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Institutionalizing Web-based Information System for Tilapia Culture in Latin America
Appropriate Technology Research 2 (10ATR2)/Study/Honduras
Escuela Agrícola Panamericana, Zamorano, Honduras
Daniel E. Meyer
Joseph J. Molnar
University of Georgia
E. William Tollner
Raquel Isaula, Red de Desarrollo Sostenible, Honduras (RDS-HN)
Jennifer Maldonado, New Media Institute, University of Georgia
To complete the undertaking of Web-based Information Delivery System for Tilapia (WIDeST) which makes available to stakeholders (farmers, NGOs, policy makers and other change agents), the knowledge of tilapia culture using low-cost inputs, relevant demographic and natural resource data, facilities for real-time on-line conversation for exchanging information, and tools for employing decision making process.
Specific objectives of the proposal are to:
1) Collect all aspects of information needed for evaluating tilapia culture as an alternative for small- and medium-scale farmers;
2) Organize and present information in WIDeST that is usable by extension agents and NGOs to train small-scale farmers;
3) Develop methods for receiving stakeholder input, conducting live conversations through the Web among farmers and NGOs to share experiences and identifying needs; and
4) Incorporate decision-making methods in WIDeST useful for employing systematic process for developing and evaluating decision alternatives.
The concept of an enabling environment has been identified as a key prerequisite for sustainable aquacultural development (Shehadeh and Pedini, 1997). Experiences in natural resource management initiatives for the hillside regions of Latin America (CIAT, 1997) suggest that creating partnerships among stakeholders involved in managing and/or using natural resources is part of the process of fostering an enabling environment; the other aspect is to adopt an integrated decision-making framework for use in such environments (Nath et al., 1999). The latter framework (referred to as concurrent decision making) has been applied in workshop settings for natural resource management initiatives in Central America (Honduras, Nicaragua).
We realized the need for a systematic method for enabling communication to reawaken the dialogue. In this context the University of Georgia and its collaborators from Zamorano and Auburn University identified the work of and potential capabilities of Red de Desarrollo Sostenible in Honduras (RDS-HN). The Red de Desarrollo Sostenible-Honduras (RDS-HN) was created with the initial grant from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) in response to the 1992 Earth Summit which mandated assistance to "developing" countries for establishing in-country Sustainable Development Networks (SDNs). These networks were envisioned to provide infra-structural support for rapid communication through electronic information technology. The RDS-HN was among the first to establish network and now provides the Internet services to over 700 customers. Similar SDNs have been created in other Latin American countries, e.g., Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Nicaragua, Panama, Guatemala, Haiti, Mexico, Guyana, Bolivia and Colombia. Together these SDNs can constitute a formidable information network to facilitate exchange and contact among farmers, government and non-government organizations as well as private entrepreneurs. Thus, we believe there is a unique opportunity to pursue capacity building and institutional strengthening for aquaculture in Latin America through the use of SDNs and a Web-based information delivery system. The task in this phase of the PD/A CRSP is to identify and implement those steps necessary to ensure that small- and medium scale fish farms can be sustained as a productive enterprise in Honduras. Implementing small and medium scale aquaculture on a widespread and sustained basis is a long-term process (Harrison 1991, Molnar et al., 1991). Consumer demand and dietary preferences are not obstacles to fish culture in Honduras nor are sales problems necessarily a reason for abandoning ponds. Tilapia is widely acceptable as a consumer item. In a 1996 survey, a majority of Honduran farmers noted "my understanding" as the major obstacle to obtaining larger harvests from their ponds (Molnar et al., 1996). Thus, it is vital that this project fortifies partnership between Zamorano and RDS-HN and their ability to sustain aquaculture development in Honduras. This work will contribute to diminished dependence of small-scale farmers on technical assistance from outside sources as it will enable host country NGOs and private firms to provide services and technical assistance locally.1
Quantified Anticipated Benefits
The unprecedented accessibility of knowledge for tilapia culture, data on availability and constraints of natural resources and systematic method of decision-making by farmers, NGOs, extension agents, government policy makers, financial institutions and investors will create an enabling environment for small- and medium-scale farmers in Latin American countries. Stakeholders will be able to interact in a participatory manner that would provide sound basis for management decisions on farms and for developing policies and plans for aquaculture development in the region. The number of users will be a clear indicator of the benefit.
