Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific

Extend the role of COPs and networks to advocacy and social mobilization beyond dissemination of innovation and sharing learning in agriculture suggests discussion at eIndia

India, 31 Jul 2008 -- "The Role of COPs and Networks in e-Agriculture" a panel discussion at eIndia.

Over a two hour session a group of distinguished panelists discussed with the eIndia audience the role of communities of practice (COPs) and networks in e-Agriculture. The discussion was moderated by Shalini Kala, IDRC. Rikin Gandhi of Microsoft Research, Digital Green; Alexander Flor of the University of Philippines Open University; Gopi Ghosh of Solution Exchange & FAO; and Michael Riggs of e-Agriculture & FAO, were the panel members. They clarified the concepts of e-Agriculture, COPs and networks and how these can support agriculture and agriculturists.

A diverse audience composed of research scholars, civil society representatives, donors and private sector enriched the discussion raising different issues with the panelists. Agriculture information transfer is a very complex process. COPs and networks bring together people working in agriculture to share both expert and experiential knowledge and disseminate innovation. Thus, wherever there is a knowledge gap COPs have a role to play.

They work well if they are targeted, the purpose is clear and focused, members have incentives to participate, and ICT tools used are appropriate for the COP members. These same factors also have a role to play when engaging stakeholders, especially farmers, in building and sustaining COPs and networks.

Given the nature of agriculture production, if COPs and new ICT tools can improve the speed of information transfer, for instance to tackle a pest attack, they can be very useful for agriculturists.

The discussion also identified the need to generate more evidence regarding impact of COPs and networks on e-agriculture and referred to work that is on-going on the research frameworks to assess this.

The panelist felt it is important to have a clear incentive structure to sustain COPs and extend their role to advocacy and social mobilization.

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