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V IRTUAL A CADEMY FOR THE S EMI -A RID T ROPICS (VASAT) Tools to combat drought and desertification Rural areas have some typical characteristics ble content that can be applied by rural In India, a pilot information hub with associated with huge limitations in terms of stakeholders. Need-based content thus de- connectivity to the Internet was established communication and other infrastructural veloped with national or international part- in Addakal village, in partnership with And- facilities. But if the rural areas, especially in ners is uploaded at www.vasat.org. which hra Pradesh Rural Livelihoods Programme. the developing countries, are located in such are then accessed and adapted by local part- A 4,200-member federation of micro-cred- a region which are by means of geographic ners, intermediaries and rural farm commu- it societies of rural women uses the hub for location problematic, the problems associ- nities. Trained community animators in their information needs. It has a low-cost ated with the rural community reciprocate. partner organisations and multi-disciplinary connectivity to the Internet. ICRISAT in Such a situation can be solved by promot- professionals act as field experts. In this way, Hyderabad offers significant advice and ing community awareness with the help of VASAT turns scientific knowledge into prac- feedback on content. VASAT extends ICT. Virtual Academy for the Semi-Arid tical solutions to help mitigate the effects of information/instruction support to Tropics (VASAT) has shows the way. drought and desertification. It offers life- organisations that have established International Crops Research Institute long learning opportunity to the poor, less- hundreds of rural ICT hubs. VASAT-WCA for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), In- educated and illiterate people of the (West and Central Africa) uses low frequency ternational Livestock Research Institute semi-arid tropics (primary learners). VASAT and solar powered community FM radio (ILRI) and International Water Management complements, supplements and builds on stations interfaced with new digital radio Institute (IWMI), with the support of the existing agricultural extension-communica- satellite (WorldSpace) technology for sharing ICT-KM programme of the Consultative tion initiatives, it designs content into and accessing data/voice. A pilot hub was Group on International Agricultural Re- instructional modules which create a established in Niger in partnership with the search (CGIAR) and the Desert Margins foundation for further learning, keeping in local federation of farmers. Radio Kahé has Programme in WCA, have initiated the mind literacy levels. VASAT is sustained by a 20 Km radius, reaching about 4,000 VASAT. It is a strategic information, com- community involvement, local relevance villagers. A broadcast program dedicated to munication and non-formal distance and strategic partnerships among local, VASAT and integrated with agricultural education coalition for rural communities national and international organisations. broadcasts is aired six hours a week. The and intermediaries led by ICRISAT. other pilot station is located 300 Km from VASAT in Asia and Africa Niamey in a village called Gabi. What VASAT is all about? VASAT is operating as a virtual academy in The aims of VASAT are - South Asia (SA) and West and Central Africa Recent activities of VASAT • to link rural farm communities with re- (WCA), in partnership with the Deserts VASAT is an active member of the National searchers, credible intermediaries and Margins Programme. It is an innovative and Alliance for Mission 2007, which organised markets through an interface of ICT and cost-effective medium to inform, educate the First National Virtual Congress of Farm- open and distance learning (ODL) and support a critical mass of rural women ers, (NVC) a part event of the 93rd Indian methods and men spread across vast geographical Science Congress in Hyderabad (India). In • to host a virtual college of experts through areas about drought and desertification. NVC, The President of India, APJ Abdul a web-based learning content manage- It is a response to the need of the Kalam met with drought stricken farm ment system (LCMS) and link them with United Nations Convention to Combat families of seven villages from across India various stakeholders Desertification (UNCCD) to implement a via video link. He answered their questions • to empower vulnerable rural communi- communication strategy for combating on drought management and improved ag- ties to collectively identify problems, drought and desertification. The Seed ricultural practices. An expert centre was articulate their needs and take up support and technical advice are being pro- organised at ICRISAT, Hyderabad for the informed action in relation to drought vided by Commonwealth of Learning Virtual Congress. More information is avail- preparedness (COL) while the Technical Partners are Sun able at http://www.vasat.org, http:// VASAT emphasizes creating demand- Microsystems and US National Academy of www.icrisat.org driven easy-accessible, easily understanda- Sciences. Source: ICRISAT, Hyderabad (India) 20 i4d | February 2006
"Tools to combat drought and desertification"