FAO, Box 2, Dar es Salaam, Tanzania

Crop protection and extension services in developing countries, and in Africa in particular, are under increasing pressure from governments, donor agencies, environmentalists and farmers themselves, to provide advisory services in rural areas that empower farmers to make informed crop management decisions that are sustainable and environmentally acceptable. The delivery of advisory services to farmers in rural areas in pest management is seriously limited by, among other things, the lack of ready access to appropriate information technology. This also makes it difficult for developing countries to undertake pest risk assessments, to prevent the entry of exotic pests that continue to pose a serious threat to African agriculture, and to contain those that have gained entry and to screen them out of imports and exports. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, FAO, has a special responsibility for supporting the information needs of its member countries. In a survey conducted in over 25 African countries, FAO showed that a strong information base and easier access to information technology was needed by the majority of the countries to support development activities and for the provision of advisory services to farmers in rural areas, for IPM, plant import/export phytosanitary control, pesticide management and training and extension.

FAO is collaborating with CAB International in developing a strong information base in crop protection for a number of African countries, through the provision of CD-ROM technology and training which, for the majority of African countries, offers the best approach for providing rapid access to a very large volume of readily available data on crop protection with minimal maintenance cost. The ready availability on the Internet of current information in crop protection, and the increasing number of servers now available at moderate costs in many African countries, make it imperative to assist as many countries as possible to access the Internet.