The GFFA is a high-level, international conference, which gives representatives from the world of politics, business and civil society, an opportunity to share experiences, exchange ideas and enhance understanding around topics of current agricultural policy within the context of food security.
The kick-off meeting featured a high-level panel discussion. During the course of the panel, Michael Hailu, director of the Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) noted the relatively high levels of digital illiteracy in agriculture, and spoke of efforts that are being made in training and education to bridge the digital divide.
Qu Dongyu, Chinese Vice Minister for Agriculture and Rural Affairs, mentioned that smallholder farners should be made aware of the value of digitalisation in order to fully understand the economic benefits: “You have to stimulate their incentives.”
Andrew Mushita, Director of the Community Technology Development Organisation (CTDO), who Foteini met with in October of last year to discuss the potential benefits and ownership issues of open data in agriculture and nutrition (see more about that meeting HERE), also took part in the panel. He talked about the issues and challenges smallholders face on a daily basis: Seed issues, issues of security, privacy and ownership issues. He mentioned an app that has been developed to advise farmers how to better manage their crops, and how this kind of innovation responds well to their needs. He also said that the CTDO are working on capacity building within the sector.
A number of expert meetings took place during which several issues were addressed, including how the potential of digital technologies could be better harnessed for agriculture, and how farmers’ access to digital technologies can be expanded and safeguarded. It was widely acknowledged that data security and data sovereignty play a pivotal role when it comes establishing open data within the agricultural sector.
During the expert panel on Digital Solutions for Farming Today: How Does Technological Innovation Meet Young Farmers’ Needs, one of the key speakers, Michael Rast from the European Space Agency, mentioned the Copernicus initiative's links with open data: "Copernicus is the largest producer of earth observation (EO) data in the world. All this data is available freely and open worldwide. There is an open software platform where everyone can collect or share information. New technologies will be made available to everyone, so everyone can use it as he wants. The benefits of open data outweigh any possible disadvantages”.
A high-level UN FAO panel took place on Friday 18, entitled: Utilising the Power of Digital Innovations for Youth Smallholders and Family Farmers. Five ministers of agriculture from Africa, Asia, Latin America and Europe discussed and identified the challenges that smallholders face in accessing and using data and innovative technologies. They identified the role that governments, civil society, private sector and academia can play in helping to tackle these challenges. Government strategy and policy options for creating an enabling environment to bridge the rural digital divide, and the creation of opportunities for young people in rural communities, smallholders and family farmers were also explored.
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