often not the case in developing countries generally and postconflict societies in particular. Universities can be an excellent source of training for extension personnel, but weak links with universities in developing countries detract from training and access to science-based information generated through sound and appropriate research.
How Can Technology Support a Role for Extension Agents in Peacebuilding?
Information and computer technology (ICT), the technological area most likely to have an immediate impact on peacebuilding, is rapidly becoming cheaper and more powerful. Advances in ICT have significant and growing potential to improve agent access to information and expertise for use in both agricultural extension and peacebuilding.
The technologies need to be trusted and the information provided valid. More specifically, ICT should be inexpensive and easy to use, support long-term capacity to improve both agricultural productivity and social stability, and broaden access to information for all groups in agricultural communities. In addition, the technologies need to be neutral in their application and usable among groups without much formal education.
It is particularly helpful to encourage and support communities in determining how best to use technology to solve problems and meet needs, including in ways perhaps not originally envisioned. For example, in addition to conveying information between farmers and extension agents, cell phones can register images and are therefore useful when documented evidence is required.
Enabling an extension agent to provide information in response to a farmer’s question quickly builds trust in the individual agent and enhances the credibility of the larger extension system. Cell phones are often the best way to deliver information easily and inexpensively.