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Livestock Guru helps make poverty history – University of Reading

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Livestock Guru helps make poverty history

Release Date 21 October 2005

cattle in a fieldWith Africa high on the agenda at the recent G8 Conference in Scotland, and the success of the Live 8 concerts, the campaign to 'make poverty history' is currently enjoying both political and popular support. And now, researchers at the University of Reading have developed a unique, multi-media learning program for poor farmers which is truly helping to fight global poverty with knowledge. Created by the University's Livestock Development Group (LDG), the Livestock Guru computer program specifically responds to the needs of the most vulnerable groups in developing countries. By way of a touch-sensitive computer screen which even those unable to read can use, the Guru teaches farmers how to diagnose, prevent and where possible, to treat specific animal diseases – thus helping them make the most of the livestock so vital to their survival. The software, which is being launched in the slums of Nairobi during September and October, has already proved its worth in India and Bolivia. In each country, different versions of the Livestock Guru program have been created to suit the visual and linguistic requirements of those populations. The Guru was first launched in India in 2004 among poor households in Pondicherry and Tamil Nadu States. In response to farmer-demand, an Oriya language version was launched in Orissa state in May 2005 for more than 1,000 farmers. To date, approximately 3,000 households have utilised the program. The Livestock Guru technology – developed with the help of funding from the Department for International Development (DfID) – is distributed through a number of local institutions such as Village Knowledge Centres, Dairy and Farmer Associations and other community-based organisations. The success in India is largely due to the close collaboration of the project team with in-country partners such as MS Swaminathan Foundation in Chennai and Arupa Anand Foundation in Orissa State. Equally, in July 2005, 'El Promotor', a Bolivian version of The Livestock Guru, was launched in the high altitude, Altiplano region among poor Andean farmers. Participating in-country institutions include the government, NGOs and FEDEPLO, the local federation of milk producers. As such, the program has now been distributed to an estimated user population of 5,600 poor households. According to Dr Claire Heffernan, Director of the LDG, there has been an overwhelming response to the Livestock Guru. "Livestock are vital to the estimated two-thirds of the 2.1 billion poor households living on less than $2 a day," she said. "However, our interviews with people in over 3,000 poor households on three continents showed that access to accurate and timely information about the livestock in their care was considered to be a major constraint to livelihood security. Hence, poor households were not interested in handouts; their demand was simply for knowledge. And so, to address this need, the Livestock Guru program was created." Studies have demonstrated that use of the program dramatically enhances learning outcomes. For example, in Bolivia, researchers found that in some cases farmers showed up to a 44% increase in basic knowledge regarding the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of important livestock diseases. Further, the uptake of specific learning messages was nearly 10% higher when using the Guru than in comparison to other media such as videos or written extension material. A key benefit of the program is its ability to transmit the knowledge demands of farmers to decision-makers. Unlike traditional methods such as television and radio, the Guru is able to measure the demand of users for particular material, thereby enabling decision-makers to understand the concerns and needs of the poor. "The Livestock Guru technology demonstrates that the poor are keen to adopt new technologies which they view as relevant to their needs," said Dr Heffernan. "In the fight for global poverty eradication, the Livestock Guru empowers the poor by both delivering demand-led knowledge and creating direct communication links between decision-makers and the poor." End Notes for editors 1. The Livestock Development Group is based at the University of Reading's School of Agriculture, Policy and Development. It was initiated in 1998 by Dr Claire Heffernan to respond to the need for a multidisciplinary approach to research into poverty alleviation. LDG staff research interests include anthropology, computer science, law, philosophy, psychology, and zoology. For more information about the LDG, please visit http://www.livestockdevelopment.org 2. Members of the Livestock Development Group are available for interview. For all media enquiries please contact Craig Hillsley, the University of Reading's press officer. T: +44 (0) 118 378 7388 E: c.hillsley@rdg.ac.uk

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