Sous project: Le libre courant de l'information et l'acc6s aux sources de la connaissance
dans la soci6t6 de l'information : Acc6s A l'information pour des groups typiques
Titre de l'etude :
Le pouvoir des producteurs Augmenter 1'acces A I'information pour
les Agriculteurs et Producteurs des Caraibes
L'acc6s A l'information et la connaissance peuvent &tre vu A divers niveaux pour
plusieurs groups d'int6r6ss6s. A un certain niveau l'information pertinente A propos
d'un sujet particulier pourrais exister, mais si l'individu n'est pas au courant de son
existence, celle-ci n'est plus a sa porter. D'un autre cot6, il y aurait une prise de
conscience que l'information existe, cependant 1'information ne serait pas disponible
a cause de limitations tel que l'argent n6cessaire pour l'achat, connaissances pour
localiser l'information, la faculty de comprendre, d'instruments inadapt6s et la source
d'information requise. De cette mani6re l'information n'est toujours pas accessible.
L'information et la connaissance ont toujours jou6s un r6le important pour la
planification et l'ex6cution de projects et les actions de toutes personnel tant en public
ou dans le secteur priv6 mais aussi dans les O.N.G. Cependant avec les existantes
avanc6es techniques de l'information et les communications technologiques (ICTs),
I'information est maintenant vision comme un 616ment qui peut faire des contributions
consid6rables au d6veloppement. L'age l6ectronique signifie que l'information peut
facilement se d6placer aux confins du temps, g6ographiquement et dans l'espace.
Malgr6 tout, de nombreux individus n'ont pas la faculty ou la capacity de trouver et en
reality d'employer cette information concernant leur entreprise ou leur programme.
L'information et la connaissance doivent &tre utilis6s pour solucioner des probl6mes
determinants si cela devrait etre employer.
L'institut de d6veloppement et de recherche des Caraibes une institution r6gionale don't
le but est de seconder les initiatives rurales au travers de la recherche et le
d6veloppement, est en train de travailler avec les organismes technique intemationaux
dans le but de d6velopper les capacit6s de gestion en communication. L'institut s'est
efforcer a executer des projects ayant comme objectif de d6centraliser les services de
l'information; de d6velopper les r6seaux th6matiques et de biens et d'organiser des
programmes de formation,d'encourager le partenariat et d'apporter l'aide technique afin
d'am6liorer l'acc6s A l'information.
Cet effort fait parties d'une strat6gie global de planification, de d6veloppement,
d'appropriation et de reporter l'information concern ainsi que la connaissance avec la
vision d'augmenter l'abilit6 des principaux int6r6ss6s pour am6liorer leur productivity,
trouver des marches et hausser leur revenues.
A cet 6gard, l'6tude va pr6sent6 quelques experiences du service de la recherche et
developpement ayant pour objectif l'acc6s plus libre A l'information et la connaissance
pour les principaux int6r6ss6s dans le domaine de l'agriculture avec une mention
particuli6re aux agriculteurs et autres producteurs. L'6tude prendra en conclusion
quelques recommendations bass sur les enseignements passes et introduira sa ligne
ACURIL XXXVI CONFERENCE
MAY 28 JUNE 2, 2006
Theme: "Information and Human Rights: The Social, Cultural and Ethical Aspects
of the Information Society".
Sub-Theme: The Free Flow of Information and Access to Knowledge Sources in the
Information Society: Papers regarding access to information for special groups.
Title of Paper: Empowerment of Producers: Enhancing access to
information for farmers and other producers in Caribbean agriculture
Claudette de Freitas
Information Resources Manager
Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute
Empowerment of Producers: Enhancing access to information for farmers and other
producers in Caribbean agriculture
Livelihoods at stake
Agriculture has a key role to play in achieving the Millennium development goals since it
impacts on employment, food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development. Farmers
in the Caribbean are being affected as the agricultural sector is facing a number of serious
constraints resulting in loss of markets and declining income from agriculture.
Small farmers continue to be an important part of the agricultural production generated
within the region and if they are to survive in the current global environment they must become
more competitive. Information is necessary to assist in identifying opportunities through new
markets, useful technologies, funding, investment opportunities, potential partnerships and joint
ventures. International health and safety standards and other trade guidelines also require data
collection, record keeping, analysis and management of input of various commodities. Hence
better access to current, appropriate, relevant and timely information is critical to supporting the
region's efforts to be more competitive, and ultimately the survival of many farmers.
