Fanny Cecile Howland, Luis Armando Muñoz, Simone Staiger, James Cock, Sophie Alvarez

When it comes to improve the decision making process of farmers, the access to and sharing of experiences and knowledge among them is a key practice for success, and Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs) are an essential enabler. Thesite-specific agriculture project of the International Center of Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) aimed to improve the productivity of four fruit crops in Colombia through the sharing of farmer’s knowledge using an online platform. CIAT’s knowledge management team supported the project investigating the following questions: What knowledge, attitudes and skills are a pre-condition for Colombian fruit farmers to participate in the use of ICTs as a means of sharing data and experiences with other farmers? What is the reality of their data management practices and what are the conditions for effective data management? What conditions are needed to enable farmers’ active participation in an information system?  The results of this work have now been published in the open-access KM4Dev Journal.

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El acceso y el intercambio de experiencias y conocimiento entre agricultores es una práctica clave para el éxito cuando se trata de mejorar el proceso de toma de decisiones entre ellos. Las Tecnologías de la Información y la Comunicación (TIC) pueden ser facilitadoras esenciales para esto. El proyecto de agricultura específica por sitio del Centro Internacional de Agricultura Tropical (CIAT) buscaba maneras de mejorar la productividad de cuatro cultivos frutales en Colombia, a través de la puesta en común de los conocimientos de los agricultores mediante una plataforma en línea. El equipo de gestión de conocimiento del CIAT apoyó el proyecto con las siguientes preguntas: ¿Qué conocimientos, actitudes y habilidades son una condición previa para que los agricultores de frutas colombianos participen en el uso de las TIC como medio de intercambio de datos y experiencias con otros agricultores? ¿Cuál es la realidad de sus prácticas de gestión de datos y cuáles son las condiciones para una gestión de datos eficaz? ¿Qué condiciones son necesarias para permitir la participación activa de los agricultores en un sistema de información? Los resultados de este trabajo han sido publicados en la revista de libre acceso KM4Dev.

Abstract

This article describes the experience of analyzing groups of Colombian fruit farmers’ capacity to collect information and their interest and ability to take advantage of the opportunities offered by information and communication technologies (ICTs). Three cycles were designed to understand the attitudes, skills, and current practices of fruit growers and to define the necessary conditions for effective information sharing. The three cycles involved individual farmers, farmer groups meeting face to face, and virtual meeting with farmer groups. The results contribute to the design of strategies for farmer engagement in the knowledge-sharing online platform of the AES-CE (Acronym in Spanish for Sharing Experiences for Site Specific Agriculture) project, designed to assist growers in improved decision making through sharing of multiple types of information from multiple sources. We find that farmers understand the usefulness of record keeping, but data collection is often imposed externally, and records are not generally used to better manage production. Farmers, overall, were positive towards information sharing and understand the benefits of using information from a wider environment, shared through an ICT platform, but shortage of skills in using these technologies is a serious limiting factor to expansion to a broader scale. We discuss future strategies that can be used to the design and implement ICT platforms which farmers can use to share information and improve their management.

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