The lack of accurate and timely market information in the agro-input sector is an issue at continental, regional, national and local levels, and remains a key constraint to the development of agricultural business linkages and trade around the world, particularly in Africa. Significant progress continues to be made by public and private institutions to implement market information services using advanced information and communication technology (ICT) tools. However, the complexities of fertilizer, seed and crop protection product value chains remain major constraints for integration into broader information systems.
In 2008, IFDC conducted exploratory projects in East and southern Africa, subsequently proposing a “road map” to the implementation of a dedicated Agri-Input Technical and Marketing Information System (AMITSA) in collaboration with the area’s two regional economic communities (RECs), the East Africa Community (EAC) and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). In West Africa, a similar approach was taken in support of the Economic Community of West African States’ (ECOWAS) effort to build the agro-input components of its regional agricultural information system, the International Information System for the Agricultural Sciences and Technology (AGRIS).
These two regional initiatives are closely related to two continental initiatives implemented by IFDC – www.AfricaFertilizer.org and the Network for Agricultural Intensification in Sub-Saharan Africa (AISSA). AfricaFertilizer.org is a tool designed to fuel the Africa Green Revolution as outlined by the Abuja Declaration developed at the Africa Fertilizer Summit in Abuja, Nigeria in 2006. The AfricaFertilizer.org online platform serves as a global Internet forum to disseminate and exchange information on fertilizer production, trade, proper use and related topics of interest to Africa’s agricultural community. The AISSA website creates a forum for agricultural value chain participants to exchange information and experiences related to sustainable agricultural intensification.
Collectively, these MIS tools bring current, relevant and specialized information to the African continent in ways that are highly efficient and effective. And with rapidly increasing access to cell phones and Internet, even the more remote areas of the continent are benefiting from the information offered through this advanced technology.
A Common Strategy for MIS
Based on lessons learned from early MIS efforts, IFDC focuses on an integrated approach for these MIS tools in order to maximize their success, while optimizing costs and time to develop these tools and web sites. While IFDC remains the promoter of these tools, technical development was awarded in May 2009 to Explainer DC, a web development company based in Accra, Ghana.
A common set of tools and datasets allows document- and data-sharing across all related platforms. This open architecture is capable of sharing data with any type of MIS, from non-governmental organization systems to local, dedicated MIS third parties such as Esoko (formerly known as tradenet.biz), and regional portals such as AGRIS at ECOWAS or FAMIS at the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). The systems design provides convenient ways for any IFDC and/or non-IFDC project to contribute data and take advantage of these integrated features.
The common content management system that serves the AfricaFertilizer.org, AISSA and AMITSA websites includes a publication center, data center, directories, news, events, blogs, discussion forum, partners, links and other items of interest. All sites are available in English and in French, and usage is monitored through a dedicated statistic tool.
Recognizing that technology will only increase in its importance to world agricultural production and sustainability efforts, IFDC is fully committed to continuing its MIS efforts. The organization will seek continual growth and advancement in this area of information technology, with the goal of providing the most useful information in the most effective ways possible.