Cyber-seed is an information system based on internet to enable farmers to have an idea on what is done in the different cooperatives in seed production and food. In an interview, Alphonse Kouassi KOUAME, co-designer of cyber seed and currently in charge of the agricultural collective Entrepreneurship Program (ECAGRI) the General Secretariat Inades-Formation, present this information system. It answers questions of journalist Togolese Christmas Tadegnon.

Christmas Tadégnon: You set up an information system which will enable the farmer to know the quantities and varieties of seeds in different seed producers cooperatives, how to present this system called “Cyber-seed”?

Kouame Kouassi Alphonse: A Cyber-seed is a tool for collecting, processing and management of seed related data. This data can be: the variety, the quantity of seed, seed quality, the prices offered, the areas of production and storage, seed producers and farmers quality agents. In a word, the Cyber-seed is an information management tool for the farmer field to marketing. It promotes seed products through traceability.

N T: How is -t it work?

A K K: Each Cyber-seed is connected to the central computer (national) called “Observatory” which is housed in the case of Côte d’Ivoire, within the Seed Service of the Ministry for Agriculture. However, it may be domiciled in any other competent public or private structure, preferably even within inter. The Cyber-seed is a dynamic and interactive website designed to promote a dynamic communication between producers and seed users. He lives in the takeover or cooperatives that drive. These record data about seed availability (quantity, quality, price offered, etc.) and their needs. This data is automatically available at the Observatory.

N.t: How the information is collected by cooperatives (is directly related to farmers)?

A K K: Information is collected in direct relationship with producers. It is performed by quality agents farmers who are members of OPA farmers / cooperatives formed in the matter.

N.t: Who will use this information? Which goals and what the profit potential for farmers?

A K K: Users of information are: (i) States through seed and services that have reliable data on the seed sector. These data will be used each year in the development of national seed programs that identify the needs by category of seed and variety; (Ii) Farmers across their organizations that can get customers to sell their products but also know the potential seed sources when needed; (Iii) Seed companies and plant protection firms for marketing their products; (Iv) Traders (dealers, intermediaries, wholesalers) who can also do business and create added value to the seed.

N.t: How will the participation of rural communities?

A K K: Rural communities take an active part in the operation. The Cyber-seeds are housed in OPA / Cooperatives and are managed by the farmers themselves.

N.t: The project will help it better sharing of information on seeds and preservation of indigenous knowledge which until then disappeared?

A K K: Yes, we believe that this project will facilitate the flow of information between the various players in the sector. It facilitates raising and dissemination of information on seeds. In this connection, other tools of mass media will be involved include: the rural radio stations, newspapers, flyers, posters, etc. Regarding the valuation of indigenous knowledge, the system promotes traditional varieties and indigenous knowledge that accompany them. He is working on creating niche markets for some traditional varieties which are the subject of a strong local or foreign demand.

For more information on Cyber-seed, visit http://www.ci-semence.org

Inades-Formation experimenting with agricultural producers in several countries information systems market (SIM) self-managed by them. These SIM particular enable producers to strengthen their bargaining power with traders.

According to the FAO definition: “ A SIM is normally operated by the public sector service that collects regular information on prices and in some cases the quantities of agricultural products widely sold in markets rural assembly, the wholesale and retail market, and communicates this information in a timely and regular basis through various media to farmers, traders, government officials, policy makers and others interested ” .

The goal of SIM is to help mainly farmers to follow market trends and ensure that their production meets the demand to make the most of their effort. In sum, the SIM contributes to strengthening the bargaining power of small producers face merchants. It aims to help them:
- Reducing risks marketing;
- Deciding where to sell their products agricultural;
- Check the prices offered conform to the market;
- Decide whether or not to store their products;
- Decide whether produce “out of season”.

However, it is noteworthy that in most cases the SIM in place since 1980 to support market liberalization have frequently been criticized for their inability to meet the needs of operators, their administrative burden and financial fragility.

Since then, new opportunities have helped restore these services: ICT development, decentralization of information systems, MIS reconciliation of professional organizations, etc.

SIM’s vision for Inades Training is to develop SIM as centers of self-directed services, efficient and durable in operation serving small producers. This vision comes in the following key points:
- The information disseminated meet real needs of the main actors are the producers and their organizations (types of information, lots of information, quality of information);
- The main beneficiaries receive directly information through their grassroots organizations (targeted SIM);
- The actors manage them- the same device to be simple, flexible and less expensive in its operation (Self SIM);
- The actors through their organizations are pooling financial management operation of the device (decentralized funding to SIM).

Several SIM experiments are currently underway in the Inades Training Network including Burkina Faso in the cashew and sesame sectors in Ivory Coast (corn), Togo (grains and seeds) and DR Congo (rice, corn, cassava, groundnuts in the province of Ecuador and corn and rice in Kasai Occidental province).

All these SIM have been redeveloped or built on self-directed model, giving more opportunities for Farmer Organizations beneficiaries to ensure sustainable access services to market information to their members and other rural communities. New SIM-run development initiatives are planned in the Inades Training Network including Burkina Faso and Burundi.

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Delivery Tool for information on prices in a market in Togo Alphonse Kouamé
Programme Officer ECAGRI
Inades Training / Secretariat General

The challenge is to support the creation of conditions for greater productivity of family agriculture and a fair and just remuneration of labor of the peasants.

