Programme for agricultural information service (PRAIS) in the SADC (South African Development Community)
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The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) was established in 1983 under the Lomé Convention between the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific) Group of States and the European Union Member States. Since 2000, CTA has operated within the framework of the ACP-EC Cotonou Agreement. CTA set up a Question-and-Answer Service (QAS) in 1985 to provide information and documentation to ACP partners. Initially the service was rendered from Wageningen in the Netherlands, but in March 1997, CTA carried out a feasibility study of the QAS devolution involving the key information sources and services in South Africa. A pilot project was implemented involving the University of the Free State (leading institution), the Agricultural Research Council and SABINET. Following the success of the project, CTA set up QAS centres in other ACP regions: Uganda (to cover Eastern Africa), Mauritius (Indian Ocean countries), the Caribbean and the Pacific. In Central and West Africa, QAS centres have been set up in Benin, Cameroon, Chad, Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Nigeria. There are plans for a centre in Papua New Guinea (to cover the Pacific region). The paper briefly discusses the origin, design, implementation and development of the Programme for Agricultural Information Service (PRAIS), which has its target groups located in the SADC countries, namely Angola, Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe. It identifies the key factors which have led to the success of the service. These include enthusiastic response to initial questionnaires, positive feedback from clients, the constant flow of search requests and the increasing number of clients repeating requests for new information. It touches on the issues that will impact on the future functioning and of PRAIS: absolute commitment by management of institutions, additional capacity building, the absence of technological and information infrastructure, strategic decisions on target groups, the utilization of different types of information sources, and the development of networking and partnerships. Finally it gives an overview of the running of the service: the type of requests received, how they are responded to, which countries generate most requests, and what type of client is responsible for the largest percentage of requests. The publishing of a newsletter as means of disseminating relevant information is discussed. It concludes with some responses from clients.