September 2002 -- A high-level Consultation on
Agricultural Information Management (COAIM) opens today
at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization's (FAO)
headquarters in Rome.
Consultation (23-25 September 2002) brings together
policy-makers, funding agencies and major players in all
the relevant fields of agricultural information. Its main
objective is to improve the capacities of decision-makers,
professionals and the public at large to access and use
officials from the Agriculture Ministries of FAO Member
Countries, representatives from other UN organizations,
specialized agencies and intergovernmental organizations will
participate in the debate or attend as observers.
With agriculture in the 21st century moving rapidly
away from an artisanal, labour extensive, traditional activity
towards a sophisticated, information intensive sector of the
global economy, access to information and modern communication
technologies has become a necessity for the world's
farmers, especially in developing countries, according to FAO.
The agriculture of the future will entail
more efficient and sustainable production systems, making
optimal use of land, water and other natural resources.
Sustainable food production will rely more and more on
agricultural information management and communication
In this context, information
exchange aimed at enhancing food security will be essential to
all concerned: the government, the private sector, the academic
community, farmer organizations and civil society in general,
FAO experts say.
become a political issue. It is essential for markets, prices
and food security. COAIM will focus on how FAO can better help
its Member Countries to access, analyse and use information for
food security and sustainable agricultural
production," WAICENT manager Francisco Perez-Trejo,
WAICENT, the World Agricultural
Information Centre, is FAO's strategic framework on
agricultural information management.
"Thanks to Internet, information is available
worldwide, but it doesn't mean that the people are well
informed. That's what makes information management so
important," according to Perez-Trejo.
COAIM will discuss, among other issues, ways and means
to close the "digital divide" between rich
farmers in developed countries and poor rural communities in
developing countries through better information exchange and
innovative uses of modern communication technologies that can
increase food production in environmentally sound and
Rural people are
particularly affected by the "digital divide"
in the present context of globalization. They are handicapped by
the lack of communication infrastructure in their areas. To
prevent a widening of the gap between urban and rural
populations, public funding will be required to match private
investments in bringing radio, television and information
technology into rural areas. An estimated US$100 million per
year would be required for this, according to the
Anti-Hunger Programme presented last June by
FAO to its Member States.
The agenda of
COAIM also includes key topics such as producing operational
mechanisms for the implementation of FAO's mandate related
to food and agricultural information management; improving the
coordination of capacity building efforts; addressing issues
related to creating guidelines and standards; and other efforts
proposed by FAO to increase the flow of information and
communication. In addition, the Consultation will convene
special meetings on key aspects of information networks and
specialized systems such as FAOSTAT.
first COAIM took place in Rome in June 2000. Two years later, it
is expected that discussions will strengthen its role as an
international mechanism for policy dialogue on agricultural