ICT for the Exchange of Farmer Experiences in Ecological Agriculture - Bolivia
Fundación AGRECOL Andes
on the ground project
Small and medium indigenous farmers
The project used ICT to support the exchange of successful experiences related to ecological agriculture and the sustainable use of natural resources among farmer communities. ICT were used to ease the way for the dissemination of information concerning a wide range of experiences, valuable knowledge and the use of innovative technologies among small farmers. Distant communities of small organic farmers can take advantage of this information. The project comprised the registration of experiences and the production and dissemination of training material based mainly on multimedia presentation tools, combining texts, digital photography, audio, video, printed material and the production of testimonial radio programmes broadcast through rural and community radio stations.
The project is currently in independent continuation. Lessons learned from the previous project phase are now being incorporated into the education programme of AGRECOL.
The project operates in an environment in which farmers hardly have access to relevant external agricultural information. To make up for this lack of information, but also to increase self-esteem and empowerment of the rural population, the project has capacitated rural communities in capturing and documenting agricultural knowledge and experiences themselves. Apart from documentation of valuable indigenous knowledge, project end-users are in a position to pick up ICT skills, notably in the audiovisual realm.
Read more about IICD's Bolivia Country Programme.
The 2nd phase of the AGRECOL project has been concluded with the production of a video in the form of an (amateur) play performed by farmers themselves showing how farmers get acquainted with ICT. This video was presented in La Paz, together with TICBolivia.
At the end of the 4th quarter of 2008, a proposal for a new project phase was presented focusing on the use of a GIS system for mapping agro-ecological risks, in the framework of AGRECOL’s programme on risk management. This proposal has not been considered for funding in 2009.
The project applies ICT instruments to enhance the exchange of experiences of small farmers producing ecological products. The main instrument is the development and use of ICT for workshops with farmer groups. The materials are used to enrich and complement the interactive exchange of experiences between farmers (the so-called farmer-to-farmer methodology) in different regions in the country. Main instruments include PowerPoint presentations including text, audio and video. Exchange through a website allows for more efficient and effective access and exchange of materials.
- Identification of experiences in sustainable production methods
Production of materials based on PowerPoint presentations to enhance learning and training
Exchange of experiences farmer groups in different regions
Development of 1 test centre exploited by AGRECOL and the use of learning centres in collaboration with other NGOs
Integration database library in website
Integration references materials in database
Presentation of materials on the AGRECOL website
Development of interactive services on the website
Training project team
Analysis of monitoring and evaluation indicates that the 60% of the participating farmers feel more aware about the use of ICT and empowered to negotiate better with intermediaries.
Almost 50% of the farmers perceive a direct improvement in their income. Estimations of the increase in income are found around 10%, representing an increase in annual income of US$ 100.
Economic indicators show that the percentage of farmers perceiving impact were lower in 2007 than in 2006. A possible explanation for this decrease can be found in the effect of the current political, social and economic crisis that is affecting the country and that has had an enormous impact on the sector. On the other hand, political instability and environmental problems have compelled technicians to reduce their support to the producers and this has resulted in a lack of motivation, in fewer training opportunities and less communication for the provision of effective support to the producers.
To bear witness to this satisfaction, here is a statement of an AGRECOL project user:
“In the past, I didn’t have photos or experiences to show to anybody. Now I carry them everywhere in my computer and I can show them to other producers’ families. With our cameras we take pictures to provide evidence for our bioindicators and to show to others how to fight against the plagues that damage our crops. Currently I am putting the documentation of experiences into practice and I use this material when I go somewhere else to exchange experiences with other agricultural producers.”
Read more about IICD's approach towards Livelihoods.
The AGRECOL project has shown that it is possible for farmers to document their knowledge and experience themselves, provided guidance and capacity development in the use of audiovisual means is given.
At the same time, much attention should be given to the elaboration of a proper dissemination strategy of the produced materials. If this strategy remains implicit and tacit, there is the danger that the message will not come across sufficiently.
Like in any other sector, users in the agricultural sector have benefited from training opportunities according to their particular needs. 73% of the users declare to be very satisfied with the quality of the training received. Technical support is particularly important for self development and, when asked about the project staff, 68% of them affirm to be very satisfied.
Projects provide for the development of a series of information services available to the users. 93% of them declare to be very satisfied with these services as the projects have enabled them to meet their objectives. Information about prices, about national and international markets and about new production techniques that have showed them how to become more productive are some of the services obtained through the Internet, through very high frequency and ultra high frequency radios, local radio, telephone and other forms of communication.
A high percentage of the users are not satisfied with the internet service. Up to now, access has been very problematic and communication very limited. The Internet has not reached the communities yet, despite the efforts made by the projects. Connectivity costs are very high and impossible to sustain. And the users ask for the project technical staff to make more visits and follow up activities.
There is still a shortcoming that needs to be corrected and it is the participation of women in the projects. Only 30% of the users are women. This problem remains a very important challenge for the Bolivian program.
The project has demonstrated that it is feasible to directly involve farmers in generating content and in systematising information which is of relevance to end-users.
Project partner is the foundation AGRECOL Andes, an institution that serves for knowledge management for ecological farming through the systematisation of experiences, promotion of used methodologies and information dissemination. AGRECOL supports processes of change to contribute to the improvement of the living conditions in the Andean rural societies.
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