Plenty more to come
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CTA. 1999. Plenty more to come. Spore 84. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/46547
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore84.pdf
'Take advantage of Spore, after all, it is yours' was the message given to readers in an early issue, fourteen years ago. At the turn of the Millennium, we look back at the story so far to see how, and how many, readers are putting Spore to good...
Take advantage of Spore, after all, it is yours' was the message given to readers in an early issue, fourteen years ago. At the turn of the Millennium, we look back at the story so far to see how, and how many, readers are putting Spore to good use. Among the correspondence which arrives regularly at the Spore desks in CTA and at the editorial offices in France and the Netherlands are letters describing readers clubs and readers circles. The idea of a group of individual readers coming together, in a circle, to share and discuss the contents of this information bulletin is what inspired the thinking about circles in the Millennium supplement which you will find inside this issue. As it is now, so it was in the beginning: Spore has always been designed to reflect readers interests. In today s language we could say that Spore is reader-driven . In the language of the early days, in March 1986, Spore was here to be used . Under the title of 'Spore dissemination and germination' (the bulletin title being based on an analogy between the dispersal of biological material and the spread of information), the editors wrote: 'Rather than promote the agency publishing it, Spore aims to ensure the widest possible dissemination of information to the agricultural world, in order to fertilise ideas and allow them to germinate. Rather than blowing its own trumpet and putting forward its own ideas, it is dedicated to a new form of North-South cooperation: a joint effort by all ACP and EEC States to achieve the major objective of eliminating food shortages by the end of this century.' The end of the century has come, and that ambitious goal still remains to be achieved. But it is not for want of trying, since the first goal of emphasising ideas and information, rather than the institution, has generally been followed, although some early issues did succumb to the temptation of carrying long articles and interviews about the institution itself. More recently, again in modern phraseology and to meet today s requirements for enhanced effectiveness, Spore is being used to reinforce CTA s corporate identity ; nevertheless, Spore has kept to the early maxim of working 'with the end-user in mind', in promoting its goal of disseminating scientific and technical information for agriculture in ACP countries. Proven formula From the beginning, each issue of Spore has carried about thirty descriptions of technologies, projects, research findings, events, courses, networks, publications from CTA and elsewhere, organisations and readers activities, as well as reports of activities such as study visits and visits organised or supported by CTA. After starting as a 12-page newsletter, by March 1987, the bi-monthly Spore, with English and French editions, had already grown to 16 pages, the length it has kept to this day through several changes in layout, including the gradual introduction of colour. In 1994, the sister edition Esporo came on stream, to serve readers in African countries speaking Portuguese, with customised sections on publications, readers mail and events. Throughout its history, Spore has kept up with trends in agriculture in ACP countries, and has sometimes maybe helped to set them. Each issue has carried three of four background articles, at least one of them a viewpoint submitted by a reader or taken from leading pioneers in new forms of best practice in rural development. The several hundred background articles have covered a vast area ranging from camels and poultry, through rural credit and marketing, to changing patterns of the production of crops such as cassava, wheat and maize, as well as macro issues such as regionalisation. Taking trends, making trends Sometimes it has been a question of explaining trends as they happen, such as the challenge posed by Asian agriculture; at other times, of explaining trends that history may see as little more than a fashion, such as strategies for food security and poverty alleviation which are essentially re-runs of long-established, and fundamental priorities. Sometimes, Spore has talked of issues before most readers will have heard of them: biotechnology, and what are now called genetically modified organisms , were written about in the 1980s; the impending water crisis early in the 1990s; urban agriculture in 1991, long before any network had been created on the topic; and the potential of computer technology, especially in the form of CD-ROM discs for sharing information, an area in which CTA was an acknowledged pioneer in the late 1980s. At other times, Spore has just kept up with some trends, or, we must be honest, has even lagged behind. Perhaps the most evident is gender equity: issues of women and agriculture have been raised from early issues onwards, but it was only in 1998 that a cover article was devoted to this topic which has shaped so much development thinking, and to which Spore is now paying much more attention. Throughout, emphasis has been given to various aspects of the key issues which are with us everyday, such as land its ownership, distribution, management, replenishment and degradation; livestock their diseases, management, feed, welfare, conflicts with farmers over water and grazing rights, and environmental concerns; and the growing exposure of the ACP farmer to the, for her and for him, uncontrollable forces of globalisation - structural adjustment, collapse of extension services, competition from imports, and the need to export and conquer markets Readers, readers everywhere In 1997-1998, an extensive evaluation of Spore subscribers was conducted. Although a survey of subscribers general reading habits and needs had been carried out as part of a CTA study on technical publishing in Africa in 1990, the 1997 evaluation was the first comprehensive analysis of their use of Spore, and it led to a number of changes in Spore s presentation and content, that were introduced in 1998. That evaluation showed, for example, that in 1997 more than 70% of individual subscribers were graduates, and that only 7% of subscribers were women the latter now being a priority area for action by CTA s distribution service. At the same time, the subscriber list was revalidated: all subscribers had to re-register their interest, and show that they met certain criteria. Other subscribers, and those outside the EU and ACP countries, had to purchase subscriptions from CTA s sales agent (see page 15). Despite the number of subscribers having been whittled down from more than 50,000 for the French, English and Portuguese editions, to 16,000 in early 1998, the number has again passed the 30,000 mark and is rising steadily. Spore and Esporo have subscribers in a total of 126 countries. Reader s appreciation of recent changes is confirmed in part in the increasing flow of readers letters to our Mailbox, and in their perseverance in requesting information mentioned in Spore. A brief mention of a book in Spore will often lead to more than 150 requests. Where will Spore go in the years to come? If it is up to the readers, the answer has to be On, Forward! So far, the original Spore has spawned a Portuguese edition and, more recently, versions on the World Wide Web. Work will soon start on indexing back numbers, and putting them on the Web also. Editions in other languages have been suggested, as well as national or regional editions, monthly editions, or longer editions. Others say 'if it ain t broke, why fix it?' Time will tell. The current team, of CTA and the Spore consortium formed by Louma productions and Médiateurs with their ACP correspondents, is committed to carrying on the traditions established by Spore s compilers up to early 1998, Périscoop and Media Projects/Wrenmedia: that each issue of Spore should, for each reader, explain new background information, give more insights on information already known, provide practical information and resources and give a better understanding of the work of CTA and its value to the reader. If you don t find it, write and tell us. Spore is your opportunity. Something old, something new, something in every issue, something for you.