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Accepted Paper:

A lot of mess in the space… a lot of facade: grand claims vs. realities in the digitalization of agriculture in Ghana  
Fabio Gatti (Wageningen University) Sam Nicholas Atanga (Independent Researcher) Oane Visser (International Institute of Social Studies (ISS))

Short abstract:

In this paper we discuss the tensions between international donors’ claims and everyday enactments of digital farm technologies. We highlight 1) limited accessibility for smalholders 2) technologies’ ambiguous role in smallholder empowerment 3) AgTech firms’ data-driven value extraction.

Long abstract:

In the past few years, digital technologies have entered the rural space as a triple-win solution capable of achieving, at the same time, food security goals, reducing farming’s environmental impact, and enhancing farm profitability or - in the global South - lifting smallholder farmers out of poverty. However, with the exception of some sociological inquiries in the Global North, empirical studies looking at Global South contexts, often the main target of donors and international development agencies’ discourses, remain scarce. This research aims at filling this gap. By looking at discourses around digitalization of agriculture in Africa, in combination with in-depth field research in one the major African digital innovation hubs (Ghana), our paper discusses the tensions between the grand claims of international donors and some of the material enactments of digital farming technologies on the ground. By highlighting 1. the limited accessibility of most of these technologies for small scale farmers; 2. the ambiguous and complex role of these technologies in empowering smallholder farmers in their daily practices and 3. the often overlooked importance of farmers’ data for value extraction in most AgTech companies' business models, we contend that the discourses of policy makers, tech companies and international donors around the digitalization of agriculture in Africa must be carefully scrutinized.

Traditional Open Panel P210
Digital technologies in food and agriculture: merging STS with Critical Agrifood Studies
  Session 1 Tuesday 16 July, 2024, -