Library shows farmers the value of ICT in rural development

Laboratorio del Espiritu, Colombia

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Women farmers at a computer class in the library.
Women farmers learn internet research and social networking skills in Public Library Laboratorio del Espiritu’s computer training centre.

community need

Public Library Laboratorio del Espiritu’s community needs research found that farmers desperately needed information - about modern farming methods; how to protect the environment; agricultural laws; market opportunities and prices; government support programmes and basic health issues, including nutrition, healthy lifestyles and sanitation. The research also found that farmers’ wanted to share information with each other. However, information sources were limited, and farmers did not have computer and internet research skills.

The innovative project

With a grant from the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP) in 2011/2012, the library developed and implemented the ICT for Rural Development project, offering free access to computers and the internet, and free technology training, to farming communities living in six villages in Colombia’s Antioquia district.

The library’s partners include the national Ministry of Agriculture and the El Retiro Mayor’s Office. The Medellin Library Network supports the service, and farmers’ associations – especially those working in avocado, blackberry and Cape gooseberry production, work with the library.

EIFL-PLIP project timeline

November 2011 - October 2012.

achievements and impact

In less than a year (2011/2012), the library trained 130 people to use computers, to research the internet and to use email and social networking tools. Training also built farmers' audiovisual skills, teaching them to take photos and make videos. Farmers created a lively service blog where they and their families share experiences and upload photographs and videos. The impact was wide ranging:

  • The project sparked farmers’ interest in new income-generating activities. Through online research, women farmers learnt how to make handbags from recycled cloth. A group now meets every week to make bags and to research marketing opportunities online.
  • The project raised visibility of the library with local farmers’ associations, for example, the Association of Avocado Producers of El Retiro, whose members are now sharing knowledge via email, blogs and You Tube. The number of people from farming communities using the library’s computers increased from 20 in 2011 to 150 in 2012.
  • In 2012, the library won the highly-prized  the highly-prized Germán Saldarriaga Valley Award of US$64,500 in recognition of its work with marginalized communities. The award was given by the Civic Development Corporation and the Rotary Club of Medellin. 

additional resources

Read a two-page case study about the project.

More public libraries improving farmers's lives

Read about more innovative public library services improving farmers' lives. PLIP-AGRICULTURE

We always had to ask someone to do a favour - to send an email or to look for information. Now we can do it on our own.
Luz Estela Villa Martinez, farmer.