Experts stress on open access to information and knowledge for innovative farm practices

Asia pacific meetEminent scientists and decision makers from the Asia-Pacific regions are in Thimphu to participate and contribute expert opinions on collective actions to open access to agricultural information and enhance knowledge sharing. Most times such research findings do not find their way to the farmers, therefore this meet will delve on consultations to address such gap in use of information and communication technology.

“Although the food production and demand trends seem murky, there are means to undertake the challenge of feeding the world. One among many factors is the use of agricultural information,” agriculture minister (Dr.) Pema Gyamtsho said at the opening ceremony.

The primary factor that interacts with and influences agricultural productivity is the “agricultural information” which can contribute to informed decisions regarding land, labour, livestock, capital and management. “Agricultural productivity can arguably be improved by relevant and useful information and knowledge,” the agriculture minister said.

Director of Council of RNR Research of Bhutan (CoRRB), Dr. Tashi Samdup said “More than the availability of knowledge, it is the utilization and management that is lagging behind”.

Advancement has been made in agricultural research but huge challenges still remain to transfer and share such knowledge with end users for whom it is generated. The expert consultation meet will attempt to induce mechanism and skills to disseminate knowledge and information appropriately and contribute to poverty alleviation.

Inadequacy of useful and relevant agricultural information is one of the contentious issues for agriculture development in Asia-pacific. Generating and opening access to relevant and useful information for small time farmers and producers, and small rural entrepreneurs engaged in agriculture related businesses need high attention from all actors in agricultural development in the region.

Participants said the need of the hour is collective action to implement policies and practices with targeted investment and capacity building, improve governance of agricultural information systems and strengthen partnerships and networks in support of opening access for greater sharing of agricultural data, information objects and knowledge by individual organizations and countries in the region.

“Collective action is all the more important to enable poor farmers and producers to effectively share and use information and knowledge for agriculture innovation, especially in smaller and economically weak countries of the region,” said Dr. S. Attaluri, from Asia-Pacific Association of Agriculture Research Institutions (APAARI).

By the end of the meeting, the participants expect to identify collective actions for various actors at national, regional and international levels to share useful information, suggest and share good practices to guide national organizations for smallholder resource-poor farmers and producers in small and weak countries of the region and strengthen institutional commitment, partnerships and networks in support of open access to agricultural knowledge in the region.

Senior experienced ICM managers responsible for managing agricultural information and knowledge systems at the national level, CGIAR centers and experts from the regional and international organizations will be invited for the expert consultations. Six focal point experts of the SAARC Agriculture Center will also participate to share country reports on ‘use of ICT in agriculture in SAARC countries’. A total of 20-25 participants are expected from the region.

The Asia-Pacific region is home to two-third of the world’s hunger which is affected by climate change, loss of biodiversity, spread of trans-boundary disease and other challenges.

These have contributed to the steady decline in the growth rate of food grain production since the Green revolution. With almost 80% of the world’s small and marginal farmers living in this region, the ability to adapt and participate in emerging markets and new agricultural innovation systems is becoming challenging for small farm families.

The United Nations has designated 2014 as the International Year of Family Farming which emphasizes the role played by small time farmers in contributing to food security and eradicating hunger worldwide.

The sustainability of family farming depends on its ability to respond to changing contexts, economic viability, environmental stewardship, and the intergenerational enhancement of knowledge, traditions, practices, resources, institutions, and social identity. Policies and institutions also influence the “sustainability of family farming”.

The delegates from various countries stressed the need for research and development to enable new types of advisory services that integrate rural innovations and open access to information for all, especially through use of emerging Information and Communications Technologies (ICT).

The three day long workshop on expert consultation on collective actions for opening access to agricultural information and knowledge sharing will end today. The event is jointly organized by (APAARI, GFAR, FAO, SAARC Agriculture Center and the CoRRB, Bhutan with the collaboration of Information and Communication Services (ICS) of the agriculture ministry of Bhutan.

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