May 2008

An interesting discussion is growing on the ICARDA-organised Farmers’ Conference.

The previous post (by Nadia Manning entitled “Farmers’ Conference on Participatory breeding”) giving an overview of what happened at the innovative event has begun to receive some attention.

Alessandra Galie, ICARDA, who worked on the organising team has posted a few comments giving further insight into the conference from the perspective of both the organisers as well as some participants.

Alessandra highlights their choice of storytelling as a method for facilitating the sharing of knowledge by the farmers. After a review of a number of approaches, the ICARDA team decided to go with storytelling because:

“Story telling seemed to be flexible enough to accommodate any issues the participants would select as topics of discussion at the conference, and, at the same time, it seemed more informal than conventional presentations. Moreover, story telling seemed appropriate for the documentation of the conference. Stories can easily be reproduced in audio and written texts and more importantly, they lend themselves to oral transmission. Since local knowledge has traditionally been spread by word of mouth from farmers to farmers we were particularly happy the information shared at the conference could be exchanged in the form of stories.”

..which was re-affirmed by some of the farmers themselves, stating that

” Stories were a useful format to share information. They are easy to understand, they include issues of interest to farmers about agriculture and they can increase the skills of those who work in collaboration with farmers”. Comments by Egyptian participants on the last day of the conference.

Comments to the post can be found by scrolling down from the original post. Keep checking that space and join in! We would love to hear what others have to say.

Some 53 farmers from six countries exchanged experiences and knowledge through story telling during the Farmers’ Conference held at ICARDA Headquarters in Aleppo, 4-8 May. The conference was supported by the Knowledge Sharing Project of ICT-KM.

Farmers from Syria, Algeria, Iran, Jordan, Egypt and Eritrea attended the first Farmer’s Conference organized by the Barley Research Program of the BIGM.

ICARDA Farmers\' Conference Group Photo

At the inaugural ceremony of the conference, Dr Salvatore Ceccarelli, a Consultant with the Barley Research Program, welcomed the participants. He said that the Farmer’s Conference, the first of its kind to be organized, has been organized as a joint activity among different partners. The objective of the conference is to bring farmers from different countries together to share their experiences and learn from each other. It is also an opportunity for the farmers to visit a research center like ICARDA, he said.

Dr Kamel Shideed, Director SEPR, welcomed the participants on behalf of the Director General. He described the conference as a great opportunity for the farmers as well as the researchers. The conference will help farmers and scientists exchange knowledge and experiences. Apart from these benefits, this meeting will expand regional integration and he hoped that the bilateral interaction will continue beyond the conference.

Ms Mariam Rahmanian from CENESTA, a non governmental organization based in Iran, said that it is a ground breaking conference. “The conference establishes that ICARDA takes farmers seriously and gives them importance in its research activities. Some of the farmers would not have seen a research center and the conference gives them an opportunity to visit an international center and interact with scientists,” she said.

Dr Adnan Al Yassin, Director of the Dry Land Research Program of National Centre for Agricultural Research and Extension (NCARE), Jordan thanked ICARDA for organizing the conference. He said that Jordanian farmers involved in the participatory plant breeding program and attending the conference would benefit from sharing their experiences with farmers from other countries in the dry areas.

Dr Mahmoud Solh, Director General, met the participants during one of the sessions and heard their experiences about participatory plant breeding.

During the next four days the participants visited ICARDA facilities and farmer’s field in Souran, about 100 km South of ICARDA where they interacted with local farmers. Each day the farmers had sessions devoted to story telling, which gave them an opportunity to narrate their own experiences and learn from other farmers.

Dr Stefania Grando, Principal Barley Breeder, said the conference achieved its objectives of collecting and consolidating farmers’ knowledge, which will help scientists in better targeting their research to address farmers’ needs. Also, the conference was successful in establishing linkages between national level networks of barley farmers in these six countries.

The participatory barley breeding program was first implemented in Syria in 1997 and the model and concepts were gradually applied in other countries.

