What is the role of communication for development, community media and ICTs for family farming and rural development in Asia Pacific?
Welcome to the Asia Pacific regional consultation on “Communication for Development, Community Media and ICTs for Family Farming and Rural Development”.
This regional consultation has been organized around three main themes to be covered over the next three weeks:
1. The role of communication for development, community media & ICTs in family farming in Asia Pacific [25 to 29 August, 2014]
2. Enabling environment & priority areas for action [1 to 5 September, 2014]
3. The way forward [8 to 12 September, 2014]
Family farm is commonly known as small farms, small holder farms or marginal farms in Asia Pacific. It is estimated that about 87 per cent of the world’s 500 million small farms (less than 2 ha) are in Asia and the Pacific region (IFPRI, 2007). Here are some figures to go by:
70% of the world food production is provided by family farmers
25% of the world's population is composed of women farmers, often heads of households (that is about 1,600 million people)
90% of the total agricultural labour in Asia is constituted by small farmers who produce 80% of regional food
Hence family farms are vital for agricultural production, food security, rural poverty reduction, and biodiversity conservation. But there are a number of challenges they face like access to productive resources, service delivery, integration into new agriculture dominated by value chains, adaptation to climate change, management of market volatility and other risks and vulnerability.
The discussion this week will focus on QUESTION 1:
What is the role of communication for development, community media and ICTs in family farming in Asia Pacific?
Please share your thoughts on:
- What are the key issues related to family farming that require communication/ community media/ ICT support?
- How does communication contribute to family farming and rural development in the Asia Pacific region?
Experiences, good practices, trends and proposals are most welcome.
Looking forward to your thoughts, views and experiences!
The discussion today will be on the current and emerging communication tools and services suitable, relevant or that can be adapted to family farmer’s priorities in Asia Pacific.
We have read the example from India on the e-arik, model e-villages, e-AgriKiosk and the m4agriNEI projects where the subsequent interventions were built upon the learnings and challenges from the previous project and adapted to suit local needs.
Previous posts during the week have commented on how community radio, television, mobiles are being used to reach farmers and transfer information and knowledge. We look forward to sharing of more such concrete examples of good practices on increasing productivity, marketing, access to financial services, advisory services, disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, agricultural conservation, rural youth employment, gender issues, etc with relevant links where possible.
A reference document to introduce the consultation is uploaded so please do refer to it. Once again I remind all new members to introduce themselves and the organisations they represent at the beginning of their comments/posts.
Look forward to comments and posts. Thank you!
Thank you for your comments and posts. Here is the summary of points raised on 28 August, 2014 on the current and emerging communication tools and services suitable to family farmer’s priorities
•For any intervention the starting point is always information and knowledge. How to share the information, making sure that the target audience get this information and have access to sources of correct information. In this regard community media like community billboards, community radio and more importantly, mobile phones have played a big role as demonstrated by the experience in the Philippines.
•Some studies on how community media in the Philippines have helped the losing coffee farmers cope with climate change adversely affecting their crop, use of mobile phone appropriation among coffee farmers found out that farmers have effectively used mobile phone during harvesting and selling of their crops, communication delivery systems among farmers in cyber villages have facilitated their knowledge sharing and decision making and access and utilization of ICT-mediated rice technologies contributed to farmers increased yield and income. More details of these studies will be shared later.
•In order to sustain the effects, scale-up and also to incorporate all lessons learned from the e-arik project implemented in Arunachal Pradesh in India after its project period, modified projects such as Model e-Villages and e-AgriKiosk was launched. For more information visit www.saravananraj.net/images/stories/pdf/…
•In e-AgriKiosk project, "ADI dialect" was integrated as a voice over while getting advisory through touch screens (like ATM). These touch screen kiosks were installed in the villages but the challenge of maintaining these centres in villages was unreliable electricity and slow internet speed.
