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Capacity building for the rural sector*
In the new international context of trade opening and free trade, rural development takes on new dimensions. This makes it necessary to strengthen human capabilities in the sector and make better use of the new information and communication technologies (ICT). However, despite the efforts of governments and institutions to increase the coverage and quality of training services, in the Americas, the training of human resources for rural development is seriously limited, due primarily to:
- The physical isolation of rural areas,
- Limited capacity to use technology to link producers, extension agents, educators and agribusiness operators,
- Limited use of new ICT to access sources of information, manipulate data, receive training via compact discs and improve communication between users, through videoconferencing, e-mail and Internet I and II (this is known as the digital divide), and
- Limited experience in the use of computer-based self-learning systems and methods, and in the use of other digital training programs.
In most of the countries, the implementation of training programs for the
rural sector began in the 1940s. These programs were influenced by the extension
model used in the United States, and operated out of the ministries of agriculture.
The programs changed over time as the extension services went through a number
of ups and downs in terms of their focus, operating capacity and financial
resources, and were privatized in some cases. These ups and downs continued
and intensified, leading to a crisis in recent years.
The need to solve these problems, and the results of several consultations and diagnostic studies conducted by different institutions, demonstrate the fundamental importance of implementing sound distance training and professional re-training programs which will be sustainable over time and take advantage of the new ICT. It is necessary to rethink and redirect training programs, in order to ensure that extension agents, educators, producers and others involved in rural development have the capabilities they need to take advantage of the latest developments and promote the generation and application of new knowledge for the sustainable development of agriculture in the Americas.
In fact, much of the increase in production and in competitiveness achieved in the developed countries has been due to the professionalization of their producers and agribusiness operators, who have incorporated new production and communication technologies, helping them to maintain their comparative advantages as the globalization of markets moves forward. It is the professional skills and competencies of their human resources that enable these countries to compete on world markets and adapt to changes, without disrupting their domestic economies.
Many international and multilateral organizations have made education and training key elements of the cooperation they provide to meet the challenges of agriculture, the agrifood sector and the rural economy of the region. Education generates societies and digital inclusion will make it possible for education to reach the rural sector.?
Karina Ramírez C.
Distance Training Center Coordinator (CECADI)
nter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA)
*The ideas, thoughts, and opinions expressed are not necessarily of the OAS nor of its member states. The opinions expressed are the responsibility of the authors.