Sustainable natural resources management is of particular importance in dry land areas where, due to the increasing effects of climate change, water is becoming a scarce and precious resource. This is particularly true for the Arab countries, which have the lowest per capita water availability in the world. But it is also true in other countries in the Near East, North Africa, Europe and Central Asia (NEN) Region that do not have a history of water shortage. Another serious challenge for the NEN Region is that more populous countries with higher concentrations of human and income poverty face declining levels of natural resource rents-based incomes.
The strengthening of collaborated efforts in the NEN Region through South-South and triangular cooperation (SSTC) is crucial for the achievement of increased food security and rural poverty reduction.
Towards a Solution
The ‘South-South and Triangular Cooperation for Agricultural Development and Food Security (SSTC-ADFS)’ project, jointly supported by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the Islamic Development Bank (IsDB) and the United Nations Office for South-South Cooperation (UNOSSC), aimed to contribute to addressing the above challenges. The main focus was placed on further advancing South-South and triangular cooperation among the countries of the NEN Region and beyond through the identification, pilot-testing, and documentation of successful models and approaches that would be ready for replication within the Arab States, Europe and the CIS region. In facilitating South-South knowledge exchanges and other forms of cooperation, inter alia, the project worked to fill the gap in: youth’s and women’s access to appropriate innovative solutions; self-organization skills quality business and employment training; and access to minimum required production facilities.
The Harvest IT Application is one of the knowledge products developed within the SSTC-ADFS project. It provides a ‘gateway to information’ for farmers in the Arab States, Europe and the CIS region. The information, communication and technology (ICT) solution offers a range of agricultural topics, which includes, depending on the country, good administration of farms, effective water use for irrigation, important dimensions of forage and milk production, and soil management. Information is presented through interactive displays that are complete with pictures, customized calculators to support decision-making, safety information, and links to additional resources. Farmers benefit from practical solutions through the practical tips and tricks section, and background knowledge through the manuals and publications section. Once downloaded, the application does not require an Internet connection to operate. Farmers can also share the application with their peers through Bluetooth.
The idea was inspired by the MEVA mobile application, developed in Uzbekistan. The topics covered in each country were defined by the national partners of the project – Ministries of Agriculture, which referred to the expert assessment of the demand for the information from the farmer communities. They also delegated and approved national experts to work on the country-specific content.
Through this application, rural agricultural producers in Hungary, the Kyrgyz Republic, Sudan and Turkey receive the opportunity to easily access to up-to-date information on the successful management of their farms. The respective ministries of agriculture further promoted the application for the benefit of the rural producers to reach out to the target communities. For instance, in Hungary, the series of training for farmers’ cooperatives integrated a component devoted to the use of the application to ensure that rural producers can follow recommended administration and sanitary standards, and even verify the relevancy and adequacy of the measures taken. While the exact numbers of farmers who installed and used the app is not traceable, the indirect reflection of the application impact is in the appreciation expressed and highlighted by the national partners. Currently, the application provides knowledge and practical tips relevant to the environmental, natural and socio-economic conditions of the Arab States, Europe and the CIS region.
Targeting farmers, the application is free for download for Android and iOS . All content is also available online on a dedicated website.
It is also important in the conditions of poor Internet connectivity in the remote regions and low digital literacy of the rural inhabitants that once downloaded, the application can be shared with other farmers as often as needed, thus, ensuring the multiplying effect on the impact.
Easy access to knowledge and practical tips above all benefits youth and women, specifically, those who have fewer opportunities for education. Knowing and implementing the practices, calculations and advice contained in the application for enriching the nutritional qualities of lands, following sanitary standards, and selecting proper ways of melioration serve as an additional, direct factor of improving food security and nutrition of the target communities.
The Ministries of Agriculture and the lead centres of excellence in the field of agriculture are best positioned to identify the agricultural production area for the application and adaptation of the application with respect to the multi-country SSC project. The production of knowledge and ICT tools to ensure farmers’ easy access to information reflects the high level of expertise and of coordinated efforts of the national institutions. However, the promotion of the use of this tool should be improved. This can be achieved by spreading information about this new application in various national agricultural events, public and private training courses, and other capacity-building events.
In the context of SSC, the application is:
- a replication of a southern solution, adapted and enriched with new knowledge, topics and countries covered, extended innovations and value added;
- a tool supporting and promoting exchange in knowledge among rural communities in the Arab States, Europe and the CIS region, with functionalities anticipating regular updates and extending countries’ coverage;
- the technology used assumes replicability and the opportunity for the content and for extending the application’s coverage to other countries.