•To overcome these challenges in rural setting the m-agriculture project ‘Mobile based Agro-Advisory System for the Farmers of North-East India’ (m4agriNEI) was launched where a multi model and mobile based (smart & ordinary phone) agro-advisory system was launched
•Some of the key lessons from these various interventions are – 1. Long term activity with provision for scaling up must be planned 2. Partnership with all involved - agricultural research-extension-other agro-service providers and farmers - is vital for the success of media/ ICT initiatives 3. Media/ ICT initiatives need to be well complemented by traditional extension methods 4. Entire agriculture value chain activities need to be integrated by the ICT based Information and other support services.
•For more information on the above please visit : www.saravananraj.net/images/stories/pdf/…
There has been an error in the link posted by Saravanan on 27 August, regarding the e-Arik Project implemented in Arunachal Pradesh of India.
To view the Youtube video please visit: www.saravananraj.net/earik/…
To read the documentation on "e-Agriculture Prototype for Knowledge Facilitation among Tribal Farmers of North-East India: Innovations, Impact and Lessons", please log on to:
www.e-agriculture.org/sites/default/files/uploads/media/… article_North-East India 2012.pdf
We look forward to your comments and posts on today’s question on what are current and emerging communication tools and services suitable, relevant or can be adapted to family farmer’s priorities?
We are continuing with the topic on what the role of communication for development, community media and ICTs are for family farming and rural development in Asia Pacific.
The discussion today will focus on the following question:
•What current and emerging communication tools and services (including community media and new ICTs such as mobile phones, Internet, social media, etc.) are suitable, relevant or can be adapted to family farmer’s priorities?
We look forward to your response, comments and sharing good practice with relevant links where possible. Kindly refer to the reference document to introduce the consultation which has been uploaded.
May I once again remind all to introduce themselves and the organisations they represent at the beginning of their comments/posts.
Thanking you and look forward to your comments.
Some of the findings of the project are:
•Income from family farm was increased
•3.6 times expenditure was reduced for providing farm advisory services, in comparison with the conventional extension system
•Sixteen fold less time was required for availing the services by the farmers
•Threefold less time was required to deliver the services to the farmers compared to the conventional extension system.
Thank you for your comments and look forward to your contribution as always.
Greetings & Very Good Morning,
in the discussion post, if i am posting some URL links, it is not working- it says PAGE NOT FOUND- can you help me to solve this problem.
Thanks and have a good day,
Similary, through e-AgriKiosk poject, we integrated "ADI dialect" as a voice over while getting advisory through touch screens (like ATM). These touch screen kiosks are installed in the villages. But we used to face continuous challenge of maitaining e-Village and e-AgriKiosk centres in villages because of unreliable electricity (continuous power-cuts during rainy season), slow internet speed (we also hd offline digial content, if online is not functioning). Because of these challenges, in 2012 we moved to explore on m-agriculture oppourtunities. All these three project lessons and challnges were incorporated and an multimodel and mobile based (Smart & ordinary phone) based agro-advisory system- Mobile based Agro-Advisory System for the Farmers of North-East India (m4agriNEI) implemented since June 2012-this project implemented incolloboration with the Media Lab Asia. Now, we are at the second phase of the project and ready to scale-up among the samll and marginal land holding family farmers living in the remote areas of north-east indian states.
You can find brief note on this project: ict4ag.org/en/plug-and-play-day/…
Project video: www.facebook.com/…
Project brochure: m4agrinei.in/images/banners/…
FB Page: www.facebook.com/…
KEY MESSAGES FROM EXPERINCE OF IMPLEMENTING ABOVE PROJECTS:
1. Any media/ ICT iniative to become successful and useful to family farmers, we need to continuously try for "LONG TERM" activity and not as a pilots- phsed manner of scle-up is important.
2. Agricultural Research-Extension-other agro-service providers and farmers partnership is vital for the success of media/ ICT initiatives.
3. Media/ ICT initiatives need to be well complemented by traditional extension methods.
4. Entire agriculture value chain activities need to be integrated by the ICT based Information and other support services.
In my next post, i will discuss some other projects like; IKSL, Digital Green, Nationwide farmer call centre (1551), SMS services of ICAR, etc and also few successful examples from Asia-Pacific countries. Thanks.
