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Share Fair 2011

September 2011 is a very long and intense month.

After the two events at FAO (the CSDI Stocktaking exercise and the ComDev Expert consultation), it is now time for an important event taking place at IFAD: the Share Fair 2011.

Share Fair 2011

I will have plenty of occasions to meet with people:

  • the Training on Photosharing (11:00 – 12:30, room C400),
  • the session called “Radio Lake Victoria assist Kenyan farmers with nitty-gritty of food security” (12:00-13:00, room B200),
  • the session named “FARM 98.0 FM: Your vocal gateway to agricultural information” (16:00-17:00, room C300),
  • the session on “5 years sharing coffee and knowledge: the Bluebar experience” (14.00 – 15.30 Tent: Chill-out Corner),
  • the Chill-out with Mark Davies (15:30-16:30 Tent – Chill-out Corner), and
  • the Social Reporting Team

The final Agenda of the Fair is available here.

This is not going to be alone, as at the ned of the week the km4dev annual meeting will also take place, in the same venue with even more people and things to learn.


Using Radios to support Rural Communication

During the Share Fair 09, I had the pleasure to facilitate an interesting session called  “Using Radios to support Rural Communication“. The session was about three main applications of radio in rural development contexts:

  • Rural and Community Radio,
  • Educational Radio, and
  • Radio for promoting good farming practices.

The Session, followed by some 20 people, proposed a first round of about 15 minutes of presentations of the 3 presenters, and a second part for questions and answers, characterized by an interesting conference call via Skype with Father Oswald Chansa from Zambia talking about the experience of his radio.

Riccardo del Castello, FAO senior officer responsible for Rural Radio projects, introduced the topic and the tool. Why Rural Radio? Because it is the media that allows expressing opinions and spreading the voice of rural people. Rural communities, particularly in Africa, depend on Rural Radio: essential information on markets, locations, transportation is the core of the daily transmissions, together with entertainment programmes.

Sally Berman (FAO), whose experience is particularly focused on education aspects, highlighted five major strengths of radio:

  • Support to Social Change, as radio through songs, drama and other traditional means has a very large impact,
  • Extension to every Location, allowing rural people to remain in their area and not to relocate for education or other kind of fundamental information,
  • Low Costs, as no other media can reach the same cost to distribute information,
  • Illiteracy, RR impacts also on communities with a large number of illiterates,
  • Guarantee of Respect, both for people’ problems and for local traditions.

The third presenter, Martina Spisiakova has been following for IFAD the “School on air” project which has introduced an innovative communication strategy in the Philippines. After the identification of poor farmers that own radios, the project, in consultation with the Knowledge Networking for Rural Development in Asia/Pacific Region – ENRAP programme, broadcasted sessions on agricultural topics. At the end of the schedule 130 farmers graduated.

After the participants’ and the context presentations, we tried to learn more from their experience with a series of questions.

Q: what is your message about using radios as a tool for sharing knowledge? (Luca Servo)
A: (Oswald Chansa) Rural Radio is the most effective tool for remote area with low literacy levels. It is also the most user friendly media to share information and knowledge on a number of topics:

  • market information, pricing, transportation,
  • education interactive programmes,
  • health (HIV prevention).

The impact is over more effective when radio listening groups (as it happens in several communities) are created with wind-up radios: these groups gather to discuss what they can do about a particular theme. The listeners then come to the radio stations to share their experience with the other listeners (usually the problems and the solutions). The possibility to use local language is another very important aspect.

Q: How do you measure impact? (Kevin Gallagher)
A: (Riccardo del Castello) Impact can be measured by evaluation through listening  groups.
(Eliane Najros) In southern Kivu, listeners are not linked to one radio. It is possible to verify how women’s status changes and if men do more things in the households.

Q: How are the (a) contents of the programmes defined and (b) how do you ensure that the programmes correspond to the audience’s needs? (Nadia Manning-Thomas)
A: (Riccardo del Castello) A lot of emphasis is put on “training of trainers” and on needs assessment studies. Plus, most of the communities pay for the radio’s service: so, if it is not good, they won’t be paid.
(Martina Spisiakova) In the “School on air” project, the topics were demand-driven and constant feedback was given from the farmers to the project stakeholders.
(Kevin Gallagher) It is very important to rely on the Ministry of Agriculture to avoid misinformation on certain topics.

