Agricultural research libraries support quality and productive policy research

Wednesday, September 07, 2016

(Wednesday August 31st, 2016 Issue)


Agriculture is the largest contributor to the economic well-being of most Gambians. For the agricultural sector to continue to grow, research-based knowledge of the existing agricultural practices, the potential of the sector, the approach for transforming the sector and the impact of transformation on the economic sector and population is needed.

Therefore research-based evidence is important to guide decisions that affect The Gambia’s agricultural sector and its people.

The quality and effectiveness of policy-making depend to a large extent on the quality of knowledge on which decisions are based.

Policy decisions could be shaped by the political, institutional and cultural environments in which information and knowledge are produced, disseminated and exchanged among stakeholders.

Frankly speaking, research findings may not have immediate and direct influence on decisions, but over time, their impact can be seen more clearly.

The release of a research report represents an occasion for collective discussion and perhaps reconsideration of issues raised by the report. Thus understanding how knowledge and information are produced and disseminated, and how policymakers use it, should be an essential piece of agricultural policy and development strategy.

To provide evidence to support agricultural policy making, researchers need to be part of an effective research system. Most countries have an established National Agricultural Research System (NARS) but the effectiveness of these systems varies.

Research has shown that the effectiveness of NARS depends on the national research policy for the system, a stable institutional structure, diverse, sustainable and stable funding autonomy of the system, human capacity building which doesn’t stop sort to only researchers but including library support staff to set research priorities and conduct analytical research.

 Within above environment, high quality agricultural policy and rural development research in The Gambia would therefore, require that faculty, students, policymakers and other stakeholders can have easy access to retrospective and current information methodology and data obtainable in fully and healthy equipped libraries with recent collections and technological accesses manned by professional librarians.

Libraries and well trained NARS librarians support actively agricultural research by enhancing access to information through effective management of its resources and provision of a wide range of information services and products to researchers, scientists and policymakers in the agricultural sector.

The traditional roles of libraries have been the collection, organization, preservation and dissemination of intellectual outputs, but the approaches to these traditional roles are evolving to facilitate easier access.

With the onset of the digital age, the roles of libraries have expanded to be not only a center of collective printed materials, but one that provides access to electronic information, therefore the need to train to develop expertise in information management is crucially growing in NARS institutions.

However, NARS libraries in developing countries, The Gambia inclusive, are lagging behind and vary in their ability to provide similar access to knowledge resources especially those located in rural, remote areas due to centralized funding of available resources rather than decentralization or non availability of funding at all, power supply, internet access, infrastructure and lack of capacity building for librarians.

Developing a relevant, up-to-date, balanced and usable collection is an important aspect of library services.

Academic and research library collections are built to meet the specific research and information needs of the institutions, academic and research programs.

The effectiveness of library collections is measured by the extent to which they facilitate research, student’s projects and must match the expressed needs and information expectations of the University of The Gambia (UTG). 

Author: Ebrima Fatty