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Information Poverty: A barrier to Agricultural Productivity in Rural areas.

The agricultural sector is one of the most under exploited in many African Countries today. In Uganda alone, about 80% of the now approximately 32 million people http://data.worldbank.org/country/uganda  are rural based and depend almost entirely on Agriculture at various Levels of livelihood.
Information poverty is the absolute lack of accurate and timely Agricultural information to effect positive change in this case in the Agriculture Sector. Much as it is believed by many, that access to timely information by rural communities cannot only increase agricultural productivity but enhance social and economic development, many farmers in rural areas lack even the basic access to information.
Can ICTs bridge the Information Poverty gap?
Technologies affects all aspects of life be it social, economic or political. It’s therefore important to understand the role technology can play in Agriculture; to increase productivity, reduce costs as well as increase on the customer base. ICTs have been used as enablers in other sectors like Education, Entrepreneurship, health and sports but their adoption, usage and application in Agriculture is low despite the big role agriculture plays in society.
The inability to access accurate and timely information by rural farmers on climate change, market prices and best practices has negatively affected the final out put in terms of yields and profits. ICTs can play a big role is solving the problem of information poverty among rural farmers. The mobile phone whose penetration into Africa alone is over 500M http://ht.ly/37Ks7 a hand tool that can be used for several purposes because of its ability to combine text, Audio and Video functionality in addition to its ability to cut across literacy levels(Farmers are able to communicate in their local languages). The community radios, Telecenters/Information resource centre and print Media like farmer Magazines are all ICTs that farmers can use to access agricultural information.

MobileActive Video: Mobile phones in rural development & agriculture

Way Forward

Despite a number of challenges faced by the Agricultural sector, there are some things to consider inorder to bridge the Agricultural divide. Some of them are;
·          -Actively involving the Youth in Agricultural initiatives because being the biggest users of ICTs, their potential can be tapped into to divert their skills to Agriculture. They need to start looking at Agriculture as a source of income(Agrobusiness) and not as a dirty job like it has been potryed to them.
·         The agricultural projects must be very Gender sensitive right from the start. In most African Counties, women dominate in agricultural production yet the men do lots of marketing. It’s important to let each Gender play a role right from production to marketing in order to achieve Agricultural food security.
·         Agriculturalists need to work very closely with Journalists. Media plays a very big role in changing the perception people have towards agriculture as a dirty job and a sector of failures. Since journalists set the news agenda, they have to be well informed such that they can document agricultural success stories and stop focusing on only agricultural disasters like famine and floods.
·         Take advantage of New and social media to educate, inform, motivate and involve a number of different stakeholders about the role agriculture can play in economic development of society.

Maureen Agena: CTA’s FIRST Remote Intern

In 2009, The Technical centre for Agricultural and Rural cooperations  ACP-EU introduced CTA’s Internship and Young professional officers programmes. The Centre offers the beneficiaries of the program the opportunity to acquire practical experience related to their professional backgrounds and aspirations.

How it all began
During CTA’s 2009 annual seminar which was also her 25th anniversary, I was privilledged to meet the biggest percentage of the CTA team in Brussels-Belgium including Mr. Giacomo Rambaldi my current Remote trainer and Mentor. Being a trained Citizen journalist, I did not waste any precious time but decided to join the various web 2.0 platforms that were being used to share information about the seminar and anniversary. Twitter was my favorite platform. I spent most of my time tweeting and re-tweeting until the day I was set to make a presentation on behalf of WOUGNET entitled “Use of web 2.0 tools for sustainable
argriculture: A case of small scale farmers in Uganda”.
The entire idea of web 2.0 tools was “News” to majority of the participants. After the presentation, I had the privilege to share my passion for web 2.0 tools and new media with CTA’s Senior programme Coordinator/ICT and Innovation Mr Giacomo Rambaldi.
After a discussion with WOUGNET coordinator Dr. Dorothy Okello during the CTA observatory Workshop in Netherlads in 2009, it was agreed that I should be recruited as a remote CTA intern.

What the Distance Mentorship Covers.
During the internship period, it is believed that Knowledge and skills will be acquired via remote coaching and hands-on practice. The distance mentorship programme covers the following topics:
Use of SharePoint remote collaboration platform to store and exchange data related to this programme (Microsoft Office environment)
• Use of Joomla (CMS); e.g. publish ready edited content
• Monitor and improve visibility and ranking of websites. This includes SEO assessments, registration on search engines and online directories, planned crawling, establishment of reciprocating links, use of WebRings and other
• Improve dissemination of online products. This involves the posting of short announcements on selected portals, social tagging and tweeting. Content will be provided by CTA.
Moderate and animate the exchanges on the Web2forDev DGroup
• Transcribing and translating videos on dotsub.
My experience.
Being a remote intern had never occurred to me. I did not know that such a “thing” existed, being trained and mentored online using a number of tools. When CTA offered me this opportunity, I was so eager to find out what “remote” internship entailed. I must say that, six months into the internship, I have no regrets at all. The benefits are overwhelming and opportunities keep increasing.
Ø I have understood the power of the internet and the benefits it can offer when properly used.
Ø I have learnt about many more web 2.0 tools and how they work. This has made it possible for me to use the skills for WOUGNET.
Ø Being a trained citizen Journalsit, I am putting into use the practical skills like blogging, tweeting , skyping among others.
Thanks to The Technical centre for Agricultural and Rural cooperations ,CTA’s Internship and Young professional officers programme for giving the youth like me an opportunity to maximize on the potential I have in relation to new and digital Media.

Maureen Agena
Remote Intern
Affiliated to the CTA Distance Mentorship Programme
Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation ACP-EU
P.O. Box 380, NL 6700AJ Wageningen, The Netherlands