E-Agriculture

Mario Acunzo

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Mario Acunzo
Mario AcunzoFAOItaly

Dear All,

I think this consultation is underlining key issues about the role of communication in family farming, such as: a) the need for participatory and demand drive rural communication services that have to be planned and negotiated among different rural actors (e.g. farmers organizations, extension services, municipalities, etc.) with a view to their institutionalization; b) the importance to harness the potential of community media and the ICTs and to blend them ensuring a real appropriation by family farmers and development agents; c) the need to promote policy frameworks for inclusive rural communication services; and d) the importance of strengthening local capacities in participatory communication and the use of ICTs.

I cconsider very important to facilitate a dialogue among different constituencies (e.g. farmers ‘associations, development agencies, governments, etc) about the need for communication policies in support of the agricultural sector. It is also crucial to document evidences of the results generated at the field level by the use of the ICTs and community media and to promote knowledge sharing and collaboration among ComDev practitioners and development programmes. These are key areas of work to improve rural communication services and I hope that the upcoming Forum on Communication for Development and Community Media for Family Farming (Rome 23-24 October, 2014) will provide the opportunity to identify and agree on strategic partnerships and initiatives to face these challenges.

Mario Acunzo
Mario AcunzoFAOItaly

 

We all know that farmers have often access individually to ICTs or community media, but they face different constraints (e.g. connectivity, contents, lack of appropriate communication methodologies, etc.) as highlighted by Agit Maru and others, under discussion thread 1.

These problems cannot be adequately solved unless they are dealt systematically and in an integrated manner. I think that the focus should not be on technologies (e.g. ICTs vs. community media) but rather on the need for integrated rural communication services to facilitate equitable access to knowledge and information and to give the voice to farmers and communities. This implies promoting  communication/ICTs policies for the rural sector that should be designed bringing together rural institutions and farmers’ organizations, as well as enhancing the capacities of the service operators and communities involved in the process.

 

Mario Acunzo
Mario AcunzoFAOItaly

Dear All,

It is a pleasure to join this discussion. I would like to share some field experiences about to how to facilitate access to knowledge and information to farmers through Communication for development (ComDev). I think the issue is that there is a need for planned and systematic use of communication activities/processes rather than just media and ICTs. There is also a need for reliable rural communication services integrating several media (ICTs, community media, etc) to serve multiple purposes, as well as for mechanisms to allow farmers’ participation in the definition of these services.

 I would like to refer to an example from the Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS). AIS  includes a multitude of actors, such as producer organizations, research institutes, extension and advisory services, universities, governments, individual farmers, producer organizations and private sector groups (traders, processors, supermarkets, etc.) involved in a variety of processes related to improving agriculture. Communication plays a key role in linking up those actors and in improving the processes and services related to agricultural innovation. In particular extension and research institutions, as well as farmers organizations may benefit a great deal by including systematically ComDev strategies and plans based on needs assessment of information and communication needs of different rural audiences along the value chain.  

 The application of ComDev in AIS can be well exemplified by the work of the Communication for Sustainable Development Initiative (CSDI) in Bolivia. The project was launched in 2008 by FAO to develop, test and implement ComDev strategies and tools for sound environmental practices and sustainable rural development.

 In collaboration with the National Institute for Innovation in Agriculture, Livestock and Forestry (INIAF) a national ComDev plan was implemented to enhance participation, dialogue and knowledge sharing among different AIS stakeholders. The project carried out participatory communication appraisals (PRCA) in order to identify needs of rural communities and local institutions in four pilot areas tackling topics prioritized by INIAF and other agricultural organizations. Furthermore, in each pilot area communication a series of Espacios Locales de concertación (Local negotiation space) were facilitated – involving farmer organizations and cooperatives, small-scale producers, local governments, NGOs and media - as platforms for dialogue and informed decision making.

 Based on the results of local consultations, each community came up with a Local Innovation and Communication Plan (PLIC) identifying activities to support agricultural innovation and to  at building local communication capacities.  In particular, a set of communication tools and materials were developed and consolidated into knowledge and communication modules (KCM), following the principles of the Audiovisual Pedagogy:

  • recovery of farmers’ traditional knowledge and scientific knowledge;
  • direct reference to the producers’ reality and use of local language;
  • practical learning designed for smallholders and rural families;
  • active participation of producers in the collective learning process;
  • training sessions carried out where producers live, not interfering in productive activities;
  • use of audiovisual media to overcome literacy barriers for transmission of knowledge;
  • choice of appropriate technical information according to the different groups.

 Each KCM consists of a set of information and communication tools including videos, audio tracks and printed materials such as booklets, guides, flipcharts, brochures and posters.

As a tangible result of this experience a series of PLICs based on the use of KCM were implemented in each pilot area to share local and technical knowledge and facilitate participatory learning:

  1. Pasture management for dairy cattle
  2. Direct sowing for sustainable production
  3. Water harvesting for diversified crops
  4. Forage conservation: sorghum silage

 .An evaluation case study conducted in the project area highlighted how the ComDev methods used were appropriate to the characteristics of the target population. The training approach was primarily based on learning-by-doing, knowledge dialogue and exchange of experiences, conducted in a highly participatory, dynamic and interactive manner. The set of multimedia materials developed, especially video, proved effective in showing the concrete possibility for change and innovation in local settings. The end-users were considerably satisfied with the capacity development offered at community level. Video was considered the most relevant and useful tool to show similar farming experiences and demonstrate how the production increase experienced by other producers who adopted a new practice. The facilitators were satisfied with the process of mutual learning and consolidated their capacity to use ComDev methods as a tool for their work. The study detected new knowledge and work practices in the community, as a result of the training and practical activities that sparked the interest of the participants and motivated them to adopt the innovation.

This experience showcase the need for a shift from the use of ICTs for technology transfer based, to a broader understanding of how to involve multiple stakeholders in an innovation process through ComDev. A way to approach agricultural innovation and to promote social change based on a participatory communication approach rather than technologies.