A survey of information systems reaching small producers in global agricultural value chains
Parikh, T.S.; Patel, N.; Schwartzman, Y., "A survey of information systems reaching small producers in global agricultural value chains," Information and Communication Technologies and Development, 2007. ICTD 2007. International Conference on , vol., no., pp.1-11, 15-16 Dec. 2007
Smallholder farmers face many challenges competing in the global marketplace. One major constraint is the lack of access to information and communications, which could be used to make decisions and reach new markets. In this paper, drawing from our experiences designing agricultural information systems in India and Central America, we provide a framework for understanding inter-stakeholder communications within agricultural value chains, focusing on the needs of small producers. First, we outline the major types of stakeholders - including farmers, consumers, intermediaries and various supporting organizations. Then, we survey the major categories of information systems supporting communication between stakeholders, focusing on those reaching small farmers. Based on this survey, we provide the following categorization of information flows within agricultural value chains: 1) link-to-link (L2L): those information flows required to coordinate the sale, movement, and distribution of produce along the value chain, 2) peer-to-peer (P2P): communications required to share knowledge and experiences between members of the same stakeholder group, and the expert community serving that stakeholder group and 3) end-to-end (E2E): communications between producers and consumers, for example, to facilitate exchange of non-economic values to be used as external inputs to market pricing (e.g, certification). We outline some reasons why current information systems have had difficulty in reaching small producers, and highlight a few technology trends that could contribute to increasing the fidelity and accessibility of communications, both between producers and consumers, as well as within their respective stakeholder communities.