Food for Talk: Addressing barriers to communicating agricultural knowledge to subsistence farmers in Timor-Leste [article]

Christopher McGillion, University, The Australian National, University, The Australian National
2020
The International Fund for Agricultural Development has identified barriers to the sharing of knowledge with small farm holders as one of the key obstacles to increased food production in developing countries. The purpose of this research was to examine ways in which these barriers could be overcome in respect of subsistence farmers in Timor-Leste, a significant proportion of whom have low levels of literacy and poor access to conventional mass media channels. The first part of this research
more » ... concerned with how communication is best positioned in development projects. The researcher was contracted to draft a communication strategy for the agricultural project Seeds of Life, and to conduct communication training workshops for the project's staff. Neither the strategy nor the workshops were found to change thinking about communication within the project from what is known as the deficit model, which places a premium on communication outputs, to one more attuned to communication impacts. Despite the strategy and the workshops communication staff also continued to be viewed as mere service providers taking instruction from researchers and technical advisers rather than professionals in their own right with particular skills to bring to the challenge of sharing knowledge in the most appropriate ways. A longitudinal study was then undertaken of the interactions between these two groups within Seeds of Life. This consisted of interviews with staff members over a period of four years. This study found that communication staff on the one hand, and research scientists and technical advisers on the other, eventually achieved a more effective working relationship through processes designed to improve their cross-disciplinary communication. The study provides evidence in support of a model of project planning which focuses on how natural science and social science practitioners work together to produce fit-for-purpose communication initiatives rather than models that seek to determine communication approaches and technique [...]
doi:10.25911/5e60c77e51ca1 fatcat:362c2x6pdfevddz4mjwoang4g4