ACDC News – Issue 00-21

Listen twice as much as you talk.

That’s one of five “quick tips for communicators” as offered by Lani Jordan, president of the Cooperative Communicators Association. The October issue of CCA News includes a personality profile that highlights her career path, her approach to professional communicating and her views about how the jobs of cooperative communicators will change during the next 10 years.

Reference: Use a title search (“CCA President Lani Jordan is at home with a career, life she loves”) for the full citation.

Agricultural leadership by African women: a case study.

A new report from Winrock International Institute for Agricultural Development features a pioneering program that is addressing chronic food shortages in most countries of Africa.

Karen LeBan, African women gain leadership skills to guide agricultural development: lessons learned and best practices first 10 years (1989-1999). 2000. 44 pp.

The featured program, African Women Leaders in Agriculture and the Environment (AWLAE), focuses on increasing the number of female scientists working in agriculture. It also helps African women develop leadership skills and grow professionally.

Thanks to Kerry Byrnes, son of senior editor Francis C. Byrnes, for contributing a copy of the report to the Documentation Center.

Internet and the StarLink incident.

Pro Farmer editors suggest that the Internet is playing a major role in getting out information on StarLink corn concerns. For example, their article cites several sources of information available online soon after the incident went public. Authors suggest that “this information should be adequate to prevent the kind of consumer panic which set in across Europe and Britain in earlier food scares…” They also conclude that “such information sharing among farmers, grain merchandisers and the public needs doing on a regular basis, not just a crisis basis.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Internet plays healthy role in managing StarLink concerns”) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Grateful for the other farmer.

Bob Coffman of has written a strong piece about the rural spirit – about people on the land who can be bent, but not broken, by hard times. His tribute centers on a farmer who had “given up on traditional crops after battling the elements and the bank no doubt, and was now late in life trying to eke out a living” with his family through direct marketing of vegetables and craft items. “Proud to be farming—anyway they could.”

Coffman observes, with gratitude: “Let us never forget. There isn’t a flood big enough to wash away their spirit or a day hot enough to burn their soul.”

Reference: Use a title search (“The other farmer”) or author search (Coffman) for the full citation.

“Secrecy and paternalism make for bad government and bad science.”

In the wake of the BSE problems in Britain, a recent official report delivered to Parliament prompts this conclusion in a New Scientist editorial. “Again and again, the report shows that it was the unwillingness of politicians and civil servants to ‘alarm the public’ that led them to stifle the open discussion that would have made it possible to deal with BSE more quickly and effectively. The overwhelming official distrust of the public’s ability to deal with risk consistently forced them to provide false reassurances about the safety of beef.”

Reference: Use a title search (“End of an era: the public should never again be shielded from uncertainty -–however painful”) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Getting citizens involved in complex, challenging food issues.

A format described as the “consensus conference” is being used to help citizens take part in policy debates about thorny topics such as food biotechnology. This type of conference brings together a panel of citizens from around the country and a panel of leading experts in a balanced range of fields. Many of the experts hold contrasting views on the relevant issues. The technique is special in allowing the “citizen jury” to identify the issues important to them and decide the key questions they want the experts to address. It is being used successfully in several countries.

If you would like to identify a sample report from a recent “consensus conference,” use a title search (“Lay Panel Report: First Australian Consensus Conference on Gene Technology in the Food Chain”).

Digital divide? “The U.S. should not fear 

A widening of the digital divide within the country,” according to the “State of the Internet 2000” report from the U.S. Internet Council. This assessment comes from analyses of access and usage based on race, income and gender.

Reference: The report is posted at

But what about the rural-urban digital divide?

On this front, a recent issue paper from the Internet Council raises alarms for the U.S. Author Laurence J. Malone concludes: “If sparsely-populated regions continue to lag in high-speed Internet access, we tacitly accept a New Economy where rural productivity diminishes, rural demand for commodities and services is less substantial, and rural incomes lag as income inequality widens. Those who choose to live in rural America for its environmental attractiveness, low crime, family-centered lifestyle, and democratic educational institutions will be comparatively disadvantaged over the next decades.”

Reference: Use a title search (“Commonalities: the R.E.A. and high-speed rural Internet access”) or author search (Malone) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Also, global concerns expressed about the Internet and rural development.

A Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) consultation during June 2000 also revealed serious concerns about how minorities and the rural poor are getting left behind as Internet use expands. Here are some concerns cited:

  • Digital divide. “Internet access is likely to be available only to a small proportion of the people in the poorest countries for the immediate future; within these countries, the rural areas, and specific groups within rural areas (e.g., women), will be left even further behind.”
  • Women’s access. The report cites estimates that about 63% of global Internet users are men and 37% women. “Less optimistic is the claim, made by the Association for Progressive Communication, that ‘male domination of computer networks’ is as high as 95%.”
  • Skimming the surface. “Users are having to search for information using wholly inadequate tools, as all the major so-called ‘search engines’ index only a very small fraction of the relevant Internet sites. According to various recent independent surveys, such facilities cover only about 2 to 16 percent of the searchable part of the Internet.
  • Quality control. “There is no quality control for material on the Internet and the user has no way of assessing material that is indexed by the major search engines.”
  • Lack of local, relevant content. “A lack of local or other appropriate content limits the usefulness of the Internet, particularly the lack of content in local or national languages.”

Participants from the 91 member nations of FAO recommended ways in which to strengthen information and knowledge management capacities through international cooperation.

Reference: Use a title search (“Report of the First Consultation on Agricultural Information Management”) for the full citation, including URL for online access.

Best regards and good searching.

Please pass along your reactions, questions and ideas for ACDC. Feel free to invite our help as you search for information. And please suggest (or send) agricultural communications documents that we might add to the collection. Thank you.

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