Cornell Library Program to Help Strengthen Agricultural Research in sub-Saharan Africa

Contact: Gwen Glazer
Phone: (607) 254-8390

Cornell Library Program to Help Strengthen Agricultural Research
in sub-Saharan Africa

New Funding Allows Agricultural Research Database to Reach New Institutions


ITHACA, N.Y. (August 17, 2009) – Cornell University’s Albert R. Mann Library will increase access to The Essential Electronic Agricultural Library (TEEAL) database for researchers and students in sub-Saharan Africa, supported by a $1.8 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The goal of the project is to strengthen the scientific foundation for agriculture research and education in sub-Saharan Africa by providing 115 institutions in 14 countries access to more than 140 key agricultural journals.

Limited access to the Internet makes it difficult for many Africans to access the international research community, creating barriers to scientific innovation on the continent. The TEEAL digital library, which operates offline, allows students, faculty and others at African universities to use academic journals via a single external hard drive. Currently, only 38 out of approximately 365 eligible universities and agricultural colleges in sub-Saharan Africa own TEEAL.

“Our goal has always been to get TEEAL to as many developing world researchers as possible, and this grant allows us to scale up our distribution significantly,” said Mary Ochs, director of Mann Library.

This three-year grant will also reduce the cost of TEEAL by 50 percent, making the program more affordable for institutions in every eligible country in the developing world. Additionally, TEEAL’s staff will assist with installation; train students, librarians, and faculty; act as liaisons with publishers; and promote the program among institutional leaders, librarians and collaborative organizations.

In institutions where TEEAL is currently available in Africa, it has proved to be one of the most-used electronic resource of agricultural researchers, significantly improving the speed and quality of research. By increasing TEEAL’s reach, more researchers will be able to access, localize and disseminate relevant knowledge to farmers within their communities.

“TEEAL is a bridge to learning and teaching,” said Carl A. Kroch University Librarian Anne R. Kenney. “It’s a permanent asset for a library's collection that supports high-quality research in otherwise challenging research environments.”

TEEAL began a decade ago, sending its first set of materials to the University of Zimbabwe in 1999. It included 172 CDs, weighed 50 pounds, and cost about $800 just to ship. Streamlined processing and new technology now allow the entire database to be shipped in a small box with a 500GB hard drive.

“It is hard for us who have instant access to the Internet to believe how important TEEAL is in sub-Sahara Africa. There, only 5 percent of people have access to the Internet and of those, only 10 percent have broadband – the rest only have dial-up, according to the International Telecommunications Union,” related Bob Herdt, who was Director of Agricultural Sciences at the Rockefeller Foundation when TEEAL was pioneered. “The divide between ‘us and them’ is still huge, even though Internet access is rapidly expanding in Africa. But TEEAL will be a vital resource for researchers there for many years, and the new Gates Foundation grant will make it possible to meet that need.”

This grant is part of the foundation’s Agricultural Development initiative, which is working with a wide range of partners in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to provide millions of small farmers in the developing world with tools and opportunities to boost their yields, increase their incomes, and build better lives for themselves and their families. The foundation is working to strengthen the entire agricultural value chain—from seeds and soil to farm management and market access—so that progress against hunger and poverty is sustainable over the long term.

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New Funding Allows Agricultural Research Database to Reach New Institutions