Some elements related to the context of family farming in Africa

Agriculture is one of the most important pillars of African economies. Globally, it contributes to 30-40% of the GDP of African countries and provides 50 to 80% of revenue from exports. To date, agricultural production in Africa is provided mainly by small producers and family farms. According to the 2008 report of the World Bank, 1.5 billion people live on small farms. In sub-Saharan Africa, 80% of farms are family-owned and 60% of the active population work there.

However, despite the role and importance of family agriculture in African economies, farmers, the main architects of this wealth working and still living in difficult conditions. International and national economic and agricultural policies (the introduction of GMOs in agriculture, control of seed systems and grabbing agricultural land, etc.) are not always favorable. Today, the fertile lands, which were used for production for local food markets, are diverted to industrial agriculture whose products for the world market.

The policies imposed by the IMF and the World Bank in the majority of African countries have created a structural dependence on food imports, the dominant ideology imposing the development of export crops over food crops. In this momentum, agricultural policies in African countries have been liberalized and their support structures in rural areas (extension, input supply, storage and marketing, credit, price stabilization) have been phased out and left the small producers helpless against the forces of the international market.

Indeed, most of the accompanying measures (regulatory, structural and financial) have not always followed the withdrawal of the State from productive sectors, including agriculture. Then, the opening of local markets, brutally expose African farmers to unfair competition with subsidized products from the North. By the fact of the opening of markets, surplus production (cereals and animal products) industrialized countries have gone cheap on the African market. This greatly contributes to kill domestic production initiatives identical or substitutable products, whose production costs become higher than the price of subsidized imports. At a second level, the production of foodstuffs for export is made with little or no cost, given the distorted world prices by agricultural subsidies in developed countries. The case of African cotton is a palpable example.

Moreover, beside the main plots (EPAs, liberalization of agricultural markets advocated by the WTO, the EU, etc.) and different offensive for food colonization of Africa (GMOs, land grabbing, etc.), a number of factors common to family agriculture partly explain the many situations of transitory food insecurity. Indeed, with the exception of some areas where intensive farming has become, due to the increasing scarcity of cultivable land, the productive systems of small family farms, are very extensive and largely depend on the rain. The assets per cultivated area is low (less than 1 hectare), the tooling is often rudimentary, even if farmers often show ingenuity and a renewed ability to adapt. Animal manure, sparse, often remains poorly valued as animal traction is still underdeveloped. Imported input inaccessible financially, are usually reserved for peasant supervised projects / programs or rice monocultures for export (banana, cotton, coffee, cocoa, pineapple).

Justification of our action: why intervene in this area?

Inades Training believes that family farming is the basis of security and food sovereignty of people in Africa. Thus, the sine qua non solution to end hunger and food insecurity in Africa is support (political, economic, technical and institutional) and the promotion of family farming. Improving productivity, family farming will feed thousands of people each year suffer from hunger in sub-Saharan Africa.

On the other hand, Inades-Formation think family farming promotes better human assets, creating jobs, slowing the rural exodus and less exhausting natural resources when properly followed. Also, it adds value and strengthen the technical expertise of peasants / farmers. Finally, family farming can develop alternative technologies using in agricultural and livestock products as soil fertilizer. These technologies enable the practice of a clean and sustainable agriculture.

Accompanying actions in family farming initiatives

Inades Training is implementing several programs / support projects across 10 African countries in which it operates. These programs / projects aim to stimulate the systematization, experimentation and consolidation of support approach to the production, processing, preservation and collective marketing of agricultural products by small producers / producers (agricultural collective Entrepreneurship). Thus, it is to accompany the self-promotion initiatives of small farmers / producers around the agricultural sector in order to enhance their expertise in agriculture. To do this, Inades Training supports socio-professional organizations (PSOs) of peasants / farmers around the community self-help initiatives.

The strategy of supporting family farming initiatives

The approach to implement programs / projects support, has four (4) steps. It begins with an exploratory analysis to establish the baseline, identify strengths and weaknesses, the levers of development to help in decision making. After a return to the peasants / farmers, they are involved in the identification of a series of priority actions to be implemented to solve the problems identified by the exploratory analysis. A program / project takes shape from the identified actions. Inades Training contributes to the monitoring and evaluation of program / project through building sessions of technical capacity and support missions / advisory and animation mutual learning spaces.

In practice, Inades Training uses the accompanying approach peasant organizational dynamics (ADOPT). With this approach, Inades Training has developed tools and procedures to enable farmers’ organizations to design their development strategies and define the institutional forms adapted to their conditions and conducive to good governance.

Inades Training contributes to capacity building of managers of these peasant organizations, agents of state technical services and non-state advisory support and other development actors.

Inades-Formation participates in consultation frameworks initiated for the definition of national strategies and policies that are taken into account the concerns of rural Africa. This is also why it is involved in the reflection on the place and role of peasant organizations in the formulation of development policy processes. Because these policies should have a positive impact on poverty reduction and economic development in rural Africa.

To date, two types of farmers’ organizations are experimenting. It’s about :

farmer organizations to union whose mission is to influence development policies so that the interests of producers are taken into account.
farmers’ organizations in character both economic and social. Members will provide common services shall make available to their organizations financial resources and know-how. Inades Training strengthens their entrepreneurial capacities of rural microenterprises.
Publications Inades Training on agriculture

Several booklets series are to strengthen the capacity of development actors and small producers. For purchase, refer to the National Offices in countries where Inades-formation is represented or contact the General Secretariat in Abidjan (Ivory Coast).