Thank you for your comments and posts. Here is the summary of points raised on 26 August, 2014 on the role of communication for development, community media and ICTs for family farming and rural development in Asia Pacific.
•Farming in South Asia is becoming more expensive and less remunerative due to climate change, natural resource degradation, uncertain market scenario, new pest and diseases occurrences, small and fragmented land holdings, absence of timely information and lack of other support services along the entire agricultural value chain. This scenario demands greater support from communication/community media/ ICTs.
•Rural youth are not interested to take up farming as an occupation. In China, the percentage of youth moving out of the agriculture sector increased to 90 percent in 2011-12 compared to 20 percent in 2001.
•In Indonesia there are three types of farmers – the first type is rich, with vast land and large capital, the second group consists of ordinary farmers with his small land and less yield and the third type is the Hodge people (agricultural labourers) who work in the agricultural sector for a small income. The majority of farmers in the country are ordinary farmers and agricultural labourers
•Community media, mobile, video, and other ICTs tools are extra financial burdens to farmers who barely raise enough crops to feed themselves. Hence there is a dire need to create an inexpensive ICT tools that can be used for free by ordinary farmers and farm workers
•Intensive input agriculture may not be the solution to ensure food security as it has been seen in the semi-arid region of Sanga Reddy/ Medak district in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state (now situated in the newly formed Telangana state) of India.
•Farmers in this region are applying their traditional methods of diverse cropping using traditional means of agriculture to ensure food security. Food sovereignty is being achieved by the farmers by developing community gene banks (seed banks that they share with each other in times of need), designed their own watersheds that rescue them when rain fails (which it does more than often) and importantly, rely on crops that can grow on less water. These good practices can be shared and propagated through community radio and community video as it is being done by Deccan Development Society.
•Nepal is an agricultural country with two third of its populations based on agriculture and its related activities yet 32 out of its 75 districts are food insecure. There are a number of reasons for this like traditional methods of agriculture, low input, small land holdings, hilly and mountainous landscapes, low productivity, fluctuating markets, muscle drain, climate change, etc.
•Some good examples of the use of community media, television, mobile and other ICTs for making information available to the farmers in Nepal was shared with relevant links.
The discussion today will continue to focus on the role of communication for development, community media and ICTs in family farming in Asia Pacific. Please continue to share your views on what are the key issues related to family farming that require communication/community media/ICT support? We need to explore how communication can contribute to family farming in Asia Pacific with increasing connectivity like mobile, internet radio, social media? Kindly share more examples and good practices on the use of communication/community media/ICTs for family farms, relevant links are very helpful.
May I once again remind all to introduce themselves and the organisations they represent at the beginning of their comments/posts.
1. e-Arik Project: This project was started in 2007 by the Central Agricultural University in colloboration other extension stake holders. In Arunachal Pradesh State of North-east India, e-Arik project experimented the single window system and local knowledge managers for the improved agricultural information and technology delivery to the tribal farming community. Project provided all time expert consultation on agriculture production, protection and marketing aspects through ICTs with the combination of the traditional extension methods. We experimented following;
