ICT tools for rural development in Peru

Case study: The Huaral Valley Agrarian Information System

This case study assesses the use of ICT tools in rural Peru to improve agricultural productivity. The area of the Huaral Valley is an extremely dry area, but agriculture is the primary economic activity there. Accordingly, in the late 1970s, the government overtook the oversight of irrigation systems to ensure better water resource management. This ICT project attempted to create an Agrarian Information System (AIS) to help the irrigation boards better manage their resources (which was difficult considering not all of the board offices had computers and internet access) and to link farmers to critical information. Before, farmers did not rely on the technologies commonly used for agriculture in developed countries, such as weather forecasts and formal information. By connecting these farmers to resources over the internet, however, they would ideally be able to improve their crop outputs, thereby alleviating some of the poverty of the area.

This project, which has been operating since 2005, has provided computers and wireless internet access for every irrigation board office throughout the region and has placed computers in 10 rural villages to serve as access points for the previously underserved communities. In this way, the project was able to narrow the knowledge gap and wear down the digital divide. The system allows the irrigation board leaders to better monitor and allocate their water resources and allows farmers to access previously
unattainable information.

Now, information flows more freely through the region. Though the extent to which farmers’ productivity has increased as a direct result of this project has yet to be measured, the impact on the irrigation efforts is more tangible. Additionally, the project shows some best practices for ICT development projects as it focuses on sustainability and a variety of stakeholders. The buy-in from the irrigation boards and Commission has proved essential to the viability of the project. While these stakeholders are currently seeking to make the project function more similarly to a business model, their faith in the project is invaluable to its future success. Also, the project incorporated people from all sectors of society: the main
irrigation board, smaller irrigation commissions, government ministries, local and national agricultural institutions, and the community members themselves. For the future, the program leaders hope to keep expanding, offering computers and internet access to even more of the rural population. Additionally, there is currently a trial of 30 community members who have been given smartphones. The organizers hope to find a way in which these phones can contribute to the productivity and output of the local farmers.

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