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About SD

October 2003

Announcement of a publication

Participatory communication: a key to rural learning systems

by Gary Coldevin

in collaboration with the
Communication for Development Group
Extension, Education and Communication Service
FAO Research, Extension and Training Division

During the past three decades, the role of communication has undergone a dramatic change from a one-way, top-down transfer of messages by technicians to farmers, to a social process which starts with farmers and brings together both groups in a two-way sharing of information among communication equals. This approach, known as participatory communication, highlights the importance of cultural identity, concerted action and dialogue, local knowledge and stakeholder participation at all levels: international, local and individual.

In recognizing that rural people are at the heart of development, participatory communication has become the key link between farmers, extension, and research for planning and implementing consensus-based development initiatives. Increased food production implies the need for new technologies, new skills, changed attitudes and practices, and new ways to collaborate. All of this requires that farmers have access to what they consider to be relevant information and knowledge.

Along with communication, a parallel investment in "human capital" through education and training of adults is essential for project success and for effective development. The focus is on having farmers become active partners and key actors in their own development projects. The process begins by "listening to rural people" and a shift to farmer-led identification of learning and training needs through critical reflection based on practical experience.

This publication was prepared by Gary Coldevin in collaboration with FAO's Communication for Development Group. It is an attempt to focus on some issues in the vast field of communication and education for development. It provides an overview of the tools and methodologies of participatory communication as well as some of the most significant experiences of FAO's Communication for Development Group, arguably one of the foremost practitioner of applied communication for agricultural and rural development over the past thirty years. Many practitioners are frequently confronted with a myriad of participatory communication approaches; we hope they will find in this publication a useful conceptual tool to guide their work in developing countries.

Ester Zulberti
Chief
Extension, Education and Communication Service

Click here to see the full publication (pdf format). Will soon be available in html.



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