Q: What are the links between Radio and new technologies? (Roxanne Samii)
A: (Sally Berman) An interaction exists between internet and radio: it is relevant for asking questions and to allow the public to intervene.
(Riccardo del Castello) There is integration from both the technical point of view (MP3s) and the contents side (AMARC). An example is given by the Mali experience, where emails from overseas are read on air.

Q: What did not work with radios? (Luca Servo)
A: (Riccardo del Castello) Community empowerment does not work well when funding is not provided externally.
(Martina Spisiakova) In the Philippines too many topics were covered and too many delays occurred in having feedback for lack of telephones.

Q: What allows empowerment? (Luca Servo)
A: (Riccardo del Castello) There must be preconditions:

  • the political environment (democracy),
  • a legal framework, statute, register,
  • the community must be represented in the managing board in order for the radio to serve their needs.

(Sally Berman) An enabling environment. So, the right time and the right place.

Note: Nadia Manning-Thomas, of CGIAR, took part to the session: maybe it is interesting for you to read how she “reported” about this experience. In addition, you can have a look at the image gallery of the meeting or read more about previous activities on Rural radio.

Last but not least, a special thanks to Daniele Volpe who, has you can see in the image above, was taking notes on the session while I was facilitating it. 😉

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Share Fair 09 just started

The Fair is started at the end after so much preparation and it’s seems to be quite successful until now. The official ceremony was full of people and the atrium at FAO is a great place to meet people and talk.

I’m confident the event can be interesting even if many people in the buildings are not giving enough attention to this occasuion as very busy in the everyday job.

More details about the Opening plenary and keynote speech in the Share fair blog and on twitter.

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Preparing for the Share Fair ’09

Oh yes, I’m back and I’m very much involved in the preparation activities of the Share Fair 09 that’s going to being held at FAO next week. I’ll blog soon about it.


My schedule foreseen:

  • the facilitation of the session called “Using Radios to support Rural Communication“,
  • the participation to the session on “Mobile telephony in rural areas” strictly connected with the forum on the topic held in November last year,
  • the facilitation of five technical sessions non “blogging and micro-blogging“, podcasting and photosharing between Wednesday and Thursday, and
  • the participation to the session called “Making networks work within institutions” introducing the experience of the bluebar communicators list.

Everyone is welcome, of course!


Share Fair 2009

A nice briefing session started today the “public” activities of the Share Fair 2009 that the Rome based UN organizations (FAO, IFAD, WFP, CGIAR, ICT-KM Program and Bioversity International) are preparing for late January 2009.

Gauri and Steve introduced the event, the basic principles and the collaborative spirit that are behind it. Now all departments and divisions of FAO and the other organizations are really welcome to propose topics for discussions and question to be treated in the open spaces which will take place for three days.

One intervention focused on the importance of exchanging the “common good sense” many of us use daily to solve problems. This is a crucial point to me: it can help people to understand the deep value of their “common good sense”, with a potential multiplier effect on the awareness of the important of their experience and capacity of doing things.

To put the accent on this spirit of sharing and interaction, various online tools have been set-up using to keep everyone informed about what’s going on:

The Call for proposal document is ready to be downloaded to present these ideas before October 31st.


Who is using mobile phones for development

Before the summer, I was looking for examples on the use of cellphones for development and I got plenty of them in a moment!

Here is just a short list of the first examples I found:


The first way cellphones were used to sustain development is to deliver news about market prices. It is happening for agriculture and fishery, in Africa and Asia. The mechanism is simple: the users are usually farmers or fishermen interested in selling their products. Via SMS they receive information about prices on different markets in their area. In this way they can easily decide where to go to sell their products to maximize the earnings.

