Principle 2: Share knowledge
While much of the knowledge needed to improve global agriculture already exists, including within remote indigenous, it often does not reach those farmers that could benefit the most.
• Increase the level of education on crop and natural resource management for farmers.
• Promote the development of village-based knowledge centres.
• Provide access to scalable information technologies for farmers to receive weather, crop, and market alerts, as well as other early warning systems to help them make the right decisions for sustainability and productivity.
• Establish open and transparent two-way exchanges that capture the ‘voice of the farmer’ for policy formulation and implementation.
FICOM, the Farmers Information Communication project in Uganda is helping farmers access information (Syngenta Foundation is a sponsor). Important tips on growing crops are relayed from the Uganda National Farmers Federation headquarters to district level offices, and then to 24 'village phone centres', in which each farmers' group owns a mobile phone. The farmers also send and receive SMS messages with updates on market prices, saving at times a whole day's travel to market. Milly Sekandi a member of Zibula Atudde Women's Group purchased a village phone. She and other farmers have grown upland rice and maize and are now able to confirm prices in Kampala and the border trading markets in Busia, Kenya. A few years ago it would have been the middlemen who dictated the price and made the most profit from sales.
Linking researchers with farmers
Lifelong Learning for Farmers (L3), an initiative by the Commonwealth of Learning, an NGO, operates in South India and Sri Lanka in partnership with local banks, ICT providers and farmers groups. It aims to improve the flow of information from researchers to farmers by offering tips, advice and information on best practices to local farmers through internet based kiosks. Farmers form a local association and identify their needs and objectives and L3 helps bring them the relevant information to help them achieve these objectives. Information is provided by national or regional institutions such as universities.
Providing training in Integrated Crop Management (ICM)
The plant science industry trains over 300,000 stakeholders every year in the safe use of its product and in integrated crop management. Successful programs, like in India, have allowed farmers to improve the quality of their production and access new markets. For example, Muvva Ramachandrao, a chili grower in Andra Pradesh, India, has been able to improve the quality of his chili crop and this has enabled him to sell it at much higher prices. He has reduced his loss from pest damage from 40 per cent to under 10 per cent and uses less pesticide and fertilizer. The improvement in quality is such that his chilies now command a premium price in a competitive market.
Beating poverty with milk while linking rural and urban economies (Kenya)
With its high-quality milk, Nairobi-based Brookside Dairy has a 40 per cent share of the Kenyan dairy market. Seven per cent of its 80,000 suppliers are commercial farmers and the remainder are small-scale producers. The widespread lack of refrigeration facilities means that Brookside employs an army of delivery personnel, including more than 1,000 “bicycle boys” in the Nairobi area alone, to collect milk. Its sales depots now stretch from the East coast to the shores of Lake Victoria in the West. Brookside’s training field days, each attended by up to 6,000 local farmers, help spread best practices in livestock management and provide networking opportunities for smallholders, many of whom are geographically isolated. The business links rural and urban economies and offers a sustainable route out of poverty for many. Additional benefits to local communities are health education programmes and funding for school, church and road building projects.