21 July 2021: The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries hosted a workshop with 20 commercial farmers last Friday to collaborate in the development of a knowledge sharing application that is set to usher in a new era of digital farmers in Samoa.
The development of a mobile app for farmers is an initiative under the UN Joint Programme, Samoa Knowledge Society implemented by UNESCO in partnership with the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries.
Led by the Agriculture Sector Coordination Division (ASCD) of the Ministry, the workshop introduced the concept of the mobile application to a control group of farmers who are also expected to participate in the app trials once it has been completed.
ACEO Dr Ramona Sulifoa said their goal is to facilitate an environment that enabled farmers to drive the project to meet their knowledge needs as end users, and develop the app according to their feedback.
“It’s important to us to have farmers drive this project because they’re the ones who are going to be using it and we are just here to enable this development.” said Dr Ramona
“We were really encouraged by the positive response from our control farmer group who participated and provided valuable contributions about how we can help improve their access to knowledge;
“By making the farmers community part of the knowledge production chain; their knowledge and experience can be organised, used and preserved.”
The idea for the initiative stemmed from gaps identified by the ASCD particularly in the process of monitoring and evaluating of farming developments under the Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity Project (SAFPROM).
According to Data Analyst Consultant and Mobile App Developer, Tooa Brown, who has been tasked with designing and developing the mobile app; the gaps present an opportunity to create the conditions for successful agricultural practices through digital transformation.
“The idea for the app branched off from the monitoring and evaluation visits by Team SAFPROM to farmers currently participating in the SAFPROM Matching Grants programme who are using traditional record books.” Ms Brown said.
“The disadvantages of using traditional methods of record keeping are high print costs, paper waste, and recording information on paper that could get damaged and lost. It’s essential for farmers and for the environment that processes are adapted to a digital technology concept because innovative processes can potentially lead to efficient and resource friendly sustainable farming.”
The digital agriculture platform was welcomed by farmers at the workshop who highlighted many features they wanted to incorporate into the app which included access to markets, weather information as well as a central platform for farmers to network, problem solve and share testimonials.
The potential for bridging a communications gap between farmers and the ministry through digital advisory services was also explored as an area that could be improved through the platform.
“A lot of the feedback I heard from the farmers is this app is a good avenue for people who are new to farming or even interested in getting into agriculture and farming,” said Ms Brown. “We need to come up with something that’s going to be relevant to any farmer from the beginner to the commercial level.”
“There are many other existing concepts are out there that we can introduce or incorporate into this app not only as a knowledge based platform but also help our farmers boost their productivity and access to markets. We aim to create a comprehensive platform to avoid using many different apps and meet the priorities of the farming community”
Farmers who participated in the workshop also had an opportunity to submit names for the mobile app which will be reviewed by the Executive Management Team at the Ministry. The second phase of the mobile app development is expected to commence next month, followed by a series of trials with the control farmer group before it can be launched and released to the wider community.