About 38% of Latvians live in rural areas, where small-scale farming is the main source of income. Incomes are low, unemployment is high, and rural development is a national priority. However, the global financial crisis has led to cutbacks in rural services and the Ministry of Agriculture’s outreach officers are unable to visit all rural areas.
Latvia has a network of 800 public libraries. Equipped with computers and the internet, these libraries have become important rural information centres.
The innovative service
With support from the EIFL Public Library Innovation Programme (EIFL-PLIP) in 2011, Klintaine Public Library’s ‘Hand in Hand’ service meets farmers’ information needs through interactive educational webinars. The library markets the webinars through the library network, partner organizations, municipalities and directly to farmers. Farmers can attend webinars in their local libraries or log-in online, from their homes. In less than a year (2011/12), the library organized eight live webinars for farmers and rural entrepreneurs in cooperation with 20 public libraries.
Klintaine Public Library works with the Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Centre, which provides the technical platform for the service, as well as trainers and content for the webinars. Culture Information Systems, a government agency, and the public library development project, ‘Father’s Third Son’, supports ‘Hand in Hand’ by engaging other rural public libraries.
eifl-plip project timeline
November 2011 - October 2012.
achievements and Impact
The service was so successful that it convinced the Ministry of Agriculture to use webinars for live webcasting of regional agricultural conferences. Assessing the impact of the service in 2012, the library interviewed many farmers, who told their stories:
- Janis Bergmanis owns a medium-sized farm near Klintaine. During a webinar he learnt that he could apply for a grant from the European Union for equipment. At a later seminar, he learnt how to prepare a proposal. The application was successful, and now he uses the new equipment to work his forest more efficiently.
- Veronika Kadakovska, a small-scale farmer, learnt during a webinar that land reclamation maps could be obtained over the internet. Now she comes to the library to use the free internet to download maps instead of travelling to the State Land Service office.
- Liga Rudzite, who farms the neighbouring municipality of Aiviekste, travelled over 20 km to Klintaine public library so that she could watch webinars on the big screen with other farmers. She says the group discussion helped her understand complex accounting issues.
MORE PUBLIC LIBRARIES SERVING FARMERS
Read about more innovative public library services for farmers. PLIP-AGRICULTURE