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 Proceedings of International Workshop on ICT in Extension and e-Pak Ag   
  Held on 23 June, 2014 at New Senate Hall
  University of Agriculture, Faisalabad.
 

SUMMARY (Key-Points)
1. There is huge databank of agricultural information in internet and print media in Pakistan
2. Trustworthiness & reliability of available information needs validation.
3. There is need for effective monitoring and evaluation of agricultural information. UAF should take initiative in this regards
4. Information should be relevant (e.g. according to ecological zones)
5. Information should be presented in attractive and interesting manner (pictorial, graphics and video-based)
6. System of liaison and coordination between information providers should be established
7. Trust of farmers on information provider is very important
8. Promotion of the use of ICT tools (mobile phone, internet) with in the local socio-economic and cultural context.
9. Extension staff should be equipped with proper ICT tools
10. Establishment of village lever community centers and Call centers
11. Technologies should be affordable
12. Continuous and dedicated work of extension staff is important
13. Markets (and role of middle man) need to be regularized
14. Subject specialist extension workers at the ground level
15. Promotion of ICT in village festivals and fairs etc.
16. Involvement of volunteers (students)

TENTATIVE LIST OF ISSUES FOR THE NEXT WORKSHOP

The next workshop would be (probably) held in Lahore after Ramadan. Tentative list of issues to be discussed in the next workshop is given below;

I. Credibility of information has been highlighted in the UAF workshop. In the next workshop we shall discuss “How can we make information more credible”

II. How information can be made according to farmers’ needs

III. How enhance coordination between different extension service providers

In the next workshop, participants from other provinces would also be invited
 
 

 Detailed Proceedings
The Workshop on “ICT in Extension and e-Pak Ag” was held at New Senate Hall of UAF on 23-6-2014. Participants of the workshop were from the faculty and students of UAF, Punjab Agriculture Department, extension service providers from public and private sector and NGOs. Director General (Ext. & A.R.), Dr. Anjum Ali Buttar presided over the inaugural session. Prof. Dr. Tanvir Ali, Director Institute of Agri. Extension & Rural Development, University of Agriculture, Faisalabad (UAF) greeted the participants. Dr. Babar Shahbaz elaborated the objectives of the workshop and told that this workshop would be followed by a series of interconnected workshop regarding the project “e-Pak Ag” which is being supported y USAID and being done in collaboration with UC Davis of USA.

Dr. Muhammad Anjum Ali delivered his key-note address in which he described several ICT related initiatives being undertaken by the Punjab Agriculture Department. He said that agricultural system of the Punjab faces many challenges such as soil and water degradation, land fragmentation, diversification, reliability of information, farmers’ confidence etc. ICT related activities in the Punjab include, Agricultural Marketing Information System, Website of Punjab Agriculture Department, Mobile messaging, land record, spatial data, AgriSmart, Mapping soil fertility at village level, Radio, TV and FM services, Toll free agri. helplines, Zarai Baithak and Fertilizer calculator etc. He informed that Government of the Punjab is planning to revamp and digitize the agriculture sector and ICT will continue to have greater role in this scenario.

Dr. Mark Andrew Bell from UC Davis (USA), in his key-note address stressed the importance of need-based and relevant information in the context of ICT based extension. He explained thet concept of TIGRS for the promotion of ICT based extension i.e. Trust in the message and messenger, Integrated Approach, Good Recommendations and Seeing in believing. He emphasized that the extension message should be simple, clear, concise and compelling.

Mr. Rafiq Akhtar, Director (Agricultural Information, Punjab) highlighted the role of Directorate of Agri. Information in the Usage of ICT for the development of agriculture. He said that the Directorate has been utilizing the electronic and print media for agricultural information dissemination. Directorate of Agri. Information, Punjab published literature on production technology of major crops and vegetables, Zirat Nama, Journal of Agricultural Research and Agri. News. Different TV and Radio programs are also produced by the directorate.

After the tea technical session was started. Different speaker participated & shared their views.

