VERCON - Virtual Extension and Research Communication Network

Advancing participatory communication

Enabling community dialogue

Promoting gender equality

Raising farmer’s voice

Knowledge and information through agricultural research are essential for improving food security. But to be useful, agricultural knowledge and information must be effectively communicated to farmers. A time-tested means of effective knowledge and information dissemination to farmers is participatory agricultural extension. However, weak linkages between extension and research often result in systematic knowledge and information "bottlenecks" and limit the effectiveness of research to contribute to agricultural development.

The new Internet-based information and communication technologies (ICTs) provide a potentially powerful tool for improving communication between research, extension and even farmers. The Virtual Extension, Research and Communication Network (VERCON) employs this potential to establish and strengthen linkages among and within the human and institutional elements of agricultural research and extension systems. The overall goal of VERCON is to improve, through strengthened research-extension linkages, the agricultural advisory services provided to farmers in the Middle East and North African region in order to increase production in food and agriculture with the goal of raising farm incomes.

In the last ten years, ComDev FAO has supported information and communication interventions at the national level in ten countries spread across five regions (Africa, Asia, Near East and Latin America, Central and Eastern Europe) incorporating new information and communication technologies (ICTs) with traditional media such as rural radio and drama. Conceptual models, methodologies and tools have been developed, such as the Virtual Extension and Research Communication Network (VERCON) and related Internet‑ based networks. The VERCON’s innovative nature is its capability to achieve effective linkages by connecting geographically dispersed people and enhancing two-way communication, managing large volumes of data, and rapidly collecting, processing and dispersing information in a variety of forms.

The VERCON initiative was developed by FAO as a joint project between the Research, Extension and Training Division (SDR) and the World Agricultural Information Centre (WAICENT)