Data sharing and use of ICTs in agriculture: working with small farmer groups in Colombia
Keywords:Site specific agriculture, Knowledge management, Theory of change, ICT, Farmer Field School, online platform, data management
AbstractThis article describes the experience of analyzing groups of Colombian fruit farmers? capacity to collect information and their interest and ability to take advantage of the opportunities offered by information and communication technologies (ICTs). Three cycles were designed to understand the attitudes, skills, and current practices of fruit growers and to define the necessary conditions for effective information sharing. The three cycles involved individual farmers, farmer groups meeting face to face, and virtual meeting with farmer groups. The results contribute to the design of strategies for farmer engagement in the knowledge-sharing online platform of the AES-CE (Acronym in Spanish for Sharing Experiences for Site Specific Agriculture) project, designed to assist growers in improved decision making through sharing of multiple types of information from multiple sources. We find that farmers understand the usefulness of record keeping, but data collection is often imposed externally, and records are not generally used to better manage production. Farmers, overall, were positive towards information sharing and understand the benefits of using information from a wider environment, shared through an ICT platform, but shortage of skills in using these technologies is a serious limiting factor to expansion to a broader scale. We discuss future strategies that can be used to the design and implement ICT platforms which farmers can use to share information and improve their management.