Dr. Khalid Shouq chief editor Veterinary News and Views and representative of Pakissan Pvt. Ltd. and Zarari Media told about the e-agriculture. He said that there is a flood of information everywhere and the users get confused. Trustworthiness & reliability of information is another issue. System of monitoring is needed to develop to scrutinize the information available available on different resources (such as www, print media etc.). Wrong and/or less-credible information can easily misguide the poor farmers. He emphasized that the government sector should take necessary steps to win the confidence and trust of farmers. He suggested that UAF must take the lead in monitoring and evaluation of agricultural information available in the internet.

Lack of liaison and coordination between different organizations was also highlighted by Dr. Shouq. He also suggested that UAF should communicate technical information to the media in addition to the coverage of their day-to-day event (seminars, workshops etc.).

Mr. Muhammad Hanif, representative of Pakissan Pvt. Ltd. said that their website is the largest agricultural website of Pakistan since 2001. He said that agricultural technologies are easily available in rural areas. Majority of the farmers are illiterate and they cannot make use of sophisticated technology, for instance many farmer can`t easily operate their cell phones; however in some areas of Punjab few farmers are using the latest technology. Mostly developing courtiers take the knowledge from the developed countries & follow them but some countries like India have developed the system of integrating extension system with agricultural universities. Similarly many African farmers are using ICT. Universities in the developed countries don`t grant the degrees to their students unless they acquire practical experience through outreach and extension activities. He told that Pakissan is going to initiate the SMS service. Social media can also be used to reach farmers around the globe and its use should be enhanced in Pakistan. The concept of call center is also very useful and extension agents should work on this concept.

Dr Khalid Shouq responded to Mr. Muhammad Hanif & said that use of social media is very affective to disseminate the information but there is also social dimension of social media. Our cultural norm & values are changing due to internet. He said that there is no need to blindly follow the information available on different web resources. He also said that intensive use of SMS service by different agencies will diminish its effectiveness because if a farmer is receiving many SMS from different sides then he would consider it wastage of time.

Dr. Ghazanfar Ali Khan one of the faculty members from Institute of Agri. Extension & Rural Development UAF said that he did his PhD research on the use of media in agricultural information dissemination. He said that farmer has potential and they are interested to use the ICT. Information is there available but the question is that who will use the information & why he will act upon the advice if he don`t see any worth of that information. We told the farmer about the application of input i.e. fertilizer but the situation is that inputs (fertilizer, seed, and pesticides) are not accessible (affordable) to the small farmers. Marketing problem is also prominent as middlemen exploit the farmers.

Mr. Muhammad Hanif responded that number of agricultural articles & news are available every where but there is shortage of research based articles. If the farmers are convinced that some agricultural technology is reliable and of their use they take lot of interest in the adoption of that technology. People are tended to take initiatives and even illiterate farmers are in good sprit. There is need to introduce the innovation that are farmers’ friendly (pictorial graphics, local language etc.)

Mr. Muhammad Shafi DDO (Agriculturew) Tandilawala said that during 2008-09 when he was working for the project to promote tunnel farming under the initiative of Govt. of the Punjab. The government would pay half of the price for establishing tunnel farming & farmers have to manage half expenses of the project. Initially the response of farmers was very slow. They were reluctant to adopt this technology and our staff very hard and at last we were able to convinced them. Now Mamu Kanjan area is at top regarding tunnel farming. Farmers are gaining better & immediate profit. It was made possible due to continuous efforts and dedication of our staff. He said that there is need to wake-up the missing spirit in extension worker. Private agencies give less credible information to the farmers and their only focus is to increase their business. University should provide the research based recommendations. The Govt. should announce the incentives to the farmer for higher production. The technical person should be on board while making the decisions.

