Climate change, agriculture and food security are among the most pressing problems the world faces. They are complex issues that affect every one of us; they are particularly pressing for rural communities in developing countries where margins of success, and risks of failure, are narrow. Success depends on the willingness and ability of individuals, communities and agencies to collectively address 'wicked problems' that typically can't be addressed by any one individual or household.
To move forward, we need to navigate a course between different perspectives and draw on the many different "knowledges" of different stakeholders. Social and participatory approaches help collective decision making by enabling collective learning and communication. While ICTs are frequently used to amplify and broadcast often one-way information and advice to rural communities, this session starts from the notion that using ICTs in socially engaging ways is better suited to certain kinds of rural challenges – those requiring collective, social involvement from many people.
The session will use active participation and engagement to explore the current agricultural "social scene" in terms of approaches like participatory video and GIS, community radio, and innovation platforms that catalyse a dynamic interactive and collective creation, documentation, exchange and application of agricultural knowledge.
I am organizing 2 sessions and represent ILRI on the steering committee. I expect to catch up with latest thinking and experience and meet people I can learn from.
Head of Knowledge Management and Information Services, International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI)
Sauti ya wakulima, “The voice of the farmers” in Swahili, is an e-agriculture project which directly addresses the socio-agricultural context of rural communities in Tanzania. The project was started in January 2011, when we traveled to Tanzania to conduct a series of interviews with farmers living near the town of Bagamoyo, with the purpose of engaging them in the creation of an online, collaborative knowledge base about the effects of climate change, using smartphones as tools for observation and a web page to gather the recorded images and sounds. Accompanied by Dr. Flora Ismail from the Botany department of the University of Dar es Salaam, and Mr.
Hamza S. Suleyman, the local extension officer, we held a meeting with a group of farmers that regularly gather at the Chambezi agricultural field station in the Bagamoyo District. At this meeting, the project and its goals were explained to the farmers. Despite the fact that none of them had accessed the internet before, they had all heard of it largely through the younger members of their communities. They quickly understood that the images and sounds uploaded from the smartphones would not only be visible to them, but to anyone who visited the project’s web page. After deliberating, the farmers voted unanimously in favor of taking part.
We established the project's dynamics together with the farmers, and carried out the first training session on how to use the smartphone and the project's web page. A group of five men and five women chosen by the community would take turns to share the two available smartphones, by exchanging them on a weekly basis. Whenever a farmer's turn to use the phone arrived, he or she would have the task of using it to contribute content to the knowledge base. These contents consist of units, which we call messages, comprised of a picture, a voice recording and an optional keyword. A special application running on the smartphones makes it easy to capture the multimedia elements. It also integrates geographical information into the message (if available), allows the addition of one or more keywords and sends all the elements to a web server, bundled together as an email message. By using pictures and voice recordings, farmers can portray a wide variety of objects, situations and persons, and complement visual evidence with their own spoken narrations.
Farmers not only got together to exchange the phones but also to see and discuss the pictures and voice recordings that the group had uploaded during the week. There, they accessed the project's web page using a laptop computer with a mobile broadband connection. As of this writing, the farmers in Chambezi were continuing to use the smartphones to publish content. After 21 months, Sauti ya wakulima now runs in a semi-autonomous fashion, and is partially supported by the local government in Bagamoyo.
Hamza S. Suleyman
Extension Officer, Bagamoyo Agricultural Office
PhD Candidate, Z-Node, University of Applied Arts Zurich
Modeling with rural communities – participatory ICT applications and communication for empowerment and learning Modeling becomes a useful tool when it leads to new insights or facilitates negotiations that help people make decisions. Several CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food projects have been particularly successful at using models for integrated resource management at different scales at the farm level, the water control system level, and regional and national levels.
Models can also help span the boundaries between sources and uses of knowledge to either influence particular decisions or to improve manager’s capacity for making decisions.This contribution describes how four types of scientific modeling applications have been applied and re-imagined at the local level to help local communities improve their decision-making and access to information. The common feature is how mixed media (face to face, ICT, audio/video) approaches applied in participatory ways empower communities and make research more relevant. These experiences include:
Communication Coordinator, CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems, IWMI