A question of confidence
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Kyomuhendo Baitwa, Jane. 2002. A question of confidence. Spore 98. CTA, Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Permanent link to this item: http://hdl.handle.net/10568/47537
Internet URL: http://spore.cta.int/images/stories/pdf/old/spore98.pdf
Jane is of the new generation of information professionals: open, enthusiastic, committed, demand-responsive. Between workshops at a CTA seminar on farmers organisations, she spoke with Spore about her work, deeds and dreams. Listen in to a chat...
Jane is of the new generation of information professionals: open, enthusiastic, committed, demand-responsive. Between workshops at a CTA seminar on farmers organisations, she spoke with Spore about her work, deeds and dreams. Listen in to a chat under a tree. She has just said, intoning it three times, that 'Information is power'. Why is that so important to her? 'When someone has information and knowledge, they have confidence, and the skills to take informed decisions.' Is she saying that a person is only a full person when they have full confidence, that some people she works with are not full people, not full farmers? In a way, she agrees. Some farmers do not have full confidence, even though they and their predecessors may have been farming for centuries. They have information about practical aspects, of course, but they do not have enough about the market. If you re a farmer and don t know what the market demand is, you may be producing maize very well, according to best farming practices, but there may be no market. And then you lose interest in your maize, because it has lost its value for you. What about the power angle, we wonder? Our work, Jane reflects, is about people having the power and confidence that comes from being informed. Most times people fear to stand up and speak, because they re not so sure whether they are going to say the right thing. If you re informed, then you re confident, you can say the right thing, or ask the right question at the right time. It helps you to be involved. She works in, she is, the information department of her organisation, we remark, so she must have the key to a lot of people s confidence. To some extent, she admits, I do, to their confidence and their power. I select information, and I am its gateway. In fact, I need more confidence to get more correct information. The other people working in our organisation could be the source, and I need them to appreciate the role of information more. They may be a scientist, agriculturalist, extension worker, or in marketing or credit, and when I ask them for an article, they may feel they have other, more important work. Do people really still think like that, we prompt her, in the 21st century, in the information age, do some people resist? Not outright, we are assured, not intentionally. The thing is that most people do not appreciate information because it is not tangible, you cannot touch and feel it. An extension worker can tell a farmer about growing maize, about the spacing to use, and she shows the spacing; or about seeds, and she shows the seeds, and the farmer can appreciate. With information, it does not feel so immediate. She leans forward, wanting to sound more positive. Some people do appreciate information, though. Some farmers write into the Farmers Voice (FV) magazine. We joke, in passing, about how readers letters are at the front of her magazine and at the back in Spore, and about which is better. She tells of a farmer in the central region, whom she met at a workshop on effective communication. He told her 'I read an article about a farmer in another part of the country growing passion fruit and oranges, and I thought if my fellow farmer can do it, why not me?' Passion fruit is now his major source of income, and he is better able to survive. What he impressed on his fellow participants in the workshop was to appreciate knowledge, and to always seek it. For him, knowledge changed his life. There was another farmer I wrote about, he didn t know English, so he couldn t read it himself. He was read about even in Denmark, where UNFFE s major donor is. A Danish farmers organisation got interested, and when they sent a film crew to Uganda they visited him. Finally he was given a special course in extension work, because he was seen as a farmer who can pass on knowledge to his fellow farmers. Believe you and me, he has become very confident; when he comes to the office now, he s not the same person I met the first time on his farm. He s blossomed, he ll come and ask for this and that, knowing that he knows what other people want to know. Is everyone special like that farmer, we wonder? Not everyone: some read something, appreciate it and put it into practice, others will not do anything concrete. Is information, we chip in, a lot like seeds falling on fertile or stony ground, as in the Biblical tale? Jane develops the idea: it s not a question of stony ground. The land may well be fertile, but it may need rainfall. Some information may fall on its fertile land but it lacks rain. People s energy can do the same to information as rainfall to a seed. She talks proudly about her organisation s radio shows, its cassette libraries for farmers in six languages. About how each copy of FV is read by four people, how it reaches schools, how she wants to increase circulation above the current ceiling of 2,000 and finance it with advertising. What has disappointed her? The printed press s scant coverage of agriculture. The attitudes of journalists wanting facilitation and editors putting in news about growing beans, but not bigger issues which affect policy. She fires herself up and talks about holding a workshop for journalists, to win their pens. Does she have a dream, a professional dream? Her eyes glitter more, her hand strokes the air firmly. I want to be in a network, helping get the right information to the farmers. There s a need for a one-stop shop but it hasn t happened yet because people she means investors, support agencies have not appreciated the value of information circulating. But, we all know, they haven t met Jane yet. Confidence personified. [caption to illustration] Jane Kyomuhendo Baitwa runs the information service of the Uganda National Farmers Federation (UNFFE) formerly the UNFA association in Kampala and is editor of their Farmers Voice magazine. She is a trained journalist with radio experience, and with a master s degree in political science from Makere University. The opinions expressed in Viewpoint are those of the authors, and do not necessarily reflect the views of CTA.