30 December 2010
Gothenburg 2010: Report of the Open Session of IFLA Agricultural Libraries SIG
The session on agricultural libraries was held on August 12, 2010 on the theme "Current trends in agricultural information services for farmers." Evincing great interest on the theme, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), Netherlands - an ACP-EU institution working in the field of information for development - graciously offered to sponsor attendance of speakers from ACP (Africa, Caribbean and Pacific) countries. Shamin Renwick (Trinidad and Tobago), Collence T. Chisita (Zimbabwe), and Ernéne Verster (South Africa) were selected to present their papers. However, Collence T. Chisita could not get the visa. Over 100 participants attended the session. Presentations and lively discussion that followed focused on timely availability of information to farmers, ranchers, researchers and called for design and development of information tools exclusively for farmers and in local languages.
Shamin Renwick (Trinidad and Tobago) in her paper "Current trends in agricultural information services for farmers in Trinidad and Tobago/Caribbean" said that farmers, particularly those who produce for export markets, in the Caribbean countries are very much affected by the dictates of various trade agreements and government policies. She stressed the need to providing authoritative, appropriate, and factual information in a format and at a level that enables the farmers to make pre-production, production and marketing decisions. She gave an overview of the current information providers, social networking efforts as well as barriers and constraints in the utilization of information by farmers in Caribbean countries.
Liangzhi Yu (China), based on a study of information seeking habits of farmers in a northern Chinese county, in her paper "Information worlds of Chinese farmers and their implications for agricultural information services: a fresh look at ways to deliver effective services" characterized the role of Chinese farmer as an information creator, provider, transmitter, seeker, receiver and/or user. She said that the Chinese farmers have very few need based and job related information resources to utilize. She sought to advise the agricultural information system designers and service providers to plan and design the products to cater to farmers' information needs addressing accessibility problems.
Presenting the paper "Open access repository for the Brazilian literature on agroecology", Maria De Cléofas Faggion Alencar (Brazil) said that although there is plenty of Brazilian technical and scientific literature on agriculture and allied subjects, it is scattered and difficult to access. She stressed the need for open access digital repositories with the objective of collecting articles, conference papers, documents by NGOs, government papers, dissertations and thesis, and publications emanating from institutes and universities.
Ernéne Verster (South Africa) in her paper "Information to farmers: the role of CTA in facilitating agricultural information transfer to farmers and the work done by the Lengau Centre at the University of the Free State" presented an overview of the objectives and functions of the CTA sponsored Question-and-Answer Service ( PRASIS) in providing information and documentation services to ACP partners. She described the entire process with several examples as to how the program promotes the use of information in achieving sustainable agriculture and rural development and food security in Southern Africa.
Deva Eswara Reddy
Convener of the Agricultural Libraries SIG gave an overview of farmer-oriented information services and monitored the session.