The site-specific agriculture project of the International Center of Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) aimed to improve the productivity of four fruit crops in Colombia through the sharing of farmer’s knowledge using an online platform. CIAT’s knowledge management team supported the project investigating several questions, whose findings will be used in design and implement ICT platforms improving data management for farmers.
Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are an essential enabler to improve the decision making process of farmers, the access to and sharing of experiences and knowledge among them.
CIAT’s knowledge management team supported the site-specific agriculture project investigating the following questions: What knowledge, attitudes and skills are a precondition for Colombian fruit farmers to participate in the use of ICTs as a means of sharing data and experiences with other farmers? What is the reality of their data management practices (i.e. how do you like learning about the management of their crop?). What are the conditions for effective data management? What conditions are needed to enable farmers’ active participation in an information system?
The authors of the study approached the posed questions by analyzing three Colombian fruit farmers’ groups (individual farmers, farmer groups meeting “face to face”, and farmer groups’ virtual meetings), while taking notes on farm activities and capacities to collect information and their interest and ability to take advantage of the opportunities offered by ICTs. The main goal is to understand the attitudes, knowledge, skills, and current practices of fruit growers and to define the necessary conditions for effective information sharing.
Findings came from investigating questions and their significance.
First of all, “farmers like working in groups and take advantage of synergies and complementary skills. Farmers, overall, were positive towards information sharing within both their own immediate circles and on a broader scale. However, shortage of skills in using ICTs and the lack of farm records is a limiting factor to sharing on a broader scale”.
The authors find that farmers understand the usefulness of record keeping, but data collection is often imposed externally (e.g. through oral, anecdotal transmission), and records are not generally used to better manage production.
Farmers also rapidly grasp and understand technical information presented in a simplified format when accompanied by facilitators (simple, attractive tools which they have helped design) specifically in the case of online knowledge-sharing platforms that support decision-making.
The findings will contribute to the design of strategies for farmer engagement in the knowledge-sharing online platform of the AES-CE (Sharing Experiences for Site Specific Agriculture) project, designed to assist growers in improved decision making through sharing of multiple types of information from multiple sources.
To design and implement ICT platforms, which farmers can use to share information and improve their management methods, all design tools should be adjusted to the context and knowledge, attitudes, skills, needs and practices of farmers. Spaces for feedback from and interaction with users should be also generated.
Authors: Fanny Cecile Howland, Luis Armando Muñoz, Simone Staiger, James Cock, Sophie Alvarez.
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