Knowledge for a sustainable world

Bruno M D Tran

Dr Bruno Tran, Grain Postharvest Scientist at NRI, recently contributed to the first in a series of seminars organised by the All Party Parliamentary Group for Agriculture and Food for Development (APPG Ag4Dev).

The seminars, organised by Lis Wallace, Coordinator of the APPG Ag4Dev, brought together experts in the field of agriculture and food to explore the potential of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to help smallholder farmers, and to discuss the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.

Joining Bruno as speaker were Ben Addom from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), Alvaro Valverde from Oxfam and Benny Dembitzer from Grassroots Africa. Lord Boateng chaired the session.

Bruno Tran specialises in grain storage and the reduction of postharvest losses. He has a special interest in the use of ICT in development, and has 15 years experience in scientific research, teaching and project management.

Bruno illustrated the work that NRI is currently doing and planning in the field of ICTs for agriculture, using the example of his recent work in Zambia with the Word Food Programme (WFP) and the national Food Reserve Agency (FRA). In this pilot project Bruno and his team tested a tablet and cloud-based system for gathering and transmitting real time management information on the quantity and quality of maize purchased in rural areas by the FRA.

The project revealed that, although the tablets and software performed well, the intended users of the technology were not yet ready to benefit fully from the tablets and the new software. Longer term training and support would be required at a relatively high cost for it to be successful. A lower-tech solution would be more adapted to the situation for now.

Bruno said: "ICTs are tools for development. As such, they can be used well or not. And some tools are better than others. We are witnessing an explosion of approaches, apps and communication technology start-ups all over Africa. These are very exciting times!"