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The Rice Knowledge Bank at forefront of leveraging ICT for rural rice farmers

The Rice Knowledge Bank uses ICT, participatory learning and good information design to educate rural rice farmers on agricultural best practices and market information. Its impact helps point to the power of addressing ICT literacy gaps.

The Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy writes,

"The Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB) is a joint project between IRRI (International Rice Research Institute) and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre. The RKB’s main objective is to make information as accessible as possible for farmers by:

• Keeping the information channel simple; a rural rice farmer who have never used the internet before should be able to navigate through the available information; and

• Sticking with information that is of value and presenting the core message clearly to the farmer.

The RKB is an internet-based project. Its website provides information
about the production cycle, and shows pictures on crop diseases and how to treat them. The issues dealt with on the webpage largely builds on concerns highlighted by the farmers themselves. The site is designed to provide farmers with the most valuable information regarding farming without requiring advanced ICT-skills. While the information is only available in English on the main site, major rice producing countries have RKB sites in their local language.

The website is supplemented by person-to-person knowledge transfer. The RKB has a project called Farmer Participatory Research, FPR, with the aim to include farmers in the research process and establish communication through "learningby-doing" between researchers and farmers. Through this low-tech knowledge transfer farmers are also taught about ICT and the practical- and research-based materials to help
improve crop yields and rice production.

Implications

The RKB fills a crucial knowledge gap for small rural farmers, who often can't access the valuable agricultural information released by major research bodies, such as the IRRI.

LKYSPP writes,

"Much knowledge is already available in the ASEAN region through the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), one of the world’s leading research institutes on rice crop, located in the Philippines. But while research carried out at IRRI quickly finds its way to large agribusinesses, it rarely reaches the small rural farmers in the region. Thus, technical assistance in translating the knowledge and information from scientists to
rural farmers is sorely needed."

Unfortunately, the project is at risk: "The project is based on a grant and not self-sufficient...the risk is that it cannot be sustained in its current form despite its cost effectiveness and high returns for the rice farmers."

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Sources:

LKYSPP Asian Trends Monitoring Bulletin, December 2010, pg 9:
http://newsletters.clearsignals.org/LKYSPP_Dec2010.pdf

The World Bank. 2010. Employment in agriculture (% of total employment). Retrieved from UNCTAD. 2005. ICT and e-business: what developing countries stand to gain. Issues in Brief, 11, 1-2.

Internet World Stats. 2010. Internet Usage in Asia. Retrieved 20 December 2010 from http://www.internetworldstats.com/stats3.htm

Jakarta Globe (2010a) SBY inaugurates ‘Blackout-Free’ Era. July 28. http://www.thejakartaglobe.com/business/sby-inaugurates-blackout-free-era/388131