The Zambia Agricultural Research for Development Information Network (ZAR4DIN) project was launched in 2010, with the main goal of facilitating access to Institutional repositories of Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D) information resources through a national AR4D portal. The project was funded by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO).
The pilot Institutions in the project have been the Zambian Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI), the National Institute for Scientific and Industrial Research (NISIR) and the National Agricultural Information Services (NAIS) of the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives.
The architecture of the national system consists of data providers (currently, ZARI, NAIS and NISIR), managing their electronic resources locally and not providing web access to them for the moment, and a national service provider, the ZAR4DIN portal (http://zar4din.org/), that periodically imports records from the three Institutions and gives access to them through a search engine.
Standard vocabularies and metadata sets are used to manage and expose information so that records from different sources can be smoothly integrated in the national portal. Although the export files from ZARI and NAIS (XML files following the AGRIS Application Profile specification) are different from the files produced by NISIR (Microsoft Access tables), the use of a similar metadata set allowed to smoothly import the three sets of metadata records into the ZAR4DIN national portal. The metadata set adopted, independently of the serialization, is based on the AGRIS Application Profile element set.
Regarding the choice of tools to manage and exchange information, ZARI and NAIS are using the AgriDrupalsoftware for managing their resources, thus exploiting the cataloguing and indexing features of the tool (standard bibliographic metadata set; internal authority lists for authors, journals and conferences; integration of the AGROVOC thesaurus for subject indexing), while NISIR catalogued their first batch of documents using Microsoft Access, which resulted in a few issues regarding the consistency and syntax of data, considering which NISIR decided to migrate all records to an AgriDrupal installation.
Also the ZAR4DIN portal was built using AgriDrupal solutions. The flexible import functionalities of the ZAR4DIN portal allow for periodical incremental import / harvesting of records from the current participating Institutions and for the addition of new data providers, being easily adjustable to different output formats, provided that the basic metadata requirements are met.
This project demonstrates how adopting Institutional policies, content management methodologies and information sharing approaches that follow the "Pathways to Research Uptake" proposed by the Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development (CIARD) movement can help in the development of an integrated national agricultural information system.