Dr Zafar from In-Service Agricultural Training Institute, Sargodha said that both public & private sector are working for the wellbeing of agriculture but most of the problems are un-solved. He suggested to set up cold storage facilities to stock the farming commodity. Market situation needs to be improved so the role of middle man may be decreased. Irrigation system need to be improved due to the shortage of water & energy

The representative of Agri. Hunt, Mr. Nabeel Qureshi said Agri. Hunt is a large knowledge portal having 2 million visitors & 5000 articles. The question is how to reach the farmers. There is need to regulate the role of middle man with the help of ICT role of middle man can be eliminated. The problem is not the lack of information rather the issue is with the timely and relevant delivery of information and feedback (interactivity). He said that just uploading the data for the farmers is not enough. Credibility and relevancy of information is also important.

Dr Khalid Mahmood Shouq appreciated the work of Agri. Hunt. He said it is very difficult to cover the vast field of agriculture and a single organization or by few individuals.

M Aslam, Agri. Officer (Chaj Jhumra) said that the importance of ICT is undisputed but success lies in what is the reliability & timely availability of information that are to be disseminated through the use of ICT. Information should be related to the relevant ecological zone. If any information is sought out from the net then information seeker should know its source.

Fazal Elahi Bhatti Agri. Officer (Tandliwala) said that lack of legislation/laws related to agriculture is the problem. Weakness may be removed while enforcing the correct laws & polices. Technical persons should have the decision making power. Market issues need to be reconsidered. Crop specialist personals need to be deployed in the agriculture offices. One agricultural officer have to cover 20 to 25 thousand farmers.

 
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Group Activity
After general discussion and brain storming, group activity started and the participants were divided into three groups (Government sector & UAF faculty and Private/NGOs). The groups were asked to discuss on
Keeping in view the rural areas of Pakistan
1. How do we use the range of "delivery" options to make information more accessed?
2. How do we make our information more compelling and "actionable“?

Following main points were raised by the respective groups


Group-1 (UAF)
• Affordability, availability & accessibility of information is important
• The concept of village information center/call center need to be promoted
• Use of SMS through mobile phones need to be encouraged
• The issue of energy crisis
• Farmer children need to be approached through social media
• Information should be need based, site specific & timely available
• Information should be reliable (rules & regulations should be defined)
• Information can be more actionable if it is according to social & cultural norms
• If information is practically visible and feasible then it is more actionable
• There should be linkages between public & private sector

Group-2 (Agriculture Department)
• Information should be presented in attractive way to the users
• There should be laptop & mobile facility for every agricultural officers
• There should be smaller area under the jurisdiction of Agricultural Officer.
• There should be one A.O per union council & F.A per village
• Offices of the A.O`s should be well decorated & furnished
• Timely promotion of the A.O`s is very important. Due to late promotion there is decreased enthusiasm for the efficient work
• There should be proper travelling allowance
• Crop specific experts should be deploy in the offices of Agri. Officer
• There should be testing laboratories at markaz where the internet & un-interrupted supply of electricity should be available
• A.O should have the facility of multi-media
• Private companies have the refreshment for the farmers, A.O`s should have also the budget for the refreshment during crop competition
• Demonstration plots should be establish at union council level
• Govt. should provide the subsidy for the installments of tube well based on solar energy & biogas to sort out the issue of water crisis
• Farmers should be facilitated in terms of education
• Laboratories for testing the soil & water should be set up at markaz level
• Feedback mechanism need to be affective
• A.O.s have to perform multiple irrelevant activities. Govt. should support the A.O`s to strengthen the credibility of A.O`s

Group-3 (Private sector)
• ICT related devices (laptop, smart phones) should be provided to extension workers
• Focus of the extension work should be the small farmers
• Specialized extension worker (subject specialists) for different crops should be deployed
• Volunteer group participation need to be appreciated
• Social media should be used for the promotion of innovation
• There is need to strengthen the collaboration of private & public institution
• Data base of farmers should be arranged so they can be interconnected for sharing the information
• Information should be shared at right time right place
• The facility of video-conferencing should be available for the farmers
• Efficient use of ICT can eliminate the role of middle man
• Through the village festival & fair ICT can be promoted & farmers can be familiarized with the ICT
• Information should be presented in interesting manner (pictorial format). Banner should be used to disseminate the information instead of mud made slabs or muddy walls in rural areas

Courtesy: Pakissan Team
 

 
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