By CEPES LIMA, Peru, 26 November 2004
The Centro Peruano de Estudios Sociales – CEPES (Peruvian Center for Social Studies), an APC member, has worked out a development project named "Agricultural information via internet for Farmers of the Board of Users of the Valley of Chancay – Huaral". The Project intends to benefit, in a direct way, 6,000 poor farmers – the majority of them owners of small properties and having at present a subsistence economy, through the implementation and operation of a local agricultural information system via internet.
The main objective of the project is to provide them with an advantageous participation in the small farmers market and, simultaneously, strengthen the institutional status of their Irrigation Organisations by the use of modern information and communication technologies in the management of their production units, as well as of their organisations. The project, thus, seeks to confront two problems: 1) small farmers’ disadvantageous participation in the market, due to the deficient amount of information available for them, and 2) management difficulties of the Irrigation Organisations, caused by the faulty communication among the several organisations and the entities related to water management.
The internet and telecommunications infrastructure will be available for the rural population as a whole. For that reason, the indirectly beneficiary population is comprised by the sum of all rural population belonging to the three districts included in the Board of Irrigation Users (Chancay, Huaral and Aucallama), particularly rural population between 15 and 40 years old; most of them are not farming members of the Board of Users. In total, they account for approximately 13,700 inhabitants .
Participation of the rural population of these districts is particularly important for the project. Population related to the Education Sector (basic education local teachers and students) will initially be the direct beneficiaries, in coordination with the Unidad de Servicios Educativos Nº 10 (USE-10) – Huaral (Educational Service Unit Nº 10). The purpose of it is that USE-10 employs the net in order to deepen their relationship with the educational centers (headmasters, administrative staff, teachers and students) in the Districts of Huaral, Chancay and Aucallama. In addition, this infrastructure will be available to all 64 schools organised in rural school nets, an organising and institutional channel through which the infrastructure will be used. The teaching staff population in these educational centers reaches 949 teachers (considering preschool, primary and secondary levels), and the school population reaches 18,000 students (considering primary and secondary school only).
Farmers are organised in an (irrigation system’s) Board of Users, made up of 17 Irrigation Commisions spread all through the valley. Commissions and Board Associates will not only benefit from the project but, by making part of it since its planning, both institutions will strengthen in two ways: by acquiring abilities for handling the system, and by allowing better and more fluid ways of communication with each other.
Participation of the beneficiary population and local institutions in the project’s making is a main aspect of its strategy. The project has been worked out with the Directors of the Board of Users and with each one of the Irrigation Commissions. Working meetings have been held with the Technical Management of the Board in order to agree on the system’s design and to determine the tasks to be accomplished by both the Board and the Technical Management in operating the information system. Farmers feel, in general terms, very enthusiastic and motivated, since they clearly identify that the access to agricultural information is a necessary condition to take economic decisions according to the market evolution, from what to sow until what prices to sell, going through all the production process.
In the valley, there are several institutions that will take part in the development of the project. They are the "Huando" Technological Institute, the Donoso Experimental Station, the Technical Management of the Irrigation District of Chancay – Huaral. Outside the agricultural environment, meetings have been held with the Huaral Educational Service Unit (USE-Huaral), of the Ministry of Education so that teachers and students from the localities where the infrastructure will be installed can make use of it.
The Agricultural Information’s Board of Directors of the Ministry of Agriculture (DGIA-MINAG) will also take an active part in the project. Its interest in the project’s success has led to its commitment to install an internet cabin at the Donoso Experimental Station, as well as to provide the information system with its Agricultural Site, as well as other tools and information contents for the farmers’ benefit. It will also finance a significant part of the project’s training activities.
Because of the involvement of the Education Sector in the project, coordinations with the Board of Directors of the Ministry of Education’ Plan Huascaran have been carried out. They are committed to support the project within the scheme made up by local participants and by CEPES, and to make the Huaral project into a pilot project of the Plan Huascaran.
CEPES’ obvious intention towards all these institutions is to integrate them actively into the project. It is thus fundamental that from the very working out of the project, all participants implied have an active involvement and that their interests are reflected in the structure and content of the information system. CEPES’ main hyphotesis is that the project’s usefulness and sustainability rely exactly on this fact.
A substantial part of the project is the training of the system’s operators and users. Training is the sine qua non condition in the system, since through it, all abilities needed for its operation, maintenance and usefulnes will be created. The project considers accomplishing a training program consisting in the corresponding courses for cabin managers and operators, as well as training for 280 valley farmers from all Irrigation Commissions. These farmers will receive training on the use of internet and of agricultural information to manage their plots.
Lastly, since a highly replicable pilot project is to be dealt with, carrying out follow-up and evaluation activities of both the Agricultural Information system and the internet cabin management has been taken into consideration. The aim is the making up of documents out of the lessons drawn, which will allow setting up models bound to replication, at least in other valleys on the Peruvian coast.