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The criteria for the particular selection of libraries included in the survey are covered in section one. Our assessment of the existing information resources for aquatic farming systems is based upon site visits, detailed questionnaires and discussions with both library and research staff.

In most of the countries, there is a continuing loss of institutional memory due to the fast turnover of responsible personnel and frequent administrative reorganizations coupled with the absence of a central repository for technical reports on aquatic farming systems at national or sub-regional level; documentation of past research programmes and development project activities become rapidly inaccessible to most researchers and developers; it has even been observed that it may physically disappear from the country after a few years only.

The differences between the individual libraries, even within countries, are substantial in terms of facilities, collections and access to information. However, some general comparisons can be made between libraries in the geographical sub-regions and between the francophone and anglophone countries. Most notably is the advantageous position of those libraries in Eastern and Southern Africa in terms of:

Despite the relative disadvantages of those libraries in Western and Sahelian francophone Africa related to the above, there are many important information and documentation activities undertaken by all the libraries visited:

In general, one can conclude that the differences in the physical facilities and budgets of the libraries are enormous, but that the types and level of activity and information services have many features in common. It is also a common experience that the libraries, even the wealthier ones, rely more and more on access to external information sources and on the sharing of resources. Budgetary constraints and the increasing amount of information sources available at ever increasing cost, particularly in a subject area with the breadth of aquatic farming systems, make it impossible for libraries to acquire all of the relevant publications necessary to satisfy user demand.

In addition to the economic burden of access to international and commercially available information, the lack of access to the results and findings of research between the different sub-regions and between the anglophone and francophone African countries is a major obstacle to development. The barrier separating the francophone and anglophone sub-regions results not only from linguistic problems but also from the distribution pattern of information resources. The research and development results/problems in one sub-region are therefore mostly ignored in the other one and ignorance of information older than 20 years in the other language is practically total in the young generation of researchers and developers.

Constraints on access to information within the region include:

Taking into account the above issues and:

the Mission recommends the establishment of a regional network between those institutions with programmes and information resources relevant to aquatic farming systems to improve access to information for the benefit of research and development throughout sub-Saharan Africa.

Without exception, there exists a great and genuine interest in the establishment of a specialised network promoting information exchange on research programmes/results and development projects/approaches related to aquaculture and all related aspects.

From past experience and discussions held during the mission, it is proposed that such an Information Network to be effective and sustainable:

Based on these considerations, the Mission recommends that the Information Network be made of existing, geographically separated but closely linked, anglophone and francophone information centres. For the approach to information to be as multidisciplinary as necessary, the proposed network should address not only aquaculture technology but the production system as a whole. This involves all non-living and living components of the environment, including the producers themselves. Although fish production through small to medium scale freshwater aquaculture and the management of small water bodies should remain the central focus of the African information network, it would be essential to be able to access also information on rural sociology, agricultural economics, human nutrition and food security, water and soil conservation, rural extension methods/services, environmental impact, etc.

The Aquatic Farming Systems Information Network for Africa should therefore be initially composed of the libraries at:

Such an Information Network has the following characteristics:

The network should strengthen national capacities in access to information, promote regional cooperation and complement existing national and international information networks.

The main objectives of the network should be to:

The guiding principles for the operation of the network should include:

The network should also at some stage seek to establish relationships with other organizations and institutions:

Most of the libraries visited have access to electronic mail facilities, although many of them experience difficulties or are connected via another facility e.g., CRO via ORSTOM; KMFRI via Belgium. With the exception of South Africa and Zimbabwe, none of the libraries is yet connected to the Internet, although there is a lot of donor activity in the region to facilitate or improve access e.g., INSAH expects to be connected in 1997; Bunda College is investigating satellite connection. It is not easy to predict when all of the libraries will be able to avail of electronic communication facilities but there is no doubt that they will play an increasingly important role and will have an enormous impact on their ability to share information resources.

It is important that the network not only shares the expertise gained by its members in this area but also that it is proactive in taking advantage of the many developments and new initiatives at a regional level. For example the Secretary General of the United Nations has charged ECA/PADIS with the management of a task force under the Special Initiative on "harnessing information technology for development." In partnership with the entire United Nations system, but especially with the World Bank and UNESCO, ECA will raise funds for and implement a programme working in the following areas:

Technical and financial assistance are required to initially strengthen the proposed francophone coordination center and to initiate regional networking activities on aquatic farming systems information in sub-Saharan Africa. The mission recommends that such assistance be provided by FAO under its Technical Cooperation Programme as outlined in Annex 5.

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