Access to information and knowledge may be viewed at different levels. At one level,
relevant information about a particular subject or topic may exist, but if one is not aware of its
existence, it is not accessible. On the other hand, there may be an awareness that information
exists, however it may be inaccessible due to limitations such as cost, skills to locate the
information and ability to understand and extract the information required.
Sources of Information for Farmers
Farmers usually have access to more traditional sources of information such as fact
sheets, technical bulletins, and booklets on a range of topics prepared by local, regional and
international agencies. On farm demonstrations are also used to allow groups of farmers to view
the results of experiments on the farms of members of the farming community, while
Demonstration Stations provide organised fora for teaching groups of farmers.
In 1975, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) was
given a mandate for technology generation, adaptation, validation and transfer to encourage
diversification away from traditional commodities such as sugar cane and bananas. Information
is a key component of the process of technology generation and transfer and the Institute has been
working with the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA), a technical
support agency, funded by the African Caribbean and Pacific States in collaboration with the
ACURIL XXXVI -Empowerment of Producers
C de Freitas, IRM, CARDI
European Union (ACP-EU). CARDI is the Caribbean Regional Branch Office for CTA, and in
this role coordinates projects to improve access to information, and also to build capacity in
information and communications management within the Caribbean region.
Among the projects undertaken is a customised information service known as the
Question and Answer Service (QAS), which has been offered since 1985. It provides access to
statistics, contact information, technical guides and fact sheets, as well as expert advice by
researchers from across the region to Caribbean users in the agricultural sector, including farmers.
The QAS has been undergoing a process of devolution, where each country has been given an
opportunity and technical support from CARDI and CTA to develop a national agricultural
information service. Organizations are encouraged to develop a local network of information
providers and become a part of a regional information network within a Caribbean Agricultural
Information Service (CAIS).
Farmers made up 12% of the users when the QAS was confined to the CARDI
Information Centre, and before the process of devolution to institutions at a national level began.
In light of the changing demands of the international arena, one of the objectives of the
devolution of the QAS to the national level, was an attempt to increase access to more timely and
relevant information services to local farmers. Early in the devolution process the percentage of
farmers using information services doubled to 24%.
This relatively high percentage of farmers serviced in the early stages of the devolution
process, may be attributed to the delivery of information services through a national network of
local agencies and groups, such as the Extension Services; agricultural suppliers; and the National
documentation centre, with the Ministry of Agriculture Information Unit functioning as the
national QAS coordinator. Questions posed to any member of the network would reach the
National Coordinator who collaborated with partners, both within and outside of the network, to
obtain the necessary information. Unfortunately this level of service to farmers was significantly
reduced after the reduction in the level of participation within the local networks in two
A CTA/CARDI survey of Caribbean farmers and non-governmental organizations
(NGOs) in the agricultural sector conducted in 2004, identified broad categories of information
used by farmers associations and their members. The categories were not mutually exclusive.
Thus over 63 % of the organizations accessed information primarily from members who
participated in meetings and conferences. Extension officers were identified as the second most
important source of information. More than one third of farmers, (38.4%), also accessed
information from newsletters and magazines, as well as the Internet (33.2%). Other reported
ACURIL XXVI -Empowerment of Producers 2
C de Freitas, IRM, CARDI
important sources of information included the radio (29.3%), community members (20.8%),
newspaper (18.2%), and the television (16.3%). The use of libraries and information services
did not feature very prominently in the sources of information noted.
Many farmers recognize that problems such as poor communication between and among
themselves and other stakeholder groups; limited regional transportation facilities; existing
barriers to regional and international trade all impact negatively on the sector
Information and knowledge is required for producers to be sensitised to the potential for
competitiveness and to function in a more business-oriented environment. It has also been
recognized that they can benefit through increasing their potential market and opportunities by
networking and collective action.
The Caribbean Farmers Network (CaFAN) is the brainchild of farmers. It was proposed
by representatives of farmers' groups participating in a regional workshop organised by CTA and
CARDI during 2002. Under the auspices of CAIS, CARDI and CTA have continued to work
with a team of farmers an interim committee of farmers' organizations to assist with the
establishment and development of CaFAN.
