E-agriculture (sometimes written eagriculture or referred to as ICT in agriculture) is a relatively recent term in the field of agriculture and rural development practices. Consistency in the use of this term began to materialize with the dissemination of results from a global survey carried out by the United Nations (UN). This survey conducted in late 2006 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) found that half of those who replied identified "e agriculture" with information dissemination, access and exchange, communication and participation processes improvements around rural development. In contrast, less than a third highlighted the importance of technical hardware and technological tools.
E-agriculture, therefore, describes an emerging field focused on the enhancement of agricultural and rural development through improved information and communication processes. More specifically, e-agriculture involves the conceptualization, design, development, evaluation and application of innovative ways to use information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the rural domain, with a primary focus on agriculture.
In 2008, the United Nations referred to e-agriculture as "an emerging field", with the expectation that its scope would change and evolve as our understanding of the area grows.
Many ICT in agriculture or e-agriculture interventions have been developed and tested around the world, with varied degrees of success, to help agriculturists improve their livelihoods through increased agricultural productivity and incomes, and reduction in risks. Some useful resources for learning about e-agriculture in practice are the World Bank’s e-sourcebook ICT in agriculture – connecting smallholder farmers to knowledge, networks and institutions (2011), ICT uses for inclusive value chains (2013), ICT uses for inclusive value chains (2013) and Success stories on information and communication technologies for agriculture and rural development have documented many cases of use of ICT in agriculture.
The FAO-ITU E-agriculture Strategy Guide provides a framework to holistically address the ICT opportunities and challenges for the agricultural sector in a more efficient manner while generating new revenue streams and improve the livelihoods of the rural community as well as ensure the goals of the national agriculture master plan are achieved.The existence of e-agriculture strategy and its alignment with other government plans will prevent e-agriculture projects and services from being implemented in isolation.
The FAO-ITU E-agriculture Strategy Guide was developed by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) with support from partners including the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) as a framework for countries in developing their national e-agriculture strategy/masterplan.
Some of the countries who are using the FAO-ITU E-agriculture Strategy Guide to develop their national e-agriculture strategy are Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Fiji and Vanuatu. The guide provides a framework to engage a broader stakeholders in the development of national e-agriculture strategy.
ICT in support of rural poverty elimination and food security
In August 2003, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the UK Department for International Development (DFID) and the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) joined together in a collaborative research project to look at bringing together livelihoods thinking with concepts from information and communication for development, in order to improve understanding of the role and importance of information and communication in support of rural livelihoods.
The policy recommendations included:
- Building on existing systems, while encouraging integration of different technologies and information sharing
- Determining who should pay, through consensus and based on a thorough analysis of the costs
- Ensuring equitable access to marginalised groups and those in the agricultural sector
- Promoting localised content, with decentralised and locally owned processes
- Building capacity, through provision of training packages and maintaining a choice of information sources
- Using realistic technologies, that are suitable within the existing infrastructure
- Building knowledge partnerships to ensure that knowledge gaps are filled and a two-way flow of information allows knowledge to originate from all levels of the network and community.
The importance of ICT is also recognized in the 8th Millennium Development Goal, with the target to "...make available the benefits of new technologies, especially information and communications technologies (ICTs)" to the fight against poverty.
E-agriculture is one of the action lines identified in the declaration and plan of action (2003) of the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS). The "Tunis Agenda for the Information Society", published on 18 November 2005, emphasizes the leading facilitating roles that UN agencies need to play in the implementation of the Geneva Plan of Action.
FAO hosted the first e-agriculture workshop in June 2006, bringing together representatives of leading development organizations involved in agriculture. The meeting served to initiate development of an effective process to engage as wide a range of stakeholders involved in e-agriculture, and resulted in the formation of the e-Agriculture Community, a community of practice. The e-Agriculture Community's Founding Partners  include: Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR); Technical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development (CTA); FAO; Global Alliance for Information and Communication Technologies and Development (GAID); Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR); Global Knowledge Partnership (GKP); Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit (now called Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit, GIZ); International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists (IAALD); Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA); International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD); International Centre for Communication for Development (IICD); United States National Agricultural Library (NAL); United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA); the World Bank.
- e-Agriculture Community of Practice
- Mangstl, A. (2008). "Emerging Issues, Priorities and Commitments in e-Agriculture". AgInfo Worldwide. 1 (1).
- "World Bank's e-sourcebook ICT in agriculture – connecting smallholder farmers to knowledge, networks and institutions (2011)". World Bank. 20 May 2015. Archived from the original on 20 March 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "ICT uses for inclusive value chains (2013)" (PDF). FAO. 20 May 2015. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "Information and communication technologies for sustainable agriculture (2013)" (PDF). FAO. 20 May 2015. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- "Success stories on information and communication technologies for agriculture and rural development" (PDF). FAO. 20 May 2015. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- E-agriculture Strategy Guide
- "FAO-ITU E-agriculture Strategy Guide" (PDF). FAO. 20 May 2016. Retrieved 9 June 2016.
- Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO)
- International Telecommunication Union (ITU)
- Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA)
- Robert Chapman; Tom Slaymaker; John Young. "Livelihoods Approaches to Information and Communication in Support of Rural Poverty Elimination and Food Security" (PDF). Overseas Development Institute. Retrieved September 25, 2016.
- "WSIS: Plan of Action".
- "WSIS: Tunis Agenda for the Information Society".
- "Partners - E-Agriculture".