The role of information for rural development in ACP countries
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CTA. 1995. The role of information for rural development in ACP countries . Spore 59. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/47149
CTA has always been aware that to fulfil its mandate it must match the needs of ACP countries in the field of Scientific and Technical Information (STI) with the resources available and in tune with rapidly changing communication systems. Ten years...
CTA has always been aware that to fulfil its mandate it must match the needs of ACP countries in the field of Scientific and Technical Information (STI) with the resources available and in tune with rapidly changing communication systems. Ten years ago a conference organized by the Centre in Montpellier, France, outlined the existing priorities: that STI should be considered 'a national resource in the same way as energy or raw materials.' Stress was placed on the need to make information available to users: planners, scientists, technicians disseminators and agricultural producers. But it became clear during a second conference held in Montpellier in June 95 that, while CTA has accomplished a great deal in disseminating the information available, the real needs of users are still far from being satisfied. A great deal depends also on the importance attached to information by the national systems themselves, and the resources devoted to it. Thereby, what information is available does not always match what is required; information can be difficult to access; and networks for circulating information in a suitable form and at an affordable cost, do not always work properly. In addition, ACP countries still produce relatively little information themselves and remain dependent on information from the North. M. Baba Dioum, Coordinator of the Conference of Agricultural Ministers of West and Central Africa, provided the backdrop for the challenge that Africa faces when, in his keynote address, he compared Africa's per capita production of cereals 1980-1990 down by 0.8% per year - with Asia's production - up by between 2 and 6% per year. Information is a key factor in development, not least because well-informed people may be more readily motivated. Several delegates from a wide range of ACP countries underlined the need to involve rural people in the information gathering process and to encourage their participation in both information dissemination and monitoring and analysis of its implementation. To differentiate the organizations from a geographical point of view and from an 'institutional' point of view, participants were drawn from international, regional and national organizations and institutions, from both private and public sectors, in ACP and EU countries. They included managers and technicians from many sectors of agricultural and rural development; communication professionals from broadcasting and print journalism and publishing; managers and users of new agricultural and rural information technologies; policy and decision-makers. Among the calls for change was one to retrain librarians and documentalists so that they would no longer look on themselves as guardians of information storehouses but as people who actively offer information and to assist people in accessing and selecting appropriate information. New technology in the form of computers, CD-ROM and networking offer enormous potential advantages, once they are affordable, available, and sufficient people are trained in their use. The conference stressed that in future, for all involved in development, emphasis will have to be placed more on communication processes rather than supplying ready-made products. It is also time to switch away from STI specifically to more broadly applicable information on rural development. It is essential to decentralize access to information, and to create local information and communication services and products. A recommendation of the conference was that CTA focus on these needs, possibly by assisting with training in both the use of modern technology (Internet and CD-ROM), which permit decentralized horizontal information exchange, and in traditional forms of communication including drama and song. Finally, CTA should continue to act as an intermediary between ACP and EU countries in order to achieve a better match between ACP needs and the availability of services and products in the KU. ACP countries are undergoing a phase of very rapid change: urbanization, democratization, a greater role of civil society in the light of current economic pressures (structural adjustment). Whereas in the past information was produced by a few for use by the many, in the future that distinction will be less clear and less important. Increasingly horizontal information exchange will be more important than vertical information transfer. To emphasize the emergence of new partners the private sector, NGOs and the producers' associations will play a greater role. Today we are no longer givers and (passive) receivers but actors or players on the same stage, that is - real partners in development.