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Aligning digitalization with agroecological principles to support a transformation agenda

Hilbeck, Angelika; McCarrick, Hannah; Tisselli, Eugenio; Pohl, Johanna; Kleine, Dorothea

ECDF Working Paper Series

In this paper, we, firstly, critique the current forms of digitalisation of industrial agriculture and its ICT (information and communication technology) tools implemented with promises of achieving efficiency gains and sustainability goals. In the second part, we explore how ICT tools could support the transformation of these industrial forms of agriculture into truly sustainable agroecological forms. For this, we summarized proposed principles that offer guidance for the integration of ICTs into context-based, farmer-centered transitions to agroecology as recently published by IFOAM (International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements) and present examples for illustration from the East African country of Tanzania. While the examples we draw from are situated in a lower-middle-income country, the lessons learned and challenges identified may apply to other countries as well. Our main premise is that applying ICTs to support the transition toward agroecological food systems can be best achieved if ICT tools and platforms are developed according to principles that are in line with the key elements of agroecology as proposed by FAO (2018): 1) diversity, 2) co-creation and sharing of knowledge, 3) synergies, 4) efficiency, 5) recycling, 6) resilience, 7) human and social values, 8) culture and food traditions, 9) responsible governance, and 10) circular and solidarity economy, into the field of ICTs. However, the practical implementation of these principles for ICT for agroecology is a complex task that needs to carefully consider local environments and contexts at every step, as well as reconsidering the role of ICTs.