Growing More Ginger and Turmeric in Sri Lanka
Lifelong Learning for Farmers (L3F) activities in Sri Lanka started in January 2011 in a rural community in Kandy district. It is now expanding its outreach capacity on several fronts. Commitment and mutual co-operation within the project consortium members and farming community have enabled the acquisition of knowledge through ICT-facilitated ODL methods.
The Open University of Sri Lanka (OUSL) and the Department of Export Agriculture, along with SGS (Lanka) Pvt. Ltd., a certification firm, are the main knowledge institutions, and the Regional Development Bank is the financial partner.
The project operates with the farmers who are cultivating crops such as ginger and turmeric. The preliminary survey carried out by the project team revealed that this farming community in the Wathurakumbura village of Kandy district has disadvantages due to lack of necessary knowledge and skills on crop management, disease prevention, post-harvest processing and marketing.
According to Mr. Prasad Senadheera of OUSL, the programme has significantly expanded the extent of cultivation and the number of farmers involved in ginger and turmeric cultivation since 2011. Mr. Senadheera sees clear signs of growing knowledge empowerment and community teamwork, while self-centred approaches, peer-competitiveness and lack of motivation are being “blurred down”. He says, “The project has transformed the rural farming community into a resourceful, social-learning capital.”
mLEARNING FOR FARMERS IN UGANDA
Makerere University has been implementing COL’s L3F model in southwestern Uganda.
Significant information and experiences have been gained and shared through a training session that was organised in December 2012 for 26 staff of the National Agricultural Research Organisation, the Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industry and Fisheries and the National Agricultural Advisory Services. The training covered the various technologies used in mobile learning (mLearning), equipping participants with skills for content and collaborative development of strategies to integrate mLearning into the national extension system.
Since the majority of the farmers cannot read or write, the use of the voice messaging platform in the L3F model attracted much attention from the World Bank-supported Agricultural Technology and Agribusiness Advisory Services (ATAAS) project Chief Information Officer Mr. Ben Mugisha, who committed to have the system integrated into the National Extension System under an ATAAS programme.
“I did not know we had such exciting innovations around. I am going to do my best to see this integrated into the extension system,” remarked Mr. Mugisha.
PREPARING JAMAICAN FARMERS TO FACE HURRICANE SANDY
In Jamaica, the Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) is actively involved with COL’s L3F initiative. When Hurricane Sandy forecasts were received, RADA prepared and delivered a basic course on Agricultural Disaster Risk Management to the L3F farmers. Text messages of 160 characters or fewer were prepared and sent to 2,480 farmers.
A survey conducted by The University of the West Indies showed that more than 70% of the farmers felt that the messages were timely and useful. Similarly, 70% of the farmers shared the information with their family members and neighbours, and 60% discussed the learning materials with others. The survey also showed that 30% of the farmers made preparations after receiving the text messages.
Mr. Philip Chung, RADA Training Director, noted that the experience and the study have enabled RADA to refine and strengthen its communication system between farmers and extension officials.