1. Farmer-to-Farmer Communication
2. Appropriate Message and its Treatment
3. Multistakeholdrr partnership
4. Continuous reinforement of message for better understanding of family farms.
(Project website: www.saravananraj.net/earik/)
(Youtube video: www.saravananraj.net/earik/…)
From the project impact we found that considerable amount of family farm income was increased followed by 3.6 times reduced expenditure was incurred for providing farm advisory services, in comparison with the conventional
extension system and sixteenfold less time was
required for availing the services by the farmers and threefold less time was required to deliver the services to the farmers compared to the conventional extension
system. The project clearly demonstrated that to make family farming become succesul and remunarative, Information and knowledge on farm practices along with other forward (farmmachinery, manure, seeds) and backward linkages (post-harvest technology andmarket) were essential in adopting farm practices. Rural communication and information service provision needs to be more holistic in two ways. First, the project must find a way to deliver all the resources necessary to turn information into agricultural action. If you are interseted to know more about this ICT project, impact and lessions to improve family farming in remote parts of developing country, kindly read an intersesting documentation on "e-Agriculture Prototype for Knowledge Facilitation among Tribal Farmers of North-East India: Innovations, Impact and Lessons"- To download this article, please log on to:
www.e-agriculture.org/sites/default/files/uploads/media/… article_North-East India 2012.pdf
Alternatively you can also download from: www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/…
We will dicuss further,
I am Madan Poudel, student of agriculture in Agriculture and Forestry University. I am facilitating this discussion as resource person representing from Young Professionals for Agriculture Development (YPARD). I have good understanding of merging Information Communication Technology (ICTs) in agriculture. I am president at AgriYouthNepal (agriculture students' platform to share and learn innovative ideas). Currently i am event coordinator of YPARD Nepal national level Family Farming Photo Contest.
I want to share few of my knowledge and experiences in the field of family farming and ICT.
Although 2/3rd population still relies on agriculture practices, agriculture seems to be less demanding, old fashioned and outdated profession. Youth don't want to be engage on farm anymore. Tacking with new emerging challenges like climate change, low productivity and fluctuating market farmers grow their food on different landscapes. Still 32 districts are food insecure. Nepal imports various agriculture products mainly from India. Subsistence oriented farming is predominated here.
I would like to point few of the promising ICT enabled initiative towards profitable and sustainable farming particularly in Nepal.
Regarding Nepal Information Communication Technologies (ICTs) has shown positive influences lately to raise the living standard of family farmers in Nepal. Medias broadcasting different agriculture related programs through radio, Television, newspaper shows positive results. Local NGO Li-Bird ( www.libird.org/ ) initiative "Li-Bird ko Chautari" (Chautari means resting inn under tree shade) focus on uplifting local farmers living standard making them concern about biodiversity conservation, community seed banks. It generally shares traditional knowledge and experiences coupled with research extensions. This sounds to be a promising way to play a role model in improvement of local biodiversity and economy of country for making sustainable agriculture development. Read more about it from iicd report (www.iicd.org/about/publications/collecting-and-propagating-local-development-content-the-case-stories/…)
Another radio talkshow program JTA ra Tapae ko Budi Ama (Junior Technical Assistant and old grandmother) innitiated by Department of Agriculture sounds interesting and enjoyable way to disseminate information related to agriculture and livestock to farming community explaining in Layman's term. Here is the link for more details
( www.ekantipur.com/the-kathmandu-post/2014/03/28/onsaturday/the-voice-of-budhi-aama/… )
"BBC Sajha Sawal" television show ( bbcsajhasawal.com/en/ ) featuring success story of agriculture entrepreneurs has attracted many young farmers to peruse farming as profession.
While talking about agri marketing, middle man often gets in middle of it. Business of middle man indulges the major share and deprive both farmers and consumers. Some initiatives of ICT like agriculture market information android application ( TARKALI -- application to know Kalimiti Vegetable and fruit daily updated prices ) has positive influence in marketing chains.
Instant messaging system as per on subscription called "Hath Hath ma Suchana" (Information on hand) initiated by KrishiGhar ( krishighar.com/ ) is an innovative way to interact with farmers delivering agri based information in mobile message box.
Facebook group led by Mr. Rajendra Devkota has good outreach in disseminating and sharing knowledge of agriculture among youth, entrepreneurs, farmers and and agriculture professionals particularly in Nepal.
I will come up with more sharing related to challenges, prospects and issues of family farming and ICTs soon in upcoming posts.
Feel free to share and comment on the discussion.
Looking forward to learn and share from the discussion.
The answer seems to be otherwise if one were to look at the 75 villages that Deccan Development Society is working with.
I am Vasuki Belavadi, Faculty Fellow at Unesco Chair on Community Media, Department of Communication, University of Hyderabad.
The semi-arid region of Sanga Reddy/ Medak district in the erstwhile Andhra Pradesh state (now situation in the newly formed Telangana state) is seeing a silent revolution with farmers in over 75 villages rejecting the cash crops push by the state and other non-state actors. Over the years, farmers have realised that "Pesticides do not decipher caste, gender or nationality. They will kill anybody irrespective of his or her origins."
It therefore makes sense for them rely on diverse cropping using traditional means of agriculture which ensures food security for each of their families.
Each farmer in these villages works towards achieving food sovereignty by developing community gene banks (seed banks that they share with each other in times of need), designed their own watersheds that rescue them when rain fails (which it does more than often) and importantly, rely on crops that can grow on very little water.
What's more, the crops also contribute to strengthening their local food habits as against alien food grains that are pushed by the government public distribution system (PDS). Farmers have realised that PDS makes them reliant on a food culture that isn't theirs and therefore grow crops that are 'theirs' and 'belong to the villages'.
In a span of 25 years, they have not only been able to achieve food security but have also set up an alternative public distribution system that is more community friendly too.
Several articles throw light on how women farmers in this region have been able to achieve all these even with small land holdings.
While I agree that the 'green revolution' was a necessity in the early years, our continued dependence on the revolution spurred by lab scientists has only robbed us of our food security and made us dependent on several factors--from seeds to fertilizers to pesticides to borewells and crop insurances.
Certainly not what Mahatma Gandhi had envisioned for the country.
So how have these farmers been able to achieve this and spread the word too? By using Community Radio & Community Video effectively. The community media trust of the deccan development society has an active team that propagates traditional farming practices using both radio and video. Women themselves produce programmes and broadcast/ screen them in different villages across the year, programmes that focus on successes, local knowledge systems, relationship between farming and culture and a host of other things.
had a lot of input for “Communication for Development, Community Media and ICTs for Family Farming and Rural Development”.
notes from my experience in Indonesia for this are:
there are several types of farmers in Indonesia: (1) Farmers rich, vast land and has a large capital. (2) Ordinary Farmer, his ground a little bit and crop yields. (3) Hodge, people who work in the agricultural sector with a small income.
The majority of farmers in Indonesia are Ordinary Farmers and agricultural workers, low-income, its yields are sometimes not enough to meet their own needs. Whereas communication technology used for operational costs. Community media, mobile, video, and other ICT.
communicate using ICT eventually become a new burden for farmers. Farmers have to spend extra money for ICT. Though money for daily needs is not enough.
The challenge now is to create an inexpensive ICT that can be used for free for ordinary farmers and farm workers.
May I take this opportunity to request more comments and examples on utilising media and ICTs for family farming in Asia Pacific.
I will try to highlight some issues faced by family farming in India and also south Asian region;
1. Agriculture become more more complex & less remunarative-due to climate change, natural resource degration, uncertain market scenario, new pest and diseases occurance, small & fargmented land holdings etc makes difficult for family farms to increase the farm productivity in the absence of timely information and also other support services along the entire agricultural value chain.This scenario, demands greater support from communication/community media/ ICT.
2. Many rural family youth in Asia are not interested to take-up family farming as a occupation. For example in China, the percentage of youth moving out of the agriculture sector increased to 90 per cent in 2011-12 compared to 20 per cent in 2001.
There are number of evidences from Asia and also other regions such as Africa suggest that these above indicated issues can be managed well by using better communication/community media/ ICT support. In my next post, i will come back with specific issues along with examples of successful use of media/ ICT in our region. With this two main issues, i request other resource persons to add other key issues related to family farming that require communication/community media/ ICT support?
Thank you for your comments. Here is the summary of discussions of 25 August, 2014 on the role of communication for development, community media and ICTs for family farming and rural development in Asia Pacific.
Issues pertinent to Pacific Islands Countries:
•Most Pacific islanders residing in remote rural areas and given the geographical circumstances and spread of islands there is lack of communication infrastructure
•Huge diversity in culture and language of the Pacific Islanders and national broadcasts if any cannot cater to all the groups. Very few community radios to serve local population.
•Limited agriculture extension services for sharing relevant information. No use of technology like participatory videos to share traditional and modern knowledge
•Growing trend of using processed food is adversely impacting health of the Pacific Islanders
•Agriculture not an attractive opportunity for youth. Here modern technology could be used to make it appealing to youth to take up farming. Case study of Kenyan youth farmers congregating around tele-centres could be some good example to emulate
•Mobile telephones can be the tools for addressing these issues in the Pacific due to high penetration. Options like encouraging telecom providers to roll out services to unprofitable rural areas and affordable solar-powered telephone rechargers would be useful
Other discussion points:
•Increasing infrastructure development and digital innovativeness in Asia has not impacted family farmers. There is lack of concrete evidences on ICT benefiting family farms
•Language is a huge barrier when it comes to sharing information especially in a large country like India
•Farmers not open to new experiments
•Agricultural research and extension actors lack the awareness and capacity to use ICTs
•Government policies on employment guarantees has adversely impacted farming as seen in Northeast India
•For short term benefits farmers are compromising on the quality which is determined by agricultural product and wholesale value
•Media can play a greater role to create awareness among the farmers and to create an environment to address the issues for better policies. Community radios should act as 'responsible media' towards this
•Community video has tremendous impact on the rural community and has huge potential in maintaining and increasing quality of farming. Some good examples are Video Volunteers, Digital Green, Video SEWA, Dristi etc
•Mobile telephony is another potential communication tool to contribute to family farm. CG Net Swara, Mobile Vaani are a few good practices. Similar experience was shared by community radio Gurgaon ki Awaaz to show how radios could assist in providing relevant information and knowledge to farmers by combining radio with mobile phones to send nuggets of information (audio) and SMS to registered learners.
The discussion this week is focussing on the role of communication for development, community media and ICTs in family farming in Asia Pacific. Please share your views on what are the key issues related to family farming that require communication/community media/ICT support? How does communication contribute to family farming in Asia Pacific with increasing connectivity like mobile, internet radio, social media? We look forward to your experiences, good practices, trends and proposals.
May I once again remind all to introduce themselves and the organisations they represent at the beginning of their comments/posts.
Thanks for initiating the online discussion. I want to draw your attention on a few points-
I have noticed that in the north eastern part of India, due to a few national policies on employment guarantee, the attitude of the family farmers became different and the production of the agricultural products decreases day by day.
Unscientific farming is also another problem in the developing countries like India. For short term benefit, farmers use to compromise in maintaining the quality. Again it is related to the delivery of the agricultural products and wholesale market value.
Media has a great role to create awareness among the farmers and to create an environment to address the issues for better policies. Community radio should act as 'responsible media' to create awareness among the farmers, policy makers and public in general.
Community video has tremendous impact on the rural community and it proves with the success stories of community video initiatives of India, such as Video Volunteers, Digital Green, Video SEWA, Dristi etc. We should discuss on the potentiality of this medium in maintaining and increasing of quality farming. Mobile telephony is another potential communication tool to contribute to the sector. CG Net Swara, Mobile Vaani are a few good practices in inculcating scientific temperament among the family farmers in India.
I run a community radio station in Gurgaon which is a suburb of Delhi. Gurgaon has grown vertically on the agricultural land of the villagers in this area since it made far more economic sense for them to sell off the land to real estate developers than to try and grow food on what is quite rocky soil. However, many villagers still own land, albeit a little far away from Gurgaon. Interestingly, the thousands (lakhs actually) of migrant workers who have come from across India to work in Gurgaon's offices and factories also continue to have a connect with agriculture. Many have very small landholdings back in their villages, and because these landholdings cannot support the entire family, the man has migrated to the city. The fields are typically taken care of by aging parents, the wife, or a sibling. During planting and reaping seasons the workers often take leave and go home to help out, and hence continue to take an active interest in farming. Many of our callers have asked us to broadcast farming programs with the express purpose of using that information on their farms back home. Some even record useful radio programs on their mobile phones so that their families can listen to them when they go home.
