Researchers in agriculture have been urged to come up with effective means of sharing their findings with farmers to help improve productivity.
The call was made by Mary Rucibigango, the coordinator at the Agricultural Information and Communication Centre during the just concluded ICT for Agriculture Conference in Kigali.
“Research is an important component to improve agricultural productivity and the ICT sector can play a part to disseminate the findings for them to be useful to farmers. The research findings should be simplified in a way that farmers can understand, and where possible, apply them,” she said.
The conference aimed at creating platforms where the ICT sector can partner with the Agricultural sector.
She added that the Ministry of Agriculture had made some effort to share research findings with farmers and extension service providers.
“We have an initiative where we package the information according to what farmers need. We have a range of information from service delivery to livestock management to proper land use. We also break down the information in a way it can be recorded and used as future references, “she added.
Duncan Edwards, the ICT Innovations Manager at the institute of Development Studies, said that even as ICT seeks to increase access to information and knowledge sharing, there still remained a challenge in ensuring that people go through the findings.
“Research communications can be difficult because the journals are not always attractive to go through for most farmers and stakeholders. Even when they are availed very few people will pick up a research paper or journal. It is time we found ways to break down the findings for target consumers to ensure sustainable agricultural development,” he noted.
Engaging farmer to participate in research was also frequently mentioned as a challenge by most researchers seeking to weigh the impact of innovations.
Another issue that attracted debate was the impact of mobile phones in facilitating delivery of agricultural extension services at various levels, from farming to marketing.
According to a research by We Farm, a UK-based firm that aims at increasing agricultural information amongst small and large scale farmers, less than 10% of farmers in the region use android or internet enabled phones while about 90% percent have a mobile phone that can use an SMS based platform.
“Mobile phone use in knowledge sharing has proven to be effective. It is fair to say it has been under utilised. In the short term we can build on what farmers already have by urging the ICT sector to develop solutions for SMS based platforms before moving to android devices in the long run,” Rucibigango pointed out.