The importance of mobile phone applications (“mobile apps”) to farmers and agri-businesses was highlighted in a recent workshop held in Lautoka.
The Mobile Applications Workshop introduced participants to a range of mobile phone applicationsspecifically designed for farmers, agri-food processors and exporters, as well as produce buyers in the tourism and retail industries.
The workshop was organized by the International Trade Centre (ITC) in collaboration with the Fiji Crop and Livestock Council(FCLC), and funded by the European Union.
Dr Thao Nguyen, ITC consultant in information technology and facilitator of the workshop, introduced the pilot versions of the mobile apps to forty-seven participants for their feedback. Participants included partners from FCLC, the European Union, Ministry of Agriculture, BioSecurity Authority of Fiji, as well as fresh produce exporters and farmers. Among the applications that were introduced to the group, were:
- Fiji Makete:a market trading facility that provides an opportunity for farmers to sell their products to potential buyers;
- mAlerts: an information distribution system that allows users to reach multiple parties via SMS text messaging. This online system will be used by FCLC to send industry important messages targeted to audiences in defined locations.
- FCLC membership registration: a mobile app enabling users to register with FCLC via their mobile phone;
- mPrices: a market price tracking system, that will let users know the current weekly retail prices of a range of fresh produce at municipal markets around Fiji. This system will build on the current manual system of data collection, by using mobile phone technology to provide pricing information quickly and efficiently for use by all agriculture industry stakeholders. Farmers can use the system to make selling decisions, buyers and exporters can set best prices and others will use the information for planning, statistics and other non-trading uses;
- Farmers’ tips: an agricultural tips SMS messaging service available to FCLC membersthat provides useful information on growing crops, pest and disease control and practical advice to common problems faced by farmers.
Mr. Simon Cole, Interim Chairman of FCLC said “the mobile phone [FCLC registration] platform will provide an easy and quick opportunity for farmers to join. Once they do, we can be in contact with them throughout Fiji providing access to critical information, like market fluctuations and crop protection, and just as importantly, giving farmers the ability to interact with the Council, express their concerns and suggest improvements, shared knowledge that will make our industry stronger.”
Commenting on the results of the workshop, Dr. Nguyen said that the feedback from workshop participants had been most informative, as they are representative of the group that will use these mobile phone applications in their everyday business. “This will be used as a guide for further development of applications that farmers and other stakeholders have indicated would be helpful for their businesses and agricultural support work and service delivery.”
It is expected that the mobile phone applications will be operational by the middle of the year. A number of the applications will be hosted by FCLC.
The Fiji Crop & Livestock Council (FCLC) is composed of eleven agricultural sub-sectors that represent farmers throughout Fiji and is presently made up of the Pig, Dairy, Beef, Sheep/Goat, Root Crop, Ginger, Kava, Honey, Fruit, Salad Vegetables and Coconut Associations, as well as Food Processors.
The main objective of the FCLC is to act as an apex forum for advocacy to better represent the needs of farmers to Government and stakeholders, including banks, aid and rehabilitation agencies and potential new investors, as well as raise the profile of Fiji’s farmers involved with crops and livestock production.