Empowering Agriculture by Using Technology
This post was written by Hadil Ali Mohammed Al-Ashwal, Bahar Salimova, Jan Marcel Dams and Elma Zahir, World Bank, Geo-Enabling Initiative for Monitoring and Supervision (GEMS).
In a world rife with change and uncertainty, agriculture remains the bedrock of global stability. Ensuring food security, safeguarding livelihoods and responding to crises are paramount. In recent years, the use of geospatial and more sophisticated technologies, including satellite imagery, sensors, drones and mobile phones, have become more common and accessible for improving agriculture and agribusiness interventions. The World Bank’s GEMS has been instrumental in empowering many agriculture-focused projects worldwide. Through the use of open-source technology, GEMS deploys innovative approaches to build the capacity of government clients working with the World Bank on development projects to help streamline the monitoring and supervision of agricultural initiatives. GEMS intentionally uses more field-appropriate and easy-to-adopt technologies to ensure higher uptake among clients and sustainability of deployed methods. The key is to ensure that governments can start collecting data through the “train-the-trainer” approaches and easily adaptable tools, such as mobile phones and tablets. This blog will explore GEMS’ applications in diverse contexts to promote resilience and empower agriculture.
Sri Lanka: Crisis response and transparent distribution
In the wake of an economic crisis, Sri Lanka launched the Emergency Crisis Response Program (ECRP) to restore social stability. The project piloted GEMS tools, resulting in significant improvements in the following areas:
- Centralized Digital Platform: Supported by GEMS, the Ministry of Agriculture created a centralized, digital platform to record the distribution of essential items, like fertilizers, to pre-identified farmers. In addition to building digital data collection capacity, GEMS helped the government client set up stringent data protection and privacy settings, guaranteeing exclusive access for authorized personnel only, to help ensure robust data security and prevent information leaks.
- Beneficiary Monitoring: Using geo-enabled tools, the Ministry of Agriculture was able to monitor fertilizer distribution in real time to eligible farmers on a pilot basis in select regions of the country, ensuring fair and efficient distribution. It also helped enhance transparency through beneficiary monitoring and governance.
- Accountability and Transparency: Each transaction captured photographic evidence, from beneficiary identification to crop details, fostering high levels of accountability and transparency.
Bangladesh: Streamlining data collection
- Bangladesh’s National Agricultural Technology Program Phase II (NATP-2) aimed to boost agricultural productivity for smallholder farmers. GEMS use streamlined their data collection process:
- Capacity Building: Using a “train-the-trainers” approach, the team expanded GEMS across 270 subdistricts to monitor 40,000 common interest groups (CIGs) nationwide.
- Efficient Data Collection: GEMS tools enabled the project implementation units (PIU) to collect and analyze data concurrently, digitizing their manual processes and reducing paperwork.
- Data-Driven Decisions: With data from GEMS, decision-making, monitoring and risk management became more efficient for a project that has around 1 million beneficiaries.
- Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, the Bangladesh Livestock and Dairy Development Project sprang into action, compensating livestock farmers for their losses. GEMS was rolled out remotely, training 20 project monitoring officers who supervised field data collection by approximately 15,000 enumerators. This has helped with:
- Database Creation: With 620,000 beneficiaries to support, a GEMS capacity-building training enabled clients to efficiently execute data collection, management, verification and analysis within a short period.
- Timely Results: Within six weeks, the project team collected detailed, gender-disaggregated data on over 70,000 beneficiaries, enabling a prompt and effective response.
Niger: Climate resilience and agriculture
Niger’s Climate Smart Agriculture Support Project (PASEC) is dedicated to bolstering climate resilience, improving agricultural productivity and providing crisis responses. Through the implementation of GEMS, the team achieved:
- Comprehensive Data Collection: PASEC uses GEMS to gather valuable data, including information on trained farmers, technology adoption, agricultural yields and impacts on food security and livelihoods.
- Extensive Farmer Training Monitoring: GEMS monitors the training of 356,192 farmers, including 130,580 women, in climate-smart agricultural technologies and practices. This data guides adaptive interventions.
- Insightful Intervention Sites: GEMS was used to record detailed information on around 2,000 intervention sites, shedding light on beneficiary distribution, intervention areas and on-the-ground impacts.
Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC): Spatial database for forestry
A section of DRC’s Ministry of Environment leverages GEMS to build and operationalize a spatial database for tracking forestry investments and activities. The GEMS team trained the PIUs as part of a forestry operation in the DRC. In this context, the use of GEMS led to:
- Expanding the use of GEMS: The PIUs expanded GEMS usage beyond the initial project.
- Scaling GEMS: FonaREDD+, a safeguarding branch, built government capacity and scaled GEMS. This included geo-locating about 3,000 agroforestry activities and conducting field surveys.
- Enhanced Transparency: Spatial monitoring and evaluation (M&E) tools boost transparency and enable efficient management of land use initiatives.
These examples underscore how GEMS, through utilizing digital tools and flexible and customizable capacity-building engagements, empowers agricultural initiatives to collect real-time data, make informed decisions and adapt interventions for maximum impact. As challenges persist, GEMS continues to illuminate paths to resilience, transparency and data-driven progress.