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close this bookThe Courier N 146 - July - Aug 1994 - Dossier The Private Sector - Country Reports : Eritrea , Chad (EC Courier, 1994, 104 p.)
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View the documentBridging the gap between information and communication
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Sharpening of communication skills

The gathering, storage and retrieval of information is too often seen to be an end in itself. Information and extension specialists have to respond more effectively to client needs and this means developing communication skills. It is not enough to say that the information is here. the door is open, come and get it! The institutions that are in the business of producing documents and information worldwide are piling up information every day and any documentation centre must have the capacity to sift through this information, classify it. seek out that which is relevant for a specific problem and process it into a form that meets the needs of the potential user. This applies equally to users from research establishments or those providing the service at the interface between information and farmers - the extension service. And all need to be aware that the information must also be integrated in order to meet those needs effectively.

Narrowly focused, commodity based information is too limiting but it is difficult to broaden when agricultural research systems have tended to separate livestock research from crop research or from forestry or other natural resources research activities Information has remained compartmentalised and most readers will have experiericed the annoyance of finding too late that the missing bit of information which would have been so useful has been sent to the wrong ministry or the wrong office or was being stored by someone who had no need of it.

Information systems in the fields of research and extension should adopt a client oriented approach. This could be enhanced by organising short courses on communication skills, for information and extension specialists. Short-term training courses should also be set up, focusing on the development of scientific editing skills, specifically for repacking information into a form that is usable by farmers and other nontechnical users of scientific and technical information

Information management at national and regional levels

Ensuring sustainable information services means building the information bridge on firm foundations. It means keeping the way clear so that all who need information can gain access to it. It means remembering that a bridge is a device for people who need to communicate with each other. It needs effort, consistent commitment and energy.

It will be misleading to assume that once constraints are removed development and increased prosperity will follow automatically As in the world of physics or chemistry, an external input of energy is needed to overcome disorder within a given system so for agriculture to move from the lower energy state of disorder and disintegration to the higher energy direction of development, it must be obvious that energy has to be introduced into the system. That energy must come in the form of national commitment to a clear policy of supporting agricultural information services in a form that meets the needs of the users but which does not depend indefinitely upon external support.

Participants at the Eastern Africa Workshop concluded that the identification and management of available agricultural information resources is crucial in order to ensure that all information resources are better coordinated and available in the national agricultural research systems (NARS) and also made available to coordinate the collection and dissemination of agricultural information. Cooperation at regional level should be established in order to improve efficiency in the use of information resources. In order to achieve this it was recommended that a lead institution, located within the NARS, be identified to act as a national information focal point with specific terms of reference and areas of responsibility. The roles of the national information focal points would include identifying national information and training needs as well as liaising with policy makers, planners, researchers, extension workers, and trainers.

Finally, workshop participants were unanimous on the need to establish a single system that unifies the region. This could be in the form of a regional committee for planning. monitoring and evaluating regional information programmes. The committee may operate under the auspices of a regional focal point The latter would support the activities of the regional committee by initiating, harmonising and facilitating collaborative activities regarding information and documentation in the region. I.K.&S.R.