If the world continues on its course, then estimates suggest that by 2050 population growth will have dwarfed food production.
This will put an untenable strain on resources such as land and water as we search for ways to feed nine billion people. This strain is likely to be further exacerbated by climate change. Unpredictable farming seasons and weather patterns are making life even more difficult for food producers. Two ways of obviating these developments is to use resources such as water and agricultural inputs more efficiently and increase the crop yields of key actors in global food production: smallholder farmers.
These concerns are what led the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs to award a subsidy of 4.6 million euros through the Netherlands Space Office to a consortium of partners led by CTA to implement the Market-led, User-owned ICT4Ag Enabled Information Service (MUIIS). The project has ambitious goals: increase crop yield, farmers’ income, the use of agri-inputs and water, and trade and investment; and decrease the risk of using agri-inputs. The project is designed so that each of CTA’s six partners in the chain have a specific task to carry out over the project’s three-year lifespan. aWhere, eLEAF and EARS-E2M handle the analysis and transformation of satellite data into practical advice for farmers. CTA works with the AGRA, EAFF and Mercy Corps Uganda on the ground to gauge farmers’ information needs, train extension workers, digitally profile farmers and train them to use the information and advice they receive.
For the bulk of this issue of ICT Update, we interviewed people working for several of these partner organisations, from NSO to Mercy Corps. What exactly does each partner do? What makes the partnership strong? Is the business model holding up? The MUIIS project is now completing the second of its three years, so that raises several other interesting questions, not least of which: how have farmers responded to the idea of subscribing to the MUIIS service bundle? One thing all of the people we spoke to agree on is that this project is designed to last. Too often, once a project’s funds dry up, so does the project.