The platform also facilitates trading of products like seeds and planting materials, fertilizers, pesticides and farm equipment, and even provides information and access to formal sources of credit.

Farmers can also make smarter decisions about climate and growing conditions based on regular data from internet-of-things based sensors, drones, and satellite imagery.

The platform is accessible through multiple channels – mobile, kiosk, desktop, call center, radio, and television and more.


Insiders

  • Arun Ramamurthy

    Senior ICT Specialist (Innovations), East Asia Department, Asian Development Bank. Arun designs and implements digital technology solutions and innovations in development economics.

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