Workshop in Windhoek
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CTA. 1995. Workshop in Windhoek. Spore 56. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/47029
regional workshops which was held in Windhoek, Namibia, 14-18 November 1994
Many demands on dwindling resources have left libraries and documentation centres sliding down to somewhere near the bottom of the priority list for national funding, but can agricultural and rural development take place without a reliable basis of information from which to move forward? How can ACP countries develop their own capacities to access and deliver agricultural information for development? The Fourth ACP-EU Lomé Convention confers responsibility on CTA not only to improve the availability of scientific and technical information on agriculture to ACP States, but also to promote the capacity of ACP States for the production, purchase and exchange of this kind of information. CTA has now given every ACP country in Africa the opportunity to prepare a national monograph assessing its own agricultural information needs. Four regional workshops have been held to give participants a forum to discuss how the institutions within their countries can take advantage of the opportunities that a regional approach can offer for solving the challenge of insufficient funding, inadequate equipment, lack of trained staff and poor recognition by policy makers of the essential role that information plays in agricultural development. As Dr Amos Thapisa from the University of Botswana declared at the last of the regional workshops which was held in Windhoek, Namibia, 14-18 November 1994, 'We need to share information about agriculture, the thing that really feeds SADC; and I think information also can operate at that level - it feeds nations.' This fourth regional workshop concerned the southern African countries which are members of the ACP Group and was attended by participants from Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe and by representatives of regional and international organizations. CTA sponsored the workshop, which was organized jointly by CTA, SACCAR (Southern African Centre for Cooperation in Agricultural Research) and the Ministry of Agriculture, Water and Rural Development of Namibia. In presenting CTA's purpose in sponsoring the workshop Alan Jackson, Technical Adviser, emphasized that CTA has no wish to foster the establishment of a monolithic information system. The aim was to enhance the awareness at the highest political level of the relationship between the availability of technical information and the development of the agricultural sector which is of such importance to Africa. Furthermore, the benefits that can be derived from a regional approach to solving common problems should not be underestimated. Such an approach makes more efficient use of limited resources within the countries concerned and this, in the longer term, will lead to self-sufficiency and hence better sustainability. Potential donors are also in favour of regionalization because their limited sources of funding can be used more effectively. CTA has been working closely with SACCAR and anticipates continuing close links as SACCAR already provides a regional structure as part of SADC. Participants also endorsed the concept of SAAINET as a network where a focal point in each country serves as a link to national users, to SACCAR and to other countries in the region. It was recommended that a regional steering committee be set up in support of SAAINET (the Southern African Agricultural Information Network) to increase its effectiveness. A summary report of the workshop, which includes details of the conclusions and recommendations,will soon be available from CTA. The benefits of regionalization are well understood but, as Matseliso Moshoeshoe-Chadzingwa from the Institute of Southern African Studies at the National University of Lesotho pointed out, 'There can never be regional cooperation without national cooperation'. Weak or, in some cases, non-existent national agricultural information policies have left fragmented services with individual libraries, and their users, unclear as to who is providing what and where and whether it is provided at all. 'In soccer there is teamwork,' said Peter Masunu from Zambia's Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Fisheries. 'Even though you are passing the ball to other players you are all aiming for a score,' he added. 'Information centres collect information and pass it to their users but the idea of it all is to develop the agricultural industry and help the farmer upgrade his standard of living. We are all players in this whole game'' he continued. Wenke Adam, Librarian at the Centre for Agricultural Documentation in Mozambique, said that a vicious circle had been created because when libraries are poor they are not supported and therefore deteriorate still further. But the vicious circle can be broken in three places, she claimed. 'It can be broken by researchers who must protest at the level where something can be done about it. It can be broken by decision makers who must understand that this is an area where they have to invest. In other words, you cannot get decent documentation services for free. And it can be broken by librarians themselves who must do as much as they can with what they have in order to show that they are worth supporting.' It was clear from discussions that librarians and documentalists are keen to take a more pro-active role in providing the best service possible to their users. They can do so if their users take them into their confidence at the earliest opportunity and work with them in order to get the information they need. As Etta Coetzee, Technical Information Officer at the Namibia Development Corporation emphasized, 'If you have a user in front of you, it's not just anybody. It's that specific person with a specific need. And if you can satisfy that need you have done a good job'