Can librarians, scientists and IT geeks feed the world?

Special report from IAALD 2010: 

  

At the International Association of Agricultural Information Specialists (IAALD) meeting in Montpellier this week, representatives from these groups have got together to discuss just this issue. Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary of GFAR thinks these ‘knowledge managers’ have a key role to play in ensuring that agricultural information is accessible to those who need it, when they need, how they need it and that this knowledge is vital for improving lives because it enables people to make informed decisions. See his presentation.

 

A CABI-led session at the meeting yesterday focussed on some new innovations providing information to aid decision-making.

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Elizabeth Dodsworth told delegates about a professional networking website created for researchers and policy makers on the topic of Biofuels. Freely available, the site now has 348 members (see www.cabi.org/biofuels)

 

Martin Parr, Programme Manager of the R4D initiative for DFID talked about work done to date to open up DFID’s project data to the world and the exciting possibilities of data visualisation. See an example in his slides by clicking here or visit the R4D portal.

And a project that really could help feed the world also got some airtime. A question and answer service is being run for farmers in India – they can call in with questions about their farming problems and receive expert advice. Find out more about the initiative by clicking here to see the presentation or hear Phil Abrahams talk about it by clicking here.

But if you still think that it’s a stretch to link the provision of research information and putting food on the table then just consider the example of how the Animal Health and Production Compendium has been used in Tanzania.

 

The Compendium was used to create extension materials for educating farmers about East Coast fever which affects cattle in Tanzania. As a result of this approach the number of cattle vaccinated in the area rose from 2000 to 6000 – saving livestock and providing food and income for farmers in the region.  This is just one example of how IT and agricultural information can come together to make a tangible difference, according to Gareth Richards, one of the Compendium's creators and an example of one the 'knowledge managers' that Mark Holderness sees as so important.

 

The IAALD conference continues until the 29th April. For more information go to http://iaald2010.agropolis.fr/ or to  www.iaald.org

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