Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Suraya's latest update

Posting on behalf of Suraya Hudson, who is currently in Kolli Hills, India with limited Internet access:

May 23, Kolli Hills, India

The past few weeks have a been a whirlwind filled with interviews, PRA's and participant observation.  Currently, the case study Community of Practices that we are working with are… 

1) Those who maintain nutrition gardens
2) Those who participate in fish rearing in community fish ponds
3) Those involved in the on-farm chicken rearing enterprise
(At this point, the chicken enterprise may be dropped from the list or replaced with seed-saving, depending on time!) 

I have been interviewing CoP group leaders, MSSRF staff (to get a lay of the land), custodian farmers and members of other local NGOS, trying to understand access to knowledge and forms of communication that are currently being used within the Kolli Hills.  Aside from the VRCs/VKCs, most communication seems to be done through meetings, daily face-to-face contact with MSSRF staff, and through the use cell phones.  One NGO drives through villages with a loud speaker on their car to announce meetings. Informal communication takes place mostly through the Mahatma Gandhi 100-day work scheme (guaranteed employment for 100 days/year), through work in the fields, when women go to collect water, at the twice-weekly nearby food market and during religious festivals. The PRA that I am working on now, is about existing vs. new knowledge.   Within each CoP this PRA will allow me to understand the types of activities involved in maintaining the respective practice, specifically where they learned each activity, to identify the activities for which people feel like they need more information, and finally, to identify the most ideal means of accessing that information. I have also managed to get my hands on some Kolli Hills folklore about agriculture which is getting translated now. 

So far, it seems as though community members are not terribly interested in using ICTs to gain information (despite the fact that almost every household has at least one cell phone).  Some women expressed that ICT's are only for "young or educated people".  Most households here do not own radios, although every household has a TV (a campaign scheme from the previous political leader in Tamil Nadu).  I have asked if people would be interested in tuning in to a television program that is specific to their CoP, and some women have said, "we don't understand TV".  People seem to currently be most keen on face-to-face contact, in the form of a presentation, meeting, or one-on-one discussion WITHIN their villages.  Some said they would be interested in including video in the presentations.  So far, the people that I have spoken to do not make regular use of the Village Resource/Knowledge centers that exist.  It seems as though people have some underlying beliefs that these types of things are inaccessible for them (uneducated, illiterate, etc).  The next PRA that I will try will involve looking more at group dynamics/organization/leadership within each CoP.  After this, I will talk to regular users of the VRC/VKCs as potential tech stewards.  Also, I am interested in speaking with different generations of people to understand the reasons why younger people may be more interested in using ICTs than older people.  Further, I would like to do a type of Venn diagram to understand the information outlets that are most often used/most efficient (although it seems as though MSSRF is really the only main outlet for farmers here).  

I welcome any advice or pointers for other things to look at! The time is flying by- I can't believe I have only 1 month left here in the beautiful Kolli Hills.

Suraya Hudson
MSc. Candidate
Department of Resource Economics and Environmental Sociology
University of Alberta


  1. Thanks for this update Suraya. You make an important observation when noting that people you spoke with "seem to currently be most keen on face-to-face contact" rather than using ICT. I wonder if the question were re-phrased slightly to ask if they think ICT (cell phone text messaging, for example) might help them to better coordinate their face to face meetings. ICT is not a replacement for face to face but an enabler or amplifier of the current way they organize and plan face to face meetings. Perhaps you could float that with some of the participants and see what they have to say.

    Generational differences will likely play a part too. As you note, ICT is seen as a young persons game. Have you spoken with any young farmers about their responsiveness to ICTs for knowledge mobilization?

  2. Your findings so far are interesting Suraya. I was wondering if you could tell us more about the statement that almost every household has a cell phone. I am wondering about shared mobiles. Do women have access to a shared phone? If so, how often would they use it and for what purpose? Mobiles connect people and services. How often might women use phones for:

    - to do mobile banking?
    - to seek or receive remittances from children/husbands living outside the household
    - to feel protected (emergencies)
    - to share price information - either as buyers or as sellers (ie. in the market)

    There was a study on women and mobiles in 2010 by the CB Foundation - you can find it here: