Information an important tool for agricultural development

Information and Knowledge Management (IKM) remains a huge challenge for agricultural development in the Pacific Island countries and territories.  These challenges include; small farm sizes, remote and scattered nature of farms, infrastructural limitations, increased global competitiveness, climate change, and the loss of agricultural biodiversity to name a few. The limited resources for research and innovation further add to these challenges.

Fiji’s Permanent Secretary for Agriculture, Colonel Mason Smith, made these remarks when opening an information and communication workshop in Nadi, Fiji, last week. PNG was among 10 Pacific Island countries represented at the four-day workshop themed “Moving beyond strategy to improve information and knowledge management for agricultural development”.

Col Mason stressed that some new information and communications technologies, especially the emerging mobile technologies, internet Wi-Fi and 3G cellular telephones, offer significant potential and new approaches to overcome some of the challenges and limitations currently faced in customising our needs and the needs of our farmers and stakeholders in information and knowledge management for agricultural development.

A number of countries in the region are exploring a number of innovative initiatives using mobile phone technologies and other emerging tools; and, as part of the workshop program, delegates were expected to share experiences and foster stronger partnership with each other in the area of information and communication.

Resource persons from Asia Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutes (APAARI), Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Global Forum for Agriculture Research (GFAR), Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and Centre for Technical Agriculture Cooperation (CTA) shared their expertise and knowledge on the advent of new information and communications technologies and global connectivity that provides the Pacific region with a number of potential solutions to these challenges.

ICM workshop participants and officials at the Tanoa International Hotel in Nadi, Fiji

The expected outputs of the workshop included:

  • improved awareness on new dimensions in information and knowledge management for agricultural research for development in the region,
  • improved participation and contribution in the movement for Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development (CIARD) and regional agricultural information systems, and the establishment of a Pacific CIARD Community of Practice,
  • promoting the use and application of Web 2.0, social media and enhance “openness” for effective information exchange, and
  • to facilitate strengthened information sharing and networking.

“With these four outputs, the question we need to ask ourselves is: how can we actually improve our information and knowledge management to meet current and emerging challenges to agricultural development? No doubt; whatever the way forward may be, we must, as individual nations and as a region, make effective use of all useful and relevant information and related resources that is available locally and globally for agricultural innovation. More importantly, we must, as the theme of the workshop indicates, move beyond strategy. We must implement the recommended strategies you come up with as the way forward, otherwise this would have been just another one of those workshops where a lot of strategies are discussed but there is little or no implementation by stakeholders”, he said.

Col Mason urged the respective governments and stakeholders to move beyond strategy by funding and implementing information and communication activities.

Inoke Ratukalou, Acting Director, Land Resources Division, Secretariat of the Pacific Community, said information knowledge management is an innovative concept; one that demands a clear guideline that will ensure that information is shared meaningfully amongst stakeholders for the purpose of maximising outputs and productivity. By far, this is what makes it a critical component of development in the agriculture sector in the Pacific.

He said the SPC has recognised and value the dissemination of information to keep its stakeholders and donors informed of its work. The use of modern technologies to increase the range of formats for information dissemination is becoming a norm in a rapidly changing and globalised world. He said given these changes, the Web2.0 learning opportunity can enhance our box of tools to enrich knowledge management and dissemination of information using on-line tools.

Mr Ratukalou, however, urged the delegates to rethink the strategies on providing extension to rural farmers, and how new information tools such as Web2.0 can enhance the extension services. He hoped the workshop would help the participants to gain more knowledge about ICT and how they can assist the farmers, extension officers and others.

“In spite of these challenges we are optimistic information knowledge management will help us as much as it will strengthen you in progressing further then where we are in agriculture development in our home and the region.”

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