Matantala Chiefdoms Village Group

ICT KM Breakout group on communicating with rural communities

Notes by Ralph von Kaufmann

Communities:  are not necessarily defined geographically
They have shared values and shared needs

  • Information needs, e.g., market, health, policy etc
  • Researchers share information to advance change and innovation
  • Information – experience- learning tools needed to create knowledge

Community learning is informal
Agriculture is becoming more knowledge based.

How do we make the community more knowledge-able
The problem is that the focus in the past has been on providing information with too little attention what the end user needs to be able to process it into useful knowledge
Communities have multiple sources of information and from multiple sources and multiple platforms (media) and access to fluctuates
Once the information has been converted into knowledge the end user needs to be able to use it and continue to build on it.  Information has to be:
•    Produced
•    Made available
•    Made accessible
•    appropriated
•    timely and accessible when needed

There is need for intermediaries between sources of information and users and this must be build on an information platform
Community informatics has found that it is essential to have continuous conversation.
This occurs in meeting places, social gatherings, and religious centres etc.
But  there has to be an enabling environment :
•    For example there may be laws against large gatherings
•    There might not be the right incentives, e.g., for mentoring
•    Every end user is unique and they need to be able to assess options (what if?)
•    Too often transfer of information takes the  cathedral model with a high priest passing down wisdom
New technologies enable much more interactive
This opens links between different people on the innovation platform.  If one person wants to know something they can find someone on the platform who knows somebody who has the answer.

The private sector is a diverse actor on the platforms in the actual process of transporting information between the different actors many of whom will also be private sector such as merchants, input suppliers, processors, and of course the smallholder farmer herself.
Within the community there needs to be an info-mediary who can establish the linkages between the end users and providers of information.
The land grant model has a lot to recommend itself to Africa but there are a lot of structural problems such as segration of education and extension ministries.
The universities should be obliged to strengthen the infomediaries with the skills to obtain information that is needed by the communities.  There has to be some quality assurance system to avoid the wrong application of information.
The facilitator at a farmer field school is essentially a trained info-mediary.
This can be improved and safeguarded by enabling question and answer systems.    The infomediary does not have to provide the answers.  They can contact others who are better informed and often that will be other farmers.
This will require major institutional change and reform.
The principle of rural learning circles and barefoot universities takes the whole learning process into the rural communities:

Conclusions
There is need for a systemic change in the way that information is shared and exchanged with communities
There is need to build on the sustainable models because they have proven to meet community needs
There are institutional changes in information providing institutions in the public sector policies, incentives, norms, rules, regulations and above all mind sets.
Need to develop the right platforms which are inclusive of value chain actors, including private sector actors, with capacities for social networking.
Need to change the processes in which information is exchanged with the communities so that they are demand driven and appropriate in content, timing and presentation.

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