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close this bookSPORE Bulletin of the CTA No. 16 (CTA Spore, 1988, 16 p.)
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COMMINITECH : Comunicating technology in rural areas

Can rural development be promoted by the newspapers televisions and radios of the mass media? Should emphasis be placed on "top-down" communication, delivering the educated messages of technicians to small farmers or to "horizontal" communication, spreading the experience of such farmers? Do we even know how to measure the effectiveness of different forms of communication? Can we rely on everyone knowing how to read or at least to interpret illustrations in the way intended?

These were just a few of the questions that were discussed during the COMMUNITECH 87 seminar organized in Recife, Brazil from November 22-28, 1987 by EMBRATER (the Brazilian Agency for Technical Assistance and Rural Development) and GRET (the Paris-based Technological Research and Exchange Group) with the financial support of several international agencies, including CTA.

For this seminar, the term "communication" was used to include not only the activities of extension services but also the informal exchanges of information and contacts at the community level. This field is currently undergoing rapid progress with the impact of technological change. One need only remember the amazing spread of radios in rural areas to imagine the potential of introducing audio cassettes, videos and even satellite disnes.

Along with such technological innovation, there has been a parallel evolution of the concepts of rural development which are tending to place more and more emphasis on local initiatives.

COMMUNITECH was designed to promote dialogue between communication and rural development specialists from Africa and Latin America as well as Europe and North America; inter-governmental non-governmental and governmental organizations and commercial media interests. This varied background of the participants naturally led to many divergent and convergent points of view.

Among the differences one can cite the possible role of the mass media: for some participants, they are totally in the hands of various economic and cultural interests and thus cannot make a positive contribution to rural development. For others, it is possible to take advantage of their professionalism and their wide coverage to complement more appropriate methods traditionally used for rural development.

There was a consensus, however, on the viewpoint that "bottom-down" and "horizontal" forms of communication are not mutually exclusive and that the problem is to find the right balance between the sharing of community-based experiences a nd the comm unication of needed technical information

There was also agreement on three aspects which seem to limit the number and impact of current communication activities: 1) the problems of evaluating the effectiveness of communication activities: methods must be developed for this and applied systematically; 2) the lack of research on the many communication techniques and processes; and 3) the low number of training courses, opportunities and tools for rural communication.

COMMUNITECH also paid attention to the lack of exchanges between people involved in on-going activities, particularly within Africa, but also from one continent to another. If certain factors make comparisons difficult, for example, the large press groups in Brazil which have no counterparts in Africa, certain problems are shared, notably the reaction of illiterate people to graphic images.

A final report of this seminar will soon be published and made available from the addresses below in French, English, Spanish and Portuguese. Several projects for concrete collaboration resulted from COMMUNITECH and it is hoped that a follow-up event will be held in 1990.

GRET 213, rue Lafayette 75010 Paris FRANCE

EMBRATER SAIN, Parque Rural CEP 70770 CP 070530 Brasilia DF BRAZIL

A report on Communicat, a similar seminar that was just held in Delhi, will be included in a future issue of SPORE.

Cereals: Reducing post harvest losses

What is the current situation with post-harvest losses in Africa? Measured by weight they were recently estimated at 37% during the International Technology Seminar on "Cereals in hot regions: Storage and processing". Organized jointly by AUPELF, OAU and the University Centre of N'Gaoundere in Cameroon, it was held in February 1988.

Cereals are burdened with many problems in the postharvest cycle, which explains the high losses that are incurred. Over-long storage times resulting from inadequate or poorly designed commercialization systems contribute to the damage by various pests. An important and relatively new aspect of this problem was discussed during the seminar, that of processing cereals. This includes everything that happens between the storage of the harvest and its distribution on food markets.

This seminar showed that most African countries now have at least one research agency working on post-harvest issues, even if research in this area is for the most part exploratory. Despite the similarity of food storage methods in some cases, in practice they must be specifically designed for each site. General measures must therefore be applied with considerable attention. That is why the participants in this seminar confirmed that whatever the degree of modification or innovation involved, it is indispensable to maintain contact with the users before applying new technologies.

The main recommendation of this seminar was the creation of national agencies to promote and coordinate programmes in collaboration with research centres and technical institutes.

But quick action is needed: by the year 2000, the urban population alone will require between 1.5 and 2.5 million tonnes of cereals. Fewer than ten years ago, a third of this would have been enough.