  • ifad-presentationIFAD is running a service of this kind in Tanzania: market spies called “shu shu shu” are scattered around the country to collect information about markets and share them via cellphones with the other members of the same organization.
  • As the mission statement says, the Ugandan Brosdi wants “to empower the civil society through knowledge sharing using ICT as a medium sothat they can improve their livelihoods.” The idea is the following: information and common knowledge is collected during Knowledge Sharing Forums, written, repackaged and sent once a week to the subscribers’ cellphone numbers using both a mobile phone and Gmail services. The farmers record the SMS in a book, saving it for future reference. Other farmers without mobile phones at their will can access this knowledge and further freely disseminate it within the village.
  • Information market can a source of revenues everywhere and Reuters got the point: so, last year the company launched in India a specific mobile information service for farmers in the State of Maharashtra. Reuters Market Light, RML, a short messaging service costing 60 rupees ($1.50) a month, offers Indian farmers up-to-date, local and customized commodity pricing information, news and weather updates. In addition, after an agreement with Maharashtra’s Postal Circle, the service is accessible at the nearest post office for farmers without cellphone.
  • The CGIAR ICT-KM has a pilot project focused on recognizing the value of farmer knowledge, to get farmers to value their own knowledge and ideas and find ways to share this knowledge between farmers. The main activity of the project revolved around the organizing of an International Farmers’ Conference with over 50 farmers attending. The farmers, instead of being passive participants, were asked to present their situations, knowledge, experiences, ideas and skills using storytelling. Their stories were recorded in video, audio and text forms to be disseminated in various ways and will be made available on the web. Additionally, the organizers uploaded small story clips onto mobile phones and showed the farmers how to send these to other farmers via cellphones. This to stimulate knowledge sharing and a farmer-to-farmer extension system to facilitate the spread of useful ideas, techniques and knowledge around agricultural activities.


  • Health is heavily targeted by many initiatives. ZMQ, an Indian software company, is launching a new service for women: once registered with the date of pregnancy, the person will receive weekly tips on what to eat, what vaccines to get, and when to get check-ups.


  • On the other hand, GrameenPhone, in cooperation with Telemedicine Reference Centre Limited, offers an electronic health information and service called Healthline. The service, open to all GrameenPhone subscribers, is an interactive telephone consultation with licensed physicians. Subscribers can also find information on various drugs and pharmacies, on medical facilities and the doctors attached to them, and results from laboratory tests and recommendations, together with the standard form of medical consultation and advice.
  • Cell-life is a South African company providing mobile services to fight HIV-AIDS. Cell-life uses mobile phone technologies in many innovative ways, to provide a free information service via SMS, and to address logistical challenges in developing countries such as booking clinic appointments. When someone is diagnosed HIV-positive, there is an interview for acceptance into an Anti-Retroviral Treatments program. Then the assignment to a therapeutic counselor, who liaise with 15-20 patients, collecting essential information on the basis of which a doctor will make a prescription and a care manager will direct a program of care. The forms were translated onto the cellphone: forms about adherence to treatment, about symptoms, about appointments and these generated SMS messages.


  • GSMAMobiles can also used to connect refugees to vital services. GSMA offers the possibility to connect refugee camps in northern Uganda to mobile networks to support family reunification, education, health care, economic activity and other needs. Refugees are provided with shared access to voice and data services. Under this approach, one of the villagers has the opportunity to establish a small business providing use of mobile phones, or computer terminals with mobile Internet access, to their community.
  • The Bihar region and the recent floods offered a chance to local authorities and rescue teams to collect and distribute information on local condition and rescue interventions, as fixed communication lines have been hardly affected by the floods.



  • Based on the M-Pesa experience, Concern organized with local partners in Kenya a targeted response to the food security problems that affected rural communities as a result of the post election violence in the early months of 2008. More than 500 households, whose livelihoods had been badly compromised by the violence, with the loss of livestock or homesteads, were selected to receive assistance through a community-based targeting process. Concern decided to provide assistance in the form of cash rather than food: using the M-Pesa system, the project aimed to provide each household with cash sufficient to purchase 50% of one month’s minimum calorific requirements through two transfers.


  • Finally, an example of mobile application in the public sector: the eSeva project in Andhra Pradesh State of India is a one-stop-shop for many services government-to-consumer (G2C) and business-to-consumer (B2C) services including payment of utility bills; reservations of train tickets; getting birth and death certificates, vehicle permits, driving licenses; transport department services; sale and receipt of passport applications; telephone connections; collection of small savings; ATM (cash withdrawal and deposits and issue of statement of accounts); mutual funds (collection of applications and transfer of shares); receipt of complaints or requests in connection with citizen services; cell phone bill payments, etc.