App to bring new era of digital farmers

A knowledge sharing application (app) is currently being developed to usher in a new era of digital farmers in Samoa as part of a partnership between a UN agency and the Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries. 

The app being developed 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.

The initiative is being led by the Ministry’s Agriculture Sector Coordination Division and a workshop introduced the concept of the mobile app to a control group of farmers, who will participate in the app trials once it has been completed.

Data analyst and mobile app developer Tooa Brown is tasked with designing and developing the mobile app, according to a statement. 

She said that the idea for the app branched off from the monitoring and evaluation visits to farmers currently participating in Samoa Agriculture and Fisheries Productivity Project (S.A.F.P.R.O.M) Matching Grants programme who are using traditional record books.

"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," she said.

"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."

Farmers who attended the workshop welcomed the digital agriculture platform and had given ideas of what they wanted to incorporate into the app such as access to markets, weather information, central platform for farmers to network and problem solve and share testimonials.

Ms. Brown also said a lot of the feedback she received from farmers is that the app is a good avenue for people who are new to farming.

"We need to come up with something that's going to be relevant to any farmer from the beginner to the commercial level," she said.

"There are many other existing concepts 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."

According to the Ministry's Assistant Chief Executive Officer, Dr. Ramona Sulifoa, the goal was 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.

Dr. Sulifoa also said it is important to them to have farmers drive the project as they are the ones who are going to use the app.

"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," she said.

"By making the farmers community part of the knowledge production chain; their knowledge and experience can be organised, used and preserved."

According to the media release, the idea came from the gaps identified by the A.S.C.D. in the process of monitoring and evaluating farming developments under the S.A.F.P.R.O.M.

The second phase of the mobile app development is expected to start next month and will be followed by trials with the control farmers group before it is launched.

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