This workshop was organized by Sarvodaya and conducted by experts, Dr. Dodsworth, Dr. Philip Edge and Ms.Barbara Ritchie, of CABI to welcome the setting up and launch of Agri-clinics in Sri Lanka. The main objective of Agri-clinic is to build up a sustainable farmer-oriented agricultural information search and retrieval system via Telecentres, utilizing the existing scientific knowledge resources in Sri Lanka to eliminate the existing knowledge transfer gap between research establishments and the farming community.

Figure 1: Resource personnel from CABI, Dr. Harsha and Isura (Manager Telecentre), conducting the workshop.

Aims and objectives of the workshop

In the workshop it was expected that Sarvodaya and CABI work together to integrate the idea of Agri-clinics in existing Telecentres as a pilot project and to brainstorm together to identify what role Agri-clinics would play in their local communities. Key activities and services that are needed and could be supplied by Agri-clinics were to be identified while emphasising the role of validated information would be the core asset of this project – both global and local scale. In the workshop it was also anticipated to brainstorm together on the role and activities of the IPU and to agree on elements of work plans for the agric clinics and IPU while celebrating being involved and working on this project.

Figure 2: Some of workshop participants

Expectations of the Agri-clinic

Vision of this project is to improve livelihoods of Sri Lankan farmers by creating a national network of Telecentres (Agri-clinics) to help farmers to access information to improve their livelihoods. Agri-clinics will work closely with the farming community to meet their needs, and will create improved networking between extension stakeholders (Government, NGO’s and PSP’s). Personal development – acquiring new knowledge and skills to share knowledge with farmers will be key element where ICT’s will be a valuable tool to meet the needs of farmers.

Agri-clinics in Telecentres – Will they work and how?

Figure 3: Group discussion

Yes, because Telecentres are already in the right locations and right communities with social networks from grassroots upwards and the support from local communities. Communication systems and social aspects are already in place and human resources with agricultural background have been recruited. Farmer needs will be assessed and farmer visits will be implemented with strengthened two-way information flow using local language. Mass media (radio, TV) will be used in Agri-clinics and the public events in the villages will be used to promote services. But still training of ICT’s related to knowledge management is needed with new equipment e.g., digital cameras. Good agricultural knowledge e.g., Pest identification is a must for the success of Agri-clinics. By building the image of trust and confidence, with the trustworthy leadership Agri-clinics will be the solution for most of farmer needs.

The out put of the workshop

The barriers of communication between the various stakeholder communities were recognized. In the attempt of increasing agricultural productivity and improving the quality, this knowledge transfer gap needs to be bridged in holistic way. There is a massive World Bank led investment, delivering the e-SriLanka program, establishing 1000 rural Telecentres where Sarvodaya, combined with other partners, have the experience and capacity to deliver ICT-based services to rural communities through effective and established ‘ICT for community development’ (ICT4CD) models to empower rural communities. Workshop participants recognized the significant potential of supporting the farmer community by introducing a systematic knowledge processing system and strengthened communication which would be required between national stakeholders.

Workshop on Telecentre based Agri-clinic for Rural Farmer Empowerment in Sri Lanka – 11th to 13th of September 2006