9.1 Awareness raising within donor agencies
9.2 Value of newsletters as source materials for producer groups
9.3 Value of Internet access for producer groups
9.4 Increase awareness among producer groups
9.5 Support of creative individuals
9.6 Coordination of regional committees
9.7 Training workshops
9.8 Effective distribution of locally generated materials
9.10 Post-literacy materials
9.11 Potential of farmer groups
Research findings reveal that access to printed information may be of enormous benefit in situations where groups and animators are open to new ideas and motivated to make changes. Among such groups there is a great and largely unmet desire for information in any form, preferably via sensitive development workers attuned to their context and culture, but also for printed information, particularly if it is in a form which is easy to share within a group.
There is a need for funding agencies, donors and governments to be made aware of the enormous potential of printed agricultural information targeted at grassroots farmers, making clear their cost-effectiveness. The research reveals that the use of imaginatively designed printed information has barely touched the surface of the potential audience and that it will become even more relevant as a means of dispersing information available through Internet access.
More resources need to be made available for the production of printed materials. The ability of small, poorly funded GDOs to produce locally generated materials with real sensitivity to the needs of their target communities is considerable, and at present their ability to obtain funding is extremely limited. There is a need to develop an awareness that 'small is beautiful' when it comes to locally generated materials and that the funding of cheap, low-cost booklets may provide not only cost-effective benefits but stimulate the encouragement of other potential authors.
The value of newsletters, whether national or international, is very considerable, particularly if they target grassroots development workers. They can help maintain a sense of linkage with the outside world and can play a considerable role in networking and exchange of ideas. They may also have considerable potential for use as source materials for local language materials.
In the present financial climate, funding agencies should regard newsletters with a target audience at grassroots level in developing countries as a non-renewable, cost-effective means of disseminating information, rather than seeking cost-recovery.
The use of satellite connections and solar power is increasingly likely to extend internet access out of urban areas into rural areas and into the hands of smaller national NGOs. However, the wealth of information available via the Internet and CD ROMs is likely to do little to reverse the present information famine among grassroots farmers for various reasons:
· Material is likely to be available only in an international language.
· Information is often available as large chunks of text.
· There is overwhelming quantity and not readily digestible bite-sized portions.
· Material often lacks appropriate illustrations.
Improved access to the Internet is thus likely to be of limited benefit to farmers groups unless such access is carefully targeted and shared through intermediaries. Internet access within NGOs and GDOs will increase the need for the production of printed training materials to sort out relevant information and disseminate it in easily digestible forms. The networking of like-minded groups around the world working in regional groups to adapt relevant information and produce materials in local languages should be encouraged.
All organisations and individuals with the potential to produce printed agricultural training information should carefully define and analyse their target audience, with full awareness of how this will be severely limited if only those with an international language and academic education are targeted.
Most printed information currently being produced is either:
· not targeted at grassroots farmers but at those who already have good access to information sources or
· if targeted at grassroots farmers, is poorly written, too technical, poorly illustrated and in an unfamiliar language.
There is a need for many more organisations to target their energies 'down market' in this area to reach a much wider target audience.
· defining materials and resources which are appropriate for a grassroots target audience
· using local languages whenever possible
· carefully checking and targeting writing styles in order to convey useful information to those with limited literacy skills
· designing materials imaginatively to encourage those with little reading experience, with good use of design techniques and culturally appropriate illustrations.
The role of committed individuals with a flair for producing locally generated materials needs to be acknowledged. The production of printed materials requires a creative instinct powerful enough to retain the ultimate end point in sight through all the tedious stages of production. This creative instinct can be likened to artistic talent. It can be fostered, trained and enhanced but is difficult to initiate however plentiful the resourcing. When appointing personnel for such work, proof of this creative instinct should be sought from past involvement -such as school magazines, posters or the sharing of information in other ways.
Drawing the time line - Bikyiiteng Bullock Farmers.
There is a need to encourage the formation and operation of regional committees for each written language group, bringing together representatives of NGOs, religious groups, literacy programmes, extension workers, communication officers, artists, designers, farmers and animators all committed to the joint production of local language materials. Translators who are skilled linguists with real understanding of agricultural issues are essential in the production process, as is careful proof-reading and piloting of materials to check understandability, illustrations and design. The need to involve farmers in this process should not be just peripheral but central.
The networking of such committees would allow the national and even worldwide sharing of useful source materials. There is no need to re-invent the wheel when so many good materials may already be available in other localities.
The needs of language groups either with no written language at present or with very small populations present more of an economic and long term challenge. Their needs could be partially met in the short term by materials which are largely visual.
The benefits of writers' workshops have already been proved by groups such as IIRR in the Philippines and ALIN in Senegal. Incorporating the added skills of producing materials in local languages and training in design, layout and printing might bring considerable benefits. The importance of targeting such training at individuals who are already committed to practical ways of sharing information must be emphasised.
There is a need to acknowledge the value of all levels of production from hand-written silk-screen materials to desktop publishing. All use similar skills and design techniques. All would benefit from the use of simple language.
Since the observed distribution of useful and appropriate information in Uganda and Ghana was inadequate, innovative methods of distribution should be sought. Several informal networks could be used to distribute non-commercial materials: the large network of literacy groups within national literacy programmes; the extensive network of extension services and the extensive and well coordinated networks of religious groups, reaching every village in both countries.
The most effective dissemination of information could occur if regional committees were established and coordinated with all development activities, so that information covered in printed materials was echoed in extension priorities, radio broadcasts and by development workers. Seasonal release of materials to coincide with relevant farming activities would also be of considerable benefit.
The production of printed information materials in local languages is unlikely to be sustainable without on-going resourcing. Nevertheless, the following points should be considered in their favour:
· Early conclusions of attempts at cost-recovery in various sectors indicate that even the poorest will pay for services or products that they value. Good printed information is likely to fall into this category.
· The unit cost of agricultural information produced in quantity is likely to be low.
· Printed information may have sustainable impact both in terms of practical changes implemented and in terms of the years of potential usage.
· Other common interventions in support of grassroots farmers are often more expensive and less sustainable (eg: extension personnel).
Agricultural training materials in local languages produced in coordination with literacy programmes will yield several benefits:
· Text should be comprehensible to newly literate readers.
· Their production would increase the amount of 'real' materials available.
· Their availability would encourage the development of a reading culture in local languages.
The role of animators and autonomous farmer groups in improving the flow of new ideas in agriculture needs widespread acceptance and understanding. There is a need for extension staff to understand and appreciate the dynamics within such groups and to be willing to work in the role of a facilitator. Interventions which change the delicate social balance of groups may result in the loss of what is, in essence, genuine participation in agricultural development; an enviable and transient factor much sought after by development agencies.
Materials could be targeted for group use and reading with good use of discussion questions, ideas for action and short, bite-sized items of information which can be digested at one meeting - rather than a textbook approach. Flip charts with additional information on the back for the animator or facilitator might prove an appropriate method of sharing information within groups.
The production of appropriate printed information with good visual content, preferably in local languages, targeted at grassroots farmers is a challenge which necessitates the combined expertise and energies of farmers, linguists, researchers, editors, illustrators, animators, extension and development workers. Research findings reveal that the use of imaginatively designed printed information has barely touched the surface of the potential audience and that it may prove even more relevant in the future as a means of dispersing information available through new technologies.
A rare library of agricultural books seen in Mbarara, much of which had been obtained free of charge.