Tech4agri: the web series Ep 5 – Pests vs Diseases vs You

What would you do if a pest or disease infested your crop and you stood to lose 40 – 50% of your investment and future profits?

This episode answers just this question with farmers who are seeking or receiving help to combat their pest/disease problem. We found out that climate change plays a clear role in the prevalence of the issue but is this the only reason?

Watch the episode to find out more!

A major part of this episode features the efforts of the Plantwise program-  a global programme led by CABI, which works to help farmers lose less of what they grow to plant health problems.

Working closely with national agricultural advisory services they establish and support sustainable networks of plant clinics, run by trained plant doctors, where farmers can find practical plant health advice.


World Food Day 2014 –Tobago

This video highlights just some of the many activities of #WFD14 on the island of Tobago. The stakeholders of the local agricultural sector impress attendees every year with the varied areas of interest that agriculture provides. Many are encouraged to began production at home and more importantly to venture into the sector on a part time basis or even as a full fledged producer. Kudos to videographer, LukeSmith T.V for capturing these activities and most notably highlighting the youth who are exposed to our all important industry at such a young age.

Challenges to Replicating & Scaling up: ICT4Ag Projects

The Panel of the CTA organized seminar on Scaling up ICT projects in Agriculture at the CWA 2014. Photo by Faumuina Felolini Maria Tafuna’i (@WIBDI_Samoa)

In the course of the activities of Tech4agri there has been heavy engagement with young entrepreneurs in the field that utilize a variety of ICTs in their agriculture projects. However they face challenges that prevent the progress of these projects.

Hurdles to overcome

Major amongst these challenges is lack of agri knowledge. While the majority of youth are tech savy and forward thinking, case in point the young developers of the Agrihack Talent Competition, a background in any field of study related to agriculture is missing. As a result apps, products and services that are developed using ICTs are not an exact fit for end users.

Who they are specifically, their problems,their needs and their capabilities in terms of understanding ICTs are all questions that should be answered prior, during and after development. Feedback from end users and partnerships with relevant stakeholders is key.

From the presentations given by the app developers aforementioned competition at the CWA 2014, it is clear that they have recognized this challenge with some having already taken steps to overcome it.

Linked to this is another issue that lies in a general disconnect with local and regional agriculture. Within sectors or fields of study, there exist rigid lines of separation, so that persons who have a great interest agriculture but are of a different background lose their initiative in our all important sector due to a lack of support services.

In the case of tech4agri emphasis has been placed on securing start up funds via open business competitions both at the national and regional level. However all applications thus far have failed. Despite this, within  the agricultural diaspora tech4agri has done well, winning several awards building social currency, a good reputation, and representing the youth voice in agriculture.

Is it that tech4agri lacks something in particular or that general business experts are similarly detached from agriculture?

Moving forward

Despite these challenges the opportunities for scaling up are available. There has been an overall push towards the establishment of ICT hubs, tech centers and business incubators however there is room for some specification towards agri related enterprises.

Additionally the number of educational programmes, for youth in Agri, ICT or otherwise within the Caribbean is quite significant, but therein lies the problem.  These programmes can certainly be partly diversified, exposing students to other fields which can contribute to efforts in scaling up in the future.

Such an action would be more sustainable in comparison to yearly or one off events that foster a limited number of projects chosen for support; granted those projects are the cream of the crop.

Lastly many of us are aware of the chronic problems of organization and implementation that face the caribbean. If we can ensure the sustainability of programmes and initiatives which continually support youth, ICT for agri projects and agribusiness much greater benefit for the overall sector can be achieved.


Dr. Jimmy Smith and Keron Bascombe at the GCARD2

This week we conclude an interview with Dr. Jimmy Smith of the International Livestock Research Institute as he explains those factors which contributed to his success in the agriculture industry.

Interviewer: What were the main success factors throughout your career?

Dr. Smith: It doesn’t matter whether you work hard or you work smart. The key attribute is that your work is visible to those in authority.

We are all in a fish bowl and when working. people are always looking at you.

It is your job to impress them as at some point someone will provide the opportunity you need to get to the next step.

A part of visibility involves interaction with many persons. In the working environment ensure to build trust with your superiors and co workers.

People do business with who they like and trust.

Lastly in the face of serious obstacles such as prejudice, social and cultural differences, and even language barriers, you must be motivated to transcend them.

If you are truly dedicated to the field, you have to make it work for you.

Continue reading

It has been some time since the last post, however I encourage all readers to look forward to the continuity of this blog. Such an endeavor requires dedication, a trait we should all have, especially within the agriculture industry.

No matter, which sector you are interested in, if you are agri youth, or a high level stakeholder dedication and persistence is key within this noble profession.

At the GCARD2 event, there were a small number of professionals representing the Caribbean. One of the most stand out individuals was Dr. Jimmy Smith, Director of the International Livestock Research Insititute (ILRI).

Fortunately, an interview was made possible with Dr. Smith allowing an insight into the factors to achieving success in this noble profession:

Dr. Jimmy Smith – Director General of the International Livestock Research Institute

Interviewer: Dr. Smith, pleasure to meet you. Please briefly explain your career, from your beginnings as a Caribbean Youth in Agriculture to present time.

Dr. Smith: Please call me Jimmy. To start with here are concise points to my career:

  • Began as a  Guyanese youth and one of  seven children. Our family practices mixed farming of cattle and citrus
  • Studied at the Guyana school of agriculture and earned a diploma in agriculture
  • Moved onto a Bachelor’s of Science in Animal Agriculture at the Tuskegee University in Alabama, then a PHd in Animal Physiology
  • Worked at the Caribbean Agriculture Research Institute and then migrated to Canada for a position at the Canadian Development Institute.
  • Some time after, I became a part of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)
  • Following this, 10 years of my career was spent in Africa at the International Livestock Center for Africa (now called ILRI)
  • Previously, my portfolio involved the leadership and management of the World Bank’s Livestock Portfolio
  • And most recently appointed the Director General of ILRI in April 2011

Continue reading

Using the technology we’ve got!

A supervisor explains to the students the equipment used for the weather station, the system itself and what measurements are available.

Did you know that some people do not believe in climate change?! I hope you aren’t one of them as much of global discourse focuses on this topic and its effects on agriculture in addition to the increased instances of natural disasters. As we all know once crops and livestock are lost due to any kind of inclement weather there is no replacing them.

Therefore predicting weather conditions and patterns is clearly important. On the ABS Study Tour that was recently held in Jamaica, students visited the Sam Motta Demonstration and Training Centre (SMDTC) to examine their Goat and Sheep breeding and production programme. However in the process of this learning event, we were exposed to the station’s recently acquired weather monitoring system.

The equipment is quite impressive offering regular updates on weather patterns/measurements and easy access via internet and USB connection capability. However the system is not connected to the internet reducing its effectiveness.Though the technology is present it is simply being underutilized.

On the other end of the spectrum, I came across this video on (Click the link to see the video). It explains the “John Deere Mobile Weather Device  which is now available for application equipment to help operators make proper weather-related decisions.”

Therefore when tending to lands in their tractor, or other vehicle the farm operator is able to identify how weather conditions such as wind velocity, precipitation and humidity may affect the application of a product such as fertilizer or pesticide. This allows the farmer to effectively apply this product at all times.

That’s quite impressive in my book. Although we may not have need for such technology, we here in the Caribbean should make full use of what we’ve got. In this case it’s just as good!

Weather Station at Sam Motta Demonstration Station, Jamaica