Science Forum 2009 Farmers and ICTs


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Science Forum 2009 Farmers and ICTs

  1. 1. The Farmers’ Conference that took place in Syria in May 2008 provided a space for over fifty farmers and researchers from nine countries to share their agricul- 4-8 May 2008 tural knowledge. It aimed to highlight the potential value of farmers’ knowledge for agricultural research ICARDA, Syria International Center for Agricultural Research in general and plant breeding in particular arguably in the Dry Areas contributing to better targeting research outputs. The conference was one of six pilot projects of the CGIAR ICT-KM program Knowledge Sharing in Research. telling stories - sharing knowledge Farmers discussed the issues most important to them and their experiences. Researchers were exposed to the contexts the farmers work in and their problems. International Farmers’ Conference The conference also built alliances among farmers and researchers to integrate their diverse expertise and increase the sustainability of agricultural devel- opment. Tools used Knowledge Sharing approaches provided a conducive environment and innovative tools to facilitate commu- Technology Survey nication across countries, cultures and genders. The survey conducted during the conference largely con- firmed our initial assumption that cell phone coverage far outweighs internet access among farmers. However, women in Syria and Jordan rarely have their own phones. In total 46 conference participants responded to the sur- vey, Only about a quarter of the participants have internet access and use email. On the other hand, 71% have ac- cess to mobile phones, half of which can play video. Percentage of participants with ICT access Storytelling Video Quilt The organizers made sure that, both, men and women The website collects the stories told at the farmers felt at ease when telling their stories. In villages it’s conference.Videos can be streamed online or customary for all to gather round to hear stories and the down- arrangements for storytelling at the conference followed loaded this tradition. Requests for stories were not prescriptive. Cell phone videos - how to: onto mobile Farmers could tell their stories in the way they preferred Farmers were shown how to make short video phones for clips of stories that they could send by mobile and share what was important to them. This format meant sharing. phone. In this way, farmers could share their sto- that farmers could talk about issues and feelings that are often considered too trivial to be addressed at formal con- ries and the stories of other participants with ferences or not even relevant. friends and neighbors when they returned home. The video to the right explains the process with- out words, suitable for multicultural settings. Seed and Food Fair A highlight of the conference was a show-and-tell ‘food fair’. Farmers showed their bread, food products Network Mapping and crop varieties, and related Network mapping was used primarily to illustrate a major how these have evolved to meet conference goal: creating direct connections, especially be- local tastes and cultural prefer- tween farmers, to make the network ences. This short event was an more sustainable. The exercise gave enormous energizer for the con- the participants a tactile experience of ference and a great success with locating themselves geographically in a the farmers. network, while at the same time pro- ducing the data for the subsequent so- cial network analysis. Project Evaluation Before the conference During the conference After the conference The Hubs and Spokes Many new connec- Surprisingly, the overall model with ICARDA as tions were made be- number of connections the central information tween the participants in the network went up broker and only go- creating a more sus- after the conference. between was the tainable network. Participants made starting point. ICARDA’s central role contacts with each was temporarily re- other particularly in duced. their own and neigh- boring communities. Evaluation results Key lessons learned The conference enriched the network The limited internet access and broad band connections of of farmers and researchers and, thus the farmers turned out to be the weak link in the distribution made it more sustainable. strategy. A different approach for jump-starting the circulation of the cell phone videos should have been adopted to fully After the conference, the farmers exploit the potential of already existing cell phone usage. shared the knowledge with others pri- marily by telling stories. Very few ICTs potentially facilitate communication and collaboration showed the website and nobody dis- across distance between farmers and researchers. However, tributed the cell phone videos available poor farmers’ lack of access to ICTs remains a barrier to ef- How farmers spread knowledge on the website. fective participation. Gender and age need to be given par- ticular attention, when using ICTs to involve farmers in the re- search process. Rouqeia Ibrahim, Farmer Monitoring the spread of stories shared via cell phones re- “I learned a lot of new things about planting, using fertilizer, harvesting and good practice for keeping mains a challenge. Beyond asking immediate clients for seeds. I wrote down everything and will use many of the things I learned in my fields next year.” feedback, there is little evidence to show that these stories are actually traveling via phone but we also learned that orally Stefania Grando, Researcher they are being spread very effectively. “The conference achieved its objective of collecting and consolidating farmers knowledge, which will help scientists in better targeting their research to address farmers’ needs. Also, the conference was Authors successful i establishing linkages between national level networks of barley farmers in this six countries.” Alessandra Galié, Research Fellow at ICARDA Bernhard Hack, Evaluator at Mohamed Maatougui, Researcher “In my experience farmers have a lot of good knowledge skills and experience. We can learn a lot from Andrea Pape-Christiansen, KM Specialist at ICARDA them. The conference gave them central stage to share with each other and also with us, the research Stefania Grando, Barley Breeder at ICARDA community.” Salvatore Ceccarelli, Participatory Plant Breeding Specialist