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19) Using information technology to revitalize agricultural extension and education

Hyderabad, India, 5 December 2012 – Millions of smallholder farmers worldwide could improve their yields, incomes and resilience if only they had better access to appropriate information and knowledge that helps them make informed choices about farming practices.

Yet, despite new information and communication technologies (ICT), reaching out to these farmers with the right information at the right time is still a largely unmet challenge.

Using ICT to revitalize agricultural extension and education towards providing knowledge access to smallholder farmers was the subject of an international workshop held at the Infosys Campus here in Hyderabad on 3-4 December.

The global consultation on Innovative ICT and Knowledge Sharing Platforms for Revitalizing Agricultural Extension and Education: Opportunities and Challenges organized by a global team led by the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), brought together about 60 ICT, research, extension and education experts from India, USA and Africa.

The two-day workshop was successful in laying the groundwork for the formation of a global partnership that will push the ‘knowledge to the poor’ revolution through ICT application in agricultural extension and education.

Partners from India, USA and Africa have agreed to develop tri-lateral educational programs to enhance the capacities of students, faculty members, extension agents, smallholder farmers, and various stakeholders in using ICT to promote the sharing and use of agricultural information among the poor and marginalized. To initiate this activity, a global AgED open courseware platform was launched during the workshop.

“ICT innovations enable the poor and drought-prone farmers in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa greater access to research data and knowledge outputs,” said ICRISAT Director General William Dar in his inaugural address. Working with partners and stakeholders, ICRISAT has developed and supported many information systems that have helped smallholder farmers become more food secure and resilient to drought, he added.

Partnering with ICRISAT in the workshop were: Infosys Limited, Infrastructure Leasing & Financial Services Limited (IL&FS), National Institute of Agricultural Extension Management (MANAGE), University of Florida (UFL), Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR), and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).

Samson David, Vice President and Global Head – Business Platforms, Infosys, emphasized on using the power of information technology in lifting smallholder farmers to a higher level of knowledge and productivity.

IL&FS Executive Director for Agriculture and Rural Development, AK Krishna Kumar, stressed the need to address the lack of information infrastructure to reach farmers in India, and to customize ICT solutions based on farmers’ needs.

B Srinivas, Director General of MANAGE, highlighted the importance of capacity building for agricultural officers in state governments, envisioning a single-window availability of agricultural information to farmers through ICT.

“India’s contribution in feeding 60 percent of the global population lies in its potential to upgrade its agricultural knowledge through ICT and in exploring opportunities brought about by the changing food habits of the people,” said ICAR Deputy Director General for Education, Arvind Kumar.

On the other hand, ICAR Deputy Director General for Agricultural Extension, KD Kokate, emphasized on the link between research and extension and the need to strengthen partnerships to achieve a knowledge revolution through ICT innovations.

The workshop was coordinated by Radhika, Infosys Platform Head for Agriculture and G Dileepkumar, Global Leader, Knowledge Sharing and Innovation, ICRISAT.

For more information about ICRISAT, visit: www.icrisat.org.

For media enquiries, contact: Showkat Nabi Rather, Media Liaison Officer, +91 40 3071 3187, R(dot)Showkat(at)cgiar(dot)org. or Cristina P Bejosano, Head, Media Relations and Science Writing, Tel: +91 40 30713236, C(dot)Bejosano(at)cgiar(dot)org
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