Source: ICARDA

Participants at the ICARDA Farmers\' Conference

One of the primary Knowledge Generation activities of the Knowledge Sharing in Research Project is through six (6) Pilot projects that were selected and given grants to try out/ integrate/ use/ test knowledge sharing approaches within their research projects or initiatives.

The following 6 projects were selected through the call for proposals of the KS in Research Project:

* Application of KS tools to impact monitoring and project M&E to a community-based fish culture project in Vietnam.
Centre: WorldFish Center
Project Leader: Dr. Natasja Sheriff
* Learning Alliances for Wastewater Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty Alleviation (LA WASPA)
Centre: IWMI
Project Leader: Alexandra Clemett

* Knowledge Management Harmonizing Research Output in the Northern Uplands of Laos PDR

Centre: IRRI
Project Leader: Benjamin Samson
* Safe food despite wastewater irrigation: A Knowledge Sharing Approach
Centre: IWMI
Project Leader: Tonya Schuetz
* International Farmers Conference
Centre: ICARDA
Project Leader: Dr. Stefania Grando

* Shared Learning to Enhance Research Priority Assessment Practices

Centre: CIFOR (on behalf of a CGIAR system wide consortium on priority assessment)
Project Leader: David Raitzer

The aim is to capture important knowledge, experiences and lessons of the Pilot Projects with a view to contributing to increased understanding of the application and integration of KS concepts and approaches into research projects and activities.

More information can be found about the Pilot Projects including their proposals, reports and updates on the KS website-

If you’re a frequent user of Google Maps, you may have noticed a new button: More…

Open it and you have two options: Photos, Wikipedia. Check Photos, and thumbnails of photographs will be displayed over the map you’re looking at.

Google Maps has integrated pictures from Panoramio, an online service that lets you georeference your picture on Google Maps.

Here’s an example search for Rome, Italy (see it in action)


It looks so good, it doesn’t need any more words, but just an exploratory trip (in every sense).

Imagine reporting on your next field mission with pics and maps…

The workshop report covers the online Phase 1 of the KS Workshops. It contains descriptions of the processes used, content summaries, as well as participant’s and facilitator’s evaluation.

To address the issue and need raised in the last post on “Why knowledge sharing in research?” the ICT-KM program in its Investment Plan 2006 added to a planned second Phase of the Knowledge Sharing project- a component on Knowledge Sharing in Research. This component is aimed at identifying and pursuing opportunities to enhance collaborative learning and innovation. The goal is to improve the effectiveness of the CGIAR Centres and their projects in working with partners, delivering research results and supporting the achievement of development outcomes.

The project has three major components:

To learn about knowledge sharing concepts, approaches and tools which may be used and useful within the research domain of the CGIAR.

-this is done primarily through support to and learning from 6 Pilot Projects each testing out various knowledge sharing approaches in their research

-additional knowledge is generated through ongoing review of concepts and experiences from within and outside of the CGIAR through literature and web resources as well as face to face interactions

To share and broker knowledge gained through the project, both internally and externally derived, with the CGIAR and its partners and stakeholders

-knowledge will be shared through print materials and web resources as well as through interactive knowledge sharing at face-to-face opportunities

To use information, lessons learned, experiences, impact and evidence on KSinR to influence its wider adoption within the CGIAR

-knowledge, experiences, ideas, and lessons coming from the Project will be used in supporting as well a developing activities and initiatives at Project, Centre and System levels


Any thoughts or ideas on how a project like this can better learn, share and apply knowledge in this domain?

What do you think would be useful? have an impact?

More to come…

The 15 Centers supported by the CGIAR and their many national partners are together creating a wealth of knowledge that can help rural communities in developing countries build sustainable livelihoods. Yet, formidable obstacles to uptake and use of generated knowledge as well as impact of CGIAR agricultural research remain. One of the missing elements which has reduced the effectiveness of our research and development (R&D) efforts, is appropriate and effective knowledge sharing, both within Centers and between them and their partners.

