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Information gap between rich, poor farmers focus of UN meeting in Rome

Information gap between rich, poor farmers focus of UN meeting in Rome

The rapidly changing nature of agriculture - from a traditional activity to a highly sophisticated one dependent on the flow of information about markets and products - is the focus of a high-level meeting that began today at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in Rome.

Delegates participating in the two-day Consultation on Agricultural Information Management (COAIM) will focus on how the FAO can better help its Member Countries to access, analyse and use information for food security and sustainable agricultural production, said Francisco Perez-Trejo, manager of the World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT), the FAO body that deals with the strategic management of agricultural information.

"Information has become a political issue. It is essential for markets, prices and food security," he said. "Thanks to the Internet, information is available worldwide, but it doesn't mean that the people are well informed. That's what makes information management so important."

Another key issue for discussion is how to close the "digital divide" between poor farmers who lack the network of information technology that wealthy farmers in developed countries take for granted, FAO said. According to the agency's Anti-Hunger Programme, it will cost an estimated $100 million each year to bring radio, television and information technology to rural areas to plug this gap.

The meeting's agenda also includes issues dealing with producing operational mechanisms for implanting FAO's mandate related to food and agricultural information management, improving the coordination of capacity building efforts and addressing issues related to creating guidelines and standards.