Another benefit will be the use of WIDeST for providing training and workshops to farmers, NGOs and representatives other change agencies. Use of WIDeST for training students and technicians in education institutions such as Zamorano and staff of NGOs such as RDS-HN in tilapia productions and systematic decision making methods will enable capacity building in host countries.
Regular inputs of stakeholder experiences and virtual meeting through "live chats" facilities will empower host country farmers and NGOs and enable them in influencing policies and decisions in their favor.
Input from researchers and identification of new research needs will be an important benefit. It is likely that knowledge and experiences from other areas will benefit decisions in Latin American countries through WIDeST.
The above and other related benefits are quantifiable by proper recording of number of individuals, organizations/agencies and training sessions using WIDeST and the number of decisions influenced by information in WIDeST.
The work will be conducted simultaneously and collaboratively at the University of Georgia, Zamorano and by employing the services and facilities of RDS-HN in Honduras. Auburn University will be directly involved in providing expertise for information in fish culture. Much of the research plan will be receiving and organizing information and data to include the following important features in the Web-base system.
The following important features for easy and effective maintenance and improvement are critical to long-term use of WIDeST:
The following connectivity capabilities are important features:
The overall method will be to continue identification of needs from the farmers and other stakeholders, receive expert knowledge and best practice recommendations and organize all information for systematic decision-making for tilapia culture. Finally, using focus groups for both identifying needs and then for evaluating the effectiveness of WIDeST will be an important method.
The proposed work will achieve regional integration primarily through the Sustainable Development Networks (SNDs) in Latin American countries. Additionally, the training sessions and workshops planned in the region for extending this work are described in the complementary investigation (activity) described in this proposal. Lastly, focus groups and virtual conferences using "live chat" facilities of WIDeST will extend this work's effectiveness in the region of Latin America.
Web-based information system, WIDeST has URL: <www.acuacultura-ca.org.hn> and it currently has limited information on tilapia culture. The schedule of work in this project will include the following:
CIAT, 1997. Community-led management of watershed resources in hillside agro-ecosystems of Latin America. Annual highlights for project PE-3. October 1997. International Center for Tropical Agriculture, Cali, Colombia.
Fleck, S., 1996. Extension "woman-to-woman" in Honduras - Experiences of an FAO project. Available at <www.fao.org/sd/wpdirect/WPan0005.htm>.
Harrison, E., 1991. Aquaculture in Africa: Socioeconomic Dimensions. A Review of the Literature. School of African and Asian Studies, University of Sussex, England.
Molnar, J.J., T.R. Hanson, and L.L. Lovshin, 1996. Social, economic, and institutional dimensions of aquacultural research: The PD/A CRSP in Rwanda, Honduras, the Philippines, and Thailand. Research and Development Series No. 40. ICAAE, Auburn University, Alabama, 72 pp.
Molnar, J.J., V. Adjavon, and A. Rubagumya, 1991. The sustainability of aquaculture as a farm enterprise in Rwanda. Journal of Applied Aquaculture, (1)2:3762.
Nath, S.S., B.P. Verma, J.H. Park, D. Nute, and E.B. Knapp, 1999. Concurrent Decision-making: Principles, Supportive Technology and Applications. Paper presented at the National Center for Environmental Decision-Making Research (NCEDR) annual meeting, April 1214, 1999.
Shehadeh, Z.H. and M. Pedini, 1997. Issues and Challenges. In: Review of the State of World
Aquaculture, FAO Fisheries Circular No. 886. Available at: <www.fao.org>.
1 Honduran rural women play an important role in agriculture, especially in the peasant and small farmer sectors, working an average of four hours a day in crop and livestock activities. Women are responsible for establishing a survival strategy for the household unit. Women, who bear the entire responsibility for agricultural production, head about 20% of rural households. Development policies, however, still consider men as producers and women as responsible only for household tasks. Women are primarily responsible for vegetable gardening and small livestock - poultry, pigs and goats. While little data is available on the gender division of labor in agriculture, women take part in most activities and predominate in food processing. In fisheries, women also work primarily in processing activities. Women are responsible for household tasks, including water supply. Men contribute significantly to fuel wood collection. In households in which women are active in agricultural production, men and women often share the decision-making. Men predominate in decisions in regard to type of crops, varieties, and fertilizers, while women generally have a greater say in family expenses and pricing of produce (Fleck, 1996). <www.fao.org/sd/wpdirect/WPan0005.htm>
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