Training opens new doors for farmers

Farmers in Northern Ireland are being given the chance to discover what information and communication technology, or ICT, can do for them. Where other professions have latched on to modern technology to make their own jobs more efficient and, by extension, profitable, the farming community has been found to lag behind in making the most of the latest developments.

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The ICT training for farmers project The ICT training for farmers project

“I now do all my own business accounts on the computer; this definitely cuts down on the paperwork. I also have the facility to use the DARD website for the registration of calves and cattle movements.”
Mervyn Steward, farmer, Lisburn

Thanks to EU funding – around £21 million was made available under the PEACE II Programme – farmers in Northern Ireland are being trained up to make today's technology work for them in their day-to-day administrative tasks. The overwhelming majority now acknowledge that the training they received has helped them to adopt better business practices.

Data management goes rural

A number of local training providers and promoters including several of the Further and Higher Education Colleges delivered the ICT programme to farmers in their local areas between February 2003 and May 2005.

Tailored training programmes demonstrated how farmers could make practical use of ICT, with examples and exercises based on farm business. Mentoring sessions were held on the participants' own farms, helping farmers to apply what they had learned to their own situation.

The programme consisted of a ten-week training course based around four modules of the European Computer Driving Licence (ECDL) and three two-hour visits to each participating farm by a mentor.

The four modules covered word processing, spreadsheets, managing files, information and communication. On completion of both of these elements of the programme, each participant was entitled to £300 towards the cost of appropriate hardware or software of their choice.

Better farm business

Upon review, as many as 80% of participants stated that ICT training contributed to the adoption of better business practices. This training was given to 4 213 farmers and their family members. The four modules of the European Computer Driving Licence were successfully completed by 3 100 trainees.

One of these trainees is Mervyn Stewart, a farmer who manages a daily herd of around 120 cows outside Lisburn, County Down. He completed the the four modules and went on to purchase a computer with grant assistance.

The farming community in Northern Ireland has benefited greatly from ICT training, helping the region turn this widespread sector into a more efficient, commercial venture.

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