Agriculture Advisory Services

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A fundamental IS innovation which can serve as a foundation for further service delivery innovations is the digitizing of agriculture advisory content and the development of a searchable information database which captures existing advisory knowledge. The design of reliable reference database needs to take into account the existing agro-climatic zones, the soil map, maps of water resources and the current weather conditions, so that the advice retrieved from the database is customizable with respect to the different locations where problems are encountered. In order to set up services for the delivery of advice retrieved from this database, layers mapping available information delivery channels and local languages can be overlaid. The creation of a knowledge database can improve the viability of extension service delivery in multiple ways. Firstly, the design of the database can take into account the technical knowledge and experience of extension staff who are due to retire from the service, thereby supporting knowledge sharing practices. (Kolavalli et al. 2009) note that MoFA has approximately 6000 employees, stationed in regional and district offices. Instituting crowdsourcing mechanisms for populating the database can make use of these extensive, embodied knowledge resources and make them available to newly recruited staff for search and sharing. Additionally, the creation of a knowledge database can enable information sharing across roles. Given the current understaffing problems, existing extension staff will be provided with access to resources which enable them to carry out the activities characteristic of other roles i.e. “co-opt”. Thirdly, by deploying either an intermediated or a direct access architecture, such a database can widen considerably access to agriculture advisory content. The mandate of extension services is to enable knowledge transfer on a large scale among stakeholders in the agriculture sector. Yet, in-person access to advisory services is largely limited to the beneficiaries of programs implemented by agricultural extension agents. The creation of a knowledge database can strengthen access to advisory services by farmers who are not beneficiaries of projects facilitated by MoFA.

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