This paper explores the possibilities for strengthening agriculture, in particular small agriculture, often represented by family farming, with the use of digital technologies. Within the framework of an initiative of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Innovation (GFAR), the Forum of the Americas for Agricultural Research and Technological Development (FORAGRO),with its secretariat at the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), and the Confederation of Family Producer Organizations of the Expanded Mercosur (COPROFAM), in collaboration with international partners AgGateway and Global Open Data for Agriculture and Nutrition (GODAN), the approach of putting small-scale producers at the center of digital solution design has been adopted, called “inclusive digital agriculture” (IDA).
This document is divided into three sections. The first section explores the topic of Digital Agriculture, from secondary sources, with an emphasis on inclusion. The second is an analysis of a regional survey that was conducted within the framework of the project on the basic uses of digital technologies by small producers. In the last section, conclusions and recommendations are proposed in relation to the next phases of the project.
Main conclusions of the report are:
a. New uses of digital tools for family farming. The current uses of technologies are focused on more traditional rather than innovative processes. However, the fact that roughly 25% of the people surveyed are using drones, sensors and other devices for decision-making in production processes, and can become reference cases, should not be underestimated.
b. Significant connectivity in the rural territories of the region cannot be ignored. In this case, these are producers with access to the Internet but who, despite this, are experiencing problems in terms of signal and costs. Additionally, there are farming families that do not have connectivity. It is well known that within the region, rural, indigenous, coastal and border territories have difficulty with Internet access and the quality of service, when it does exist.
c. Training, support and advice on digital agriculture is developed for producers. The main technological means should preferably be mobile phones and messaging tools, since they are the most widely used and are the most accessible to families.
d. Gender focus in the process of training, support, or advice on inclusive digital agriculture. Again, there are differences in opportunities and material conditions due to gender, with women at a disadvantage.
e. Inclusive digital agriculture project with an important component that is focused on young rural people and those from farming families. This not only facilitates any digital agriculture project, but also contributes to the attraction of young people to rural territories, thus preventing migration to cities.
f. Paying attention to the content, the media, and the languages of any material that is developed for a future digital agriculture project, as it becomes clear in the survey that the resources available are often not accessible to farmers.
g. Alliances with local organizations for advice, support and even the development of own connectivity projects seem to be a good route to develop an IDA program.