If we take into account the whole of the Rural Communication System in Mexico, whether it was working for peasant farmers in the tropical wetlands, helping farmers to take over the responsibility for the irrigation districts, or providing information by a computerized system to commercial farmers in Sonora, we must come to the conclusion that there have never been more imaginative communication programmes in the rural sector. Despite all of the problems, the conceptual and technical aspects of communication for development were brilliantly handled in the 17 years beginning in 1978, and extremely valuable experience in rural development was gained.
Development agencies and most governments today talk of the need for participation in development programmes, but they often admit in the same breath that they do not know how to go about achieving it. Mexico's Rural Communication System provides a good example of how it can be done.
The Sonora Technical Information and Communication Unit is an important pilot operation because it has implications for many other situations in which commercial farmers need to become more competitive and market their produce better. Like the other communication activities in Mexico, it also has great potential for application in other countries.
The main weaknesses in the Communication System lay in the managerial aspects and in the inability to institutionalise it as part of the national rural development policy. But then, no other country has institutionalised communication for development either, even if Mali and some other African countries are now trying to do so. Perhaps information and communication systems like the one in Sonora are more likely to become institutionalised than those aiming to help small, mainly subsistence farmers. For they have the advantage, on the one hand, of using Internet technology which is prestigious and on the other, they are directed towards a commercially very important farming sector whose success in world markets has a more direct impact on the national economy than do the rural poor.
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