Crisis, Farming & Community
AbstractIn 2001, the UK was hit by Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) precipitating one of the biggest crises ever to affect the UK farming system. The crisis unfolded as a series of information and communication problems, from government to farmers and from farmers to farmers, with consequences for action in a time of crisis, social support, and the maintenance of community. What happens to a farming community during such a crisis? When the countryside shuts down, and no one can enter or leave the farm, how can information be disseminated? As methods of dealing with the disease change rapidly, as happened in this crisis, how can information be delivered in a timely and coordinated manner? To explore these questions, data have been gathered from reports and writing about the crisis, and from interviews with Cumbrian farmers. Although we will address throughout the multiple information channels used by farmers, this paper focuses on the role of information and communication technologies (ICTs) during the crisis, notably a community networking initiative known as Pentalk. We conclude with a look at the current role of Pentalk in the farming community, and with discussion of how networks such as these can help during crises involving major information and communication management.
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