Another option to add on to radio, that we have tried with another program, is to combine radio with mobile phones, and have nuggets of information (audio) and sms-es to be sent to registered learners.
Would be great to hear of any work that has been done on small farming in urban areas. Looking forward to learning from this group.
It is interesting to read Linda Austin's post- most of the concerns raised by Linda and Pradeep Sharma also holds good for many developing countries including many Asian and African countries. Over the years data indicates that ICT infrastructure is improving past and large number of digital innovations are happening (especially mobile apps) in many Asian countries. Nearly last two decades, there are number of projects implemented to benefit the family farms in Asia-Pacific region- unfortunately, other than few anecdotal evidences, .there is lack of concrete evidences on ICT benefiting family farms. Appropriate content and sustainability issues are long standing problems. ICTs potentail is yet to be fully explored for benefiting family farms because many agricultural research and extension actors lack the awareness andd capacity to use ICTs . In my subsequent posts, i will try to discuss issues with specific-cases. Thanks,
I kindly request all to introduce themselves and the organisations they represent at the beginning of their comments/posts.
We have also uploaded a reference document to introduce the consultations.
It’s great to be able to participate in this online forum.
My perspectives come from the Pacific Islands. More than 75 percent of all Pacific Islanders live in deep remote rural areas, such as on atolls or in mountain hamlets, thus there are severe challenges around transportation and communication infrastructure to rural communities. Television and internet have little penetration into the rural areas, so broadcast radio remains the lifeline for many rural residents. Most of the national (government-affiliated) broadcasters and some commercial broadcasters do carry agricultural programming, but it tends to be general in nature. There is very little community radio. There are also challenges around language diversity. For example, in the Solomon Islands, there are more than 75 languages. The national broadcaster is not heard in all parts of the country and it broadcasts in a pidgin language not understood by many poorly educated rural residents. This means that farmers and fisherfolk have very few information and communication channels to access.
In many Pacific Island countries, government agricultural extension services have been reduced in recent years due to shrinking national budgets. The cost of moving around to rural areas and outer islands is quite high, so agricultural extension agents tend to not visit too often. This further reduces information dissemination to rural communities. Extension officials also tend to still use traditional top-down methods and they lack the awareness and skills to use communication technology (such as video) in agricultural extension work. There is much opportunity to use communication technology, such as participatory video, to capture traditional agricultural and environmental-management knowledge. Perhaps this will grow in coming years.
The Pacific Islands are said to benefit from “affluent subsistence” agriculture in that the land and sea provide bountiful amounts of food. Hard-core poverty is rarely seen except in a few urban areas. Pacific kinship-based social networks value the sharing of food. It is a marker of Pacific cultural identity. Problems are now arising because people prefer to buy processed or imported foods, often as a sign of social status. After all, it’s easier to buy tuna in a tin than it is to spend long hours in the hot sun fishing. The Pacific has among the highest rates of obesity in the world and non-communicable disease, such as diabetes, are huge problems.
Additionally, agriculture is still an unattractive career choice, especially for youth. It’s seen as a last-chance option, that of returning to the village to farm after failing to find steady employment in the city. Modern communication technologies could be seen as a way to attract youth to farming by making it appear to be “modern” and sophisticated. I recall some case studies from Kenya where this has occurred, at least for young male farmers who congregated around tele-centres built as part of farmers organisations.
Mobile telephone use in the Pacific is growing astronomically, so this could provide a pathway forward. Phone costs are still high and many rural areas still cannot access broadband networks, but it is only a matter of time before things change. Many areas of the world have done amazing things with farmer-led innovation around using mobile telephones to open new markets, improve the productivity and efficiency of small farms, and enhance rural livelihoods, especially for women. Mobile telephones are really the only modern ICT available to Pacific farmers and fisherfolk. More could be done with our regulatory policies, I suppose, to encourage telecomm providers to roll out services to unprofitable rural areas. Affordable solar-powered telephone rechargers are also needed.
These are just some introductory thoughts. I look forward to our discussions in the coming weeks.
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