EGYPT: COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY STRENGTHENS LINKAGES BETWEEN AGRICULTURE RESEARCH AND EXTENSION
Why build an information network?
An analysis of the effectiveness of agricultural development research in Egypt revealed a critical need to complement and expand those activities associated with agricultural knowledge and information sharing with extension services and local farmers.
In response, a Virtual Extension and Research Communication Network (VERCON) was established in 2000. Its aim was to strengthen linkages among the research and extension components of the national agricultural knowledge and information system. The network was made possible through a TCP project with a budget of US$236 000.
Embracing the ‘virtual’ network
The project, which ended in 2002, designed an operational framework for the network and developed a computerized version of VERCON, in both English and Arabic, which was made available on the Internet. Four pilot centres were identified and equipped for accessing VERCON, and national staff were trained in using the network and producing CD-ROMs and related printed and audio-visual materials for research and extension staff.
The project also provided recommendations and guidelines for establishing a national VERCON which was launched in April 2003. The Government has identified at least 58 new VERCON sites and committed financial resources for the network's maintenance, enhancement and expansion.
The ripple effect....
To complement VERCON activities, the project prepared a Rural Development Communication Network project to provide innovative means of conveying useful information to farmers. The project was approved in April 2004 with a budget of US$1.5 million, under the
Debt-for-Development Programme between the Government of Italy and Egypt. Various national institutions and government departments are now working towards developing new linkages with stakeholders who are active at the village level.
The project has raised interest among countries in the region. Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria have requested FAO assistance to establish a regional VERCON.
Officers at the village extension centre in Karf El Sheik use a database to identify the disease affecting the cabbage leaves. If they do not find an answer right away they can email a photograph of the leaves to a specialist in a research centre.