The results of the regional survey of farmers' groups noted earlier, were discussed at a
regional meeting of Caribbean farmers in July 2004. At the end of the meeting there was
consensus among the groups present to establish greater collaboration and networking among
farmers by developing CaFAN. An Interim Committee was appointed to design a strategy for
organising the network. A planning meeting of the group's interim committee held in December
2004, expanded the outline of activities prepared during the July 2004 meeting; this document
indicated a number of projects, which were earmarked for technical assistance.
CaFAN has a potential membership of over 134 groups of farmers, across 12 Caribbean
countries, which represent close to 100,000 individual farmers. Table 1 presents details of the
membership by country. Each local group represents the interests of the farmers in a particular
enterprise and assists the members to manage common problems that can benefit from a
ACURIL XXXVI -Empowerment of Producers 3
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Farmers and NGO groups in Caribbean agriculture
Country Number of groups Approx group % of groups with
membership email contact
Antigua & Barbuda 11 341 64
Bahamas 4 222
Barbados 7 670' 43
Belize 5 3,170 80
Dominica 5 125 80
Grenada 8 17,599 75
Guyana 16 15,723+2 19
Jamaica 19 38,915+3 79
St Kitts/Nevis 7 721 58
St Lucia 21 4,723 43
St Vincent & Grenadines 6 1,795 50
Suriname 3 730 34
Trinidad & Tobago 22 5,810+4 41
Note: +1 additional 7 sub groups
2 additional 11 sub groups
3 additional 51 sub groups
4 additional 5 sub groups
Source: Directory of Caribbean Farmers and NGO
CaFAN's mission is to enhance the well being and competitiveness of Caribbean farmers
through the sustainable development of the agricultural and rural development sector and thus
contribute to the re-positioning of Caribbean economies. Key strategies include the
empowerment of members and an emphasis on providing information, training and education
along with facilitating communication for development of the members.
It has been proposed that farmers groups at the national level should form national
CaFAN networks, to be linked into a regional CaFAN network. Since the process of networking
ACURIL XXXVI -Empowerment ofProducers
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is based on members of the group using various means to interact among themselves,
dissemination of information is one of the activities that can easily take place within the network.
It has been established that networks provide excellent mechanisms for information
exchange particularly for groups with similar needs and interests. Information exchange
networking has been defined by Nelson and Farrington (3) as 'a collaborative process of
information exchange, around a central theme, carried out by actively interested parties'.
Mechanisms for information exchange may include conversations, discussions, workshops,
broadcasts, theatre and film, all of which may be conducted through the use of multi-media.
From the survey of Caribbean Farmers and NGOs, the organizations responding
suggested that in addition to information sharing and dissemination, a regional network can play
an important role in assisting its member organizations in accessing resources including finances
(44.8%) and markets (37.1%). Approximately 33.0% of member organizations surveyed
suggested that as a regional body, a farmers' network could strengthen advocacy in the interest of
farmers and the farming community. Others suggested activities for regional network included
training and education, joint agri- business activities, and project identification.
Information Services required to support farmers development and operation
During 2005 information services were provided to 288 farmers or 16.5% of users out of
a total of 1747 Caribbean users.'. However this figure only represents 0.2% of the approximately
100,000 population of the farmers' groups recorded during the survey.
A pilot exercise which organised telecentres at the district level in a rural area of Jamaica
in 1999, recognized that while there was a need for information, there was very limited demand
for information, based on the number and nature of the requests received. Students and teachers
were the main users of the rural telecentre; and even those farmers who used the service made
requests for non-farming information. Reasons for this scenario included a lack of awareness of
the range of services available, limited ability of information providers to identify and interpret
farmer's needs, and the information was not available in a form which was ready to use.
Therefore, it is difficult to predict potential demand for information by farmers, although there is
clearly an indication that given the current environment there is a need for information on a range
of topics. In addition, many farmers indicate that lack of information is still a challenge.
' Local information services are available from six 6) centres offering Question and Answer
Services (QAS) Barbados, St Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines; St Kitts/Nevis; Jamaica,
ACURIL XXXVI -Empowerment of Producers 5
Cde Freitas, IRM, CARDI
Farmers require information on production methods, new agricultural technologies,
markets, trade regulations guidelines and standards, skills in advocacy, public awareness, network
development, group dynamics and negotiations, to name a few. The critical question to answer is
"what knowledge is needed to secure success in farming today?' (Hodge and Tanner, pg. 110).
