The Pilot Project run by The International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) is focused on research/researchers recognizing the value of farmer knowledge, getting farmers to value their own knowledge and ideas, and finding ways to share farmers’ and other sources of knowledge between farmers. The main activity of the Pilot Project revolved around the organizing of an International Farmers’ Conference.

Farmers' Conference website video quilt

Over 50 farmers attended this conference of a different kind. Instead of being passive participants, listening to presentations by researchers, the farmers were instead asked to present their situations, knowledge, experiences, ideas and skills using storytelling. The stories of the farmers were recorded in video, audio and text forms to be disseminated in various ways. All will be made available on a Conference website to be launched soon.

Farmers’ Conference website video quilt
Video clip showing how to share stories via mobile phones

Additionally the conference organizers uploaded small story clips onto mobile phones of farmers present and showed them how to send these to other farmers with mobile phones. This was done to stimulate some knowledge sharing and a sort of farmer-to-farmer extension system to help facilitate the spread of useful ideas, techniques and knowledge around agricultural activities, specifically plant breeding.

A small video clip was made to show farmers how to share the stories with each other and other farmers. This and other video clips will be available on the website.

Video clip showing how to share stories via mobile phones

Yes this technology exists and works in Syria and some of the other countries involved! No it doesn’t work for everyone-that is true.

When we interviewed some of the participants after the conference we asked about how they felt about the stories made available and shared on the mobile phones. Some of the comments made were:

  • “It is better for me, since I cannot read”
  • “I like it, but I cannot keep the video on my phone forever so I would like a printed copy of the information too.”
  • “I feel very proud to have the stories on my mobile phone and to be able to send them to others”
  • “Not everyone has a phone, especially women”
  • “It is nice to get the information as a story from a real person”