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Learning and Exchange Platform on the Use of Geodata in Agriculture

Satellite data alone are not enough for good agriculture in Southeast Asia. Continuous interaction between all kinds of data sources is necessary, as well as actionable information: the satellite can’t beat the farmer, but the farmer also can’t beat the satellite.

Learning and Exchange Platform on the Use of Geodata in Agriculture

These are some of the conclusions that have been drawn at the G4AW Southeast Asia Regional Workshop from June 19-20, 2019. The great potential to improve agriculture and food security in developing countries, as well as the livelihoods of smallholder farmers, by the use of satellite data was the key focus of the workshop discussions.

The workshop was hosted by ICCO Cooperation and the Netherlands Space Office in Bali, Indonesia. In Southeast Asia, ICCO is involved in four projects that promote the use of satellite data to improve agriculture and food security in developing countries: SMARTseeds, GREENcoffee, AngkorSALAD and Spice Up.

Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW)

From 2014-2018, 11 projects were granted a subsidy under the Geodata for Agriculture and Water (G4AW) facility in the Asian region, all of which are public private partnerships aiming to tackle wider challenges and improve upon the traditional practices of farming households. For projects nearing the end of the subsidy phase, the workshop in Bali was a valuable opportunity to discuss next steps to not only ensure success, but also the sustainability of the developed services. Participants joined from the Netherlands, Indonesia, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, and Bangladesh, and were a mix of public and private stakeholders involved in the various project’s consortia.

The two-day workshop successfully provided a platform where these projects could network, share experiences and lessons learned, and explore the potential for collaboration. Kicking off the event, Marianne van Keep (Verstegen Spices & Sauces), Catalina von Hildebrand (NpM), and Fons Nelen (Nelen & Schuurmans) presented key topics that set the themes for the discussions on sustainability, geodata for (inclusive) finance, and technology in agriculture.

Among the outcomes were these highlights:

  • Service Provision – The business case is a starting point for system design. Development of the service is complicated due to different partner interests. A clear agreement, clarity on roles and responsibilities is needed.
  • User engagement – Engaging smallholders through farmers’ groups and agricultural schools has proven to be successful. An effective feedback mechanism is crucial. Projects should be aware of cultural differences in engagement (i.e. female voices for female farmers). It takes time to get to know each other but understanding local context is essential.
  • Partnerships – Clarity on roles and responsibilities of partners is crucial, it takes time to get to know each other but understanding local context is essential; it’s important to involve national government in the agri-business model. The transition to entrepreneurship from partnership happens in the follow-up phase, enlarging their ownership of this approach.
  • PR/Communications - Need better integration and guidance from Netherlands Space Office. A clear understanding of the messages and targets is needed, especially differentiating project communication and product marketing. Monitoring and Evaluation for communication starts with the question: What works and why?
  • Business Model – Added value is key to convince farmers to pay for services, but they never engage directly. Engaging government and other institutions holds potential.
  • Monitoring and Evaluation – Evaluation of services is constantly done throughout the project life cycle, not as a separate phase. A point of attention to consider is: what are the wider (and unintended) impacts of the project/services?

Ruud Grim, NSO Senior Advisor, has shared his thoughts on the next steps: “The outputs of the workshop, including results from ongoing projects, observations and reflections by the partnerships and stakeholders, were collected by NSO and shared with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. There is an on-going discussion [with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs] on possible next steps and additional activities to further smoothen the transition from project to financially sustainable service provision. We are pleased with the workshop and we are hopeful for the future.”

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