Friday, June 7, 2013

Kolli Hills update #4

posted on behalf of graduate student Suraya Hudson, who is doing field work in Kolli Hills and with limited Internet access...

A few reflections related to KMb and ICT from Participatory Rural Appraisal Excersices…. 

Training PRA (4 PRAs done- 2 groups of men and 2 groups of women): 

Most of the training aspirations for the participants in this PRA were farm-training related, although computer training came up many times, both with men and women.  They are aware of where computer training opportunities exist (at either the Village Resource Centre, or one of the two village resource centers).  Only a few admitted to actually making use of these facilities,  whereas the others gave reasons for not using them such as, 
- "they are too far" 
- "no one has come forward to tell us about it" 
- "they aren't comfortable using VKCs in other villages" (although this group said that they would like one in theirs (Oyangulipatti)) 
- "no time" "we have other responsibilities" 
- "computer classes are only for educated people" 

Knowledge PRA (2 PRAs done with nutrition gardeners, and 2 PRAs done with Fish Rearers):

Participants in each CoP (Nutrition Gardeners and Fish Rearers)  did express that they were lacking information about certain aspects of their practices. Although nutrition gardeners had a lot of experience with things such as land preparation, weeding, fertilizing and seed sowing, they felt like they lacked information about pest control, seed saving, and food preparation/preservation.  When asked in what ways they thought would be best in order to receive this extra training, all answers were face-to-face, either one-on-one or in a meeting with an expert (MSSRF staff member or village volunteer) or through a demonstration.  When asked if they thought any tools would be useful to aid in this learning, only one man suggested using a video presentation.  With regards to fish pond users, participants had a lot of experience with practices such as pond cleaning, preparation and food preparation, but felt like they needed more information about fish hatcheries, harvesting and marketing.  Again, participants were mostly interested in the same kinds of face-to-face information-sharing, although here again a video demonstration was mentioned as a possible tool to aid in the training. 

Conversation PRA (So far, only 2 PRAs done with Nutrition Gardeners): 

This PRA explored the times of conversation that happen within each CoP to understand what and how information is shared at the household, community and outside-source levels. 

Nutrition Gardens: 
Household (Weeding, Irrigation, Fertilizing) - All face-to-face within the home  (obviously) 
Community (Pest and Disease, Food Preparation) - All face-to-face at work or in the evening 
Outside Sources (Soil Health, Seed Sowing) - All face-to-face 

One lady said however that if the person is far away, they will use cell phones to call them.  It seems as though almost every household has at least 1 cell phone.  Some have said that the man will often have primary control of the phone (so less access to information for women), but others have said that it is left within the household for both to use.  Other households have more than one.  When speaking with a focus group of women, they were asked what kinds of reasons that they may use their cellphones, and they explained that it is to keep in touch with out-of-town family most often, but that they often use the phones to talk about day-to-day things, even if their friend/family members is nearby.  I don't think one interview or PRA has gone by so far that wasn't interrupted by at least one phone call.

My last 3 weeks in the Kolli Hills

In the next 3 weeks, I intend on hopefully doing a Venn Diagram in each CoP to explore perceptions of importance of various information sources that exist within the area (agricultural extension, television programs, demonstrations, radio, billboards, VRC/VKCs, etc) and to what extend people make use of these.  I would also like to talk to a group of young farmers and older farmers to compare age group perceptions on KMb and ICT, as well as a group of women VKC/VRC users and men VKC/VRC users to talk to them about their technology use, desires, etc.  
Furthermore, I intend on doing a few more interviews who may be potential technology stewards.  Village volunteers have enough experience of their villages and are given training by MSSRF to look after sharing information with villagers, as well as managing VKCs.  The fish pond group members in charge (president, secretary and accountant) also may have potential because they are taking on leadership roles within their communities.

For now I think I have decided to abandon the 3rd "case study" (Chicken-Rearing) so that I can really spend the time to get a good understanding of all of this (there is still a list of other interviews that need to be done, that I have not included in this blog).  

PLEASE let me know what you think! 

Quick side note just for fun….  (although this is not related to sustainable food production):  Because of my extended stay, I have made good friends with the hotel staff and all of them have cell phones.  They are CONSTANTLY texting and calling friends. Most of them have Facebook accounts (and I have helped a couple of them set up Facebook/gmail accounts). They are thrilled to be connected to the internet.  Furthermore, their phone SIM cards are LOADED with new and popular Tamil music, photos of "superstars," music videos and even a full-length video or 2. I will explore these kinds of things with local farmers! I also heard a TED Talk by Shashi Tharoor who explained that 15 million cell phones are sold in India every month, that 509 million cellphones are in hand here at the moment, and that it has the most connections that any country has ever established in the history of telecommunications (obviously partially due to the immense population). 


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