In keeping with the mandate to supply information to the farming community, CAIS has
continued to identify strategies and mechanisms to meet the demands of a cross section of the
farmers. The existing capacity of the QAS Centres is approximately 1,800 questions per annum
and this is not expected to increase before the end of 2007. One of the objectives of the QAS has
always been to increase the percentage of farmers being serviced. However, even if the existing
capacity was to be devoted entirely to servicing farmers, only 1.8% of farmers within the CaFAN
groups could potentially be served.
Strategy for expanding the reach of information Services to farmers
In light of the importance of ensuring accessible information services for farmers, the
Caribbean Farmers Network is being proposed as a mechanism to channel information services to
farmers via the respective farmers' groups at the national level.
However, the potential range of information and related services which would be ideally
required to bring farmers to the necessary level of competitiveness is currently beyond the
capacity of the existing QAS and Information Centres. Hence the local and ultimately the
regional information networks must also be strengthened to link key information brokers. The
public library, institutional libraries, special libraries and other agencies within the agricultural
and related sector all need to be involved. A partnership between libraries and other agencies,
foundation, business and the media is well documented in an article by Hodge and Tanner. It
provides a model for implementing a programme for meeting the needs of the farmers.
Priority setting exercises to identify key topics and information required should be
coordinated jointly by the CaFAN Regional Coordinator, in collaboration with the CAIS QAS
Regional Coordinator, to identify the information themes to be addressed by respective groups at
the national level. The CTA has already designed a methodology for priority setting that can be
conducted over a two/three-day workshop. However, according to the methodology used by
Hodge and Tanner, it took stakeholder groups at least fifty meetings over a ten-week, period
along with studies of the communication habits of the farmers groups, to identify the information
needs of the farmers. Therefore, several meetings will be necessary to bring together key
stakeholders and information specialists in the public libraries, agriculture, and other relevant
areas to ensure that the materials and resources were made available for the farming community.
ACURIL XXXVI -Empowerment of Producers 6
C de Freitas, IRM, CARDI
Efforts to develop national level customised services for each country by the devolution
of the Question and Answer Service (QAS), need to continue so that when fully will established,
will form a network of information providers co-ordinated at the national level, with links to key
stakeholder groups such as policy makers, researchers, information specialists, trainers and
This will mean that instead of attempting to service a potential audience of over 100,000
individual farmers directly, information services via the network of QAS information providers
may be offered to 134 farmers and producer associations or groups. 134 clients are much more
in keeping with the capacity of the existing information services. In this way, information can be
pre-packaged or mass customised for each participating farmer or NGO group, by their local
QAS or information service provider.
Support will be required to assist the respective local chapters of CaFAN to distribute or
repackage information. However, the findings of the farmers' survey also revealed that many of
the employees of the farmers groups were highly educated and technically skilled; just over fifty
percent possessed tertiary level education at the university or technical school levels. Therefore
they have the capacity to be trained to support information management for their group. Each
information service can be tailored to suit the local environment and CaFAN Regional
Coordinator as well as the CAIS/QAS Regional Coordinator can facilitate linkages to regional
and international services.
In addition approximately 50% of the groups included in the CaFAN survey indicated an
email contact for the head of the organisation. There are also plans to operationalise a virtual
forum for CaFAN and to design a website to facilitate exchange of information between farmers'
Resources will be required for repackaging of information into multi-media formats,
particularly since adult literacy is still an issue among the farming population. The use of radio to
provide answers for technical questions, or call in programmes for delivery of information
services are options which are currently being spearheaded by one QAS Centre in St Vincent and
the Grenadines. The CaFAN/QAS team can also collaborate to support to intermediaries such as
Extension Officers who also transmit information to farmers, so that they can become better
conduits of information to their clients.
A major publicity campaign should also be launched to ensure that farmers are made
aware that information was available to meet their needs.
ACURIL XXXVI -Empowerment of Producers 7
C de Freitas, IRM, CARDI
How to address linking the farmers network and information network
An interesting aspect of the article by Hodge and Tanner referenced earlier, was that the
driving force to form these partnerships between libraries and other stakeholder groups came
from farmers who decided they did not wish to continue to pay taxes for library services which
"they felt did not address their needs". 110.
Many producers and farmers in the Caribbean who depend on agriculture for their
livelihood, are still at the early stages of developing their networks, and are not yet in a position
to mount such a strong lobby to appeal for information services.
However, why wait? Having recognized that the implementation of the Caribbean Single
Market and Economy (CSME) and for compliance with other trade agreements such as the World
Trade Organisation will require farmers to be prepared, now is a good time to re-examine how
accessible information services really are for the community which we are charged to serve.
How do we divide the available resources to meet the needs of potentially such a large
community? Are we in a position to respond if everyone wanted access to the collections, or
information we have organised to target particular communities? Should we give priority to
services required for livelihood issues?
There are also many challenges to be overcome to deal with various levels of access to
information by both producer groups and information providers challenges in the development
of the CaFAN network, as well as consolidating the network of information providers, to ensure
they both have the potential to assist the farmers groups to channel a range of resources and
services to members.
Findings of the survey of farmer and NGOs also indicate that there are many information
and communication capability weaknesses within respective organizations such as: -
a Lack of proper infrastructure (office space, meeting space, basic equipment,
communication equipment computers with Internet access)
a Lack of sufficient numbers of trained human resources (field staff, information and
a Lack of finances (to purchase equipment, train staff, develop and coordinate
projects; poor resource mobilisation)
o Lack of appropriate strategies and implementation plans in information and
communication to produce information in a frequent and timely fashion
a Periodic low levels of interest and participation by members of networks
o Inability of some of the membership of farmer's groups to participate because of
either level of literacy or inability to access the Internet, etc
ACURIL XXXVI -Empowerment ofProducers 8
C de Freitas, IRM, CARDI
Thus a number of challenges are outside the scope of a typical information project. It is
sometimes a challenge in itself where to draw the line in trying to meet very specific project
objectives when there are other socio-cultural, financial, human resource and policy issues which
affect the outcome of the project.
A strategy must be adopted to continue to sensitise stakeholders who can influence the
process of increasing focus on the issue of access to information and how this relates to livelihood
issues for some users. Members of a technical working group of CaFAN committee members,
along with representatives of information providers will need to work together to design the
details of the collaboration, including organising the exercise of priority setting for information
themes. It is also recommended that selected pilot projects be undertaken initially to provide
lessons which would facilitate better design of mechanism to deliver timely relevant and cost
effective the services, as it relates to the livelihoods of Caribbean farmers and producers, in the
medium to long term.
ACURIL XXXVI -Empowerment of Producers
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Delivery of Question and Answer Service (QAS)
via Producer Networks
CaFAN Producer Network
National QAS Coordinator
Network Producer Groups Network of Information Providers
it t I| g! ^ ^ l ;ritit0II I I -t
~i or a~sr~a~s mr~rr~i~r ras~cnc-~i~ t~iilF~T a~
Hodge, B and Tanner, R. Grassroots to Grassfed: Libraries partner with local organizations to
address information needs of farming Communities in Upstate New York. In The Reference
Librarian. No 82. 2003, pp. 107-124. Haworth Information Press.
Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI). Directory: Caribbean
Farmers' Associations & Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) involved in Agricultural and
Rural Development. CARDI, 2004.
Final report on a Survey of Caribbean farmers' organizations and non-
governmental organizations working with farming communities in the Caribbean
(CaFANN). CARDI, 2004.
de Freitas. C. Evaluation of a pilot project to improve access to agricultural information: the
Caribbean experience with the Question and Answer Service (QAS). In Managing a Question
and Answer Service Lessons Learnt. Workshop Proceedings, Accra. Ghana. 23-27 April 2001.
Inter American Agency for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA). Developing Policies and
proposals for alleviating key binding constraints to agriculture in the Caribbean. Workshop
proceedings Final report. IICA, March 2005.
Nelson, J. and Farrington, J. Information Exchange networking for agricultural development.; a
review of concepts and practices. Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (ACP-
EEC) CTA, 1994.
CTA. Annual Report 2004. CTA, 2004.
CTA. Trade reforms. Diversify or die. In Spore. 122, April 2006. (pp. 1-2).
ACURIL OXXVI -Empowerment ofProducers 10
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