There is a longstanding tradition that separates researchers from those that take up their results. The traditional linear, transfer of technology approach has worked at different times for different purpose but does not offer the best solution for agricultural research to contribute to development outcomes. While this approach may have had some success in the past, the ever-changing nature of agricultural products, research development, actors and needs, this approach is no longer appropriate for all the whole of the agricultural research and development arena.

The CGIAR Centers and their partners need to shift to a more demand-driven, interactive approach, in which such methods are developed collaboratively through a shared process of learning and innovation. A key requirement for achieving this shift is that knowledge sharing should no longer be a mere afterthought in research. Instead, it must become an integral part of the whole research process, involving all stakeholders.

Chandima Gunadasa from IWMI has emailed us a link towards a blog post by C. Wess Daniels, a PhD Student at Fuller Theological Seminary in the School of Intercultural Studies. Wess gives detailed tips to using in research. Chandima thinks this would be interesting to our researchers. is above all a social bookmarking site – a site that stores websites you’ve bookmarked online, so you can get at them from any computer. features and tools are showcased here, including tags and rss feeds, and how to make best use of them.


Thank you, Chandima!

So recently I  decided I wanted to explore a tool for helping me to organise some of my ideas, projects and activities. I had heard about a software tool called ‘mind mapping’ which i wanted to try out.But a simple search online gave a number of commercial and open source options–with little way for a novice like me to be able to make a reasonable choice. So what to do?

As a member (although mostly a lurker) of the KM4dev online community (can join through , I must say I have been continuously impressed by the wonderful sense of community and helpfulness displayed by so many in the KM4dev community–especially when requests for help are made.I had recently been exposed to a fellow member make a request of information on a certain topic with an amazing response given with many tools, tips and discussions being shared; so I decided to try my luck and put forward a request for:

anyone out there who knows of ‘mind map/mapping’ software? The catch is that what I need should be 1)free, 2) easy to use, and 3)easy to download in poor connectivity/low bandwidth environments.”

…and asked- “Does anyone know of anything that fits the bill?

The response was amazing. Within 24 hours I received close to 25 responses.

I was told about:

* Freemind-

* Cmaptools —

* Mindmeister

* Thinkgraph (

* VYM – View Your Mind (

* Kdissert (

* MindManager- (Not free)

..each with varying perceptions from my responders about their particular strengths and value.

I learnt that I can use mind mapping for:

* planning reports and presentations

* simplifying complex issues

* convincing people to my point of view

* documenting ideas

* capturing discussions

..and even do my CV


Interesting points were also raised, in which we were asked to consider:

* “possible serious limitations from a KM perspective if mindmapping uses a single central node – be it for a problem or an idea – from which all related issues cascade hierarchically”

*perhaps the best mind mapping “software” is pencil and paper

All in all, I got some great software and uses tips- a better collection which could probably be found no where else. I have to say that this is really what knowledge sharing is all about and represents what a network should be all about. I appreciate all the time, effort and knowledge that people in the network put into the replies–put into knowledge sharing.


Special thanks to KM4dev’ers:

Sebastian, Luca, Boris, Mike, Mark Berthelmy ,Hege, Nick, Patrick, Chris, Jorit, Mark Hammersley, Nynke, Matthew, George, Frank, Simon, Barbara, Michael and Joitske

I have been a supporter of the CGIAR Consortium of Spatial Information (CSI) since I started my job in the CGIAR.  This is a group of highly competent, committed individuals with a common idea: using Geographic tools and methods to better Serve the Global Agricultural Research and Development Community.

The ICT-KM program supported the CSI through funding an initial project which led to the creation of a wealth of metadata records which allow for the easy access to many georeferenced scientific resources of the CGIAR. More details at  CSI

There are many exciting new and emerging opportunities from both a technology and a funding perspective. The group looked at what role CSI can play in helping its members best tap these new opportunities in cost effective ways, and help raise awareness and foster action around improving the packaging and delivery of CSI member data, tools and analysis to a broader range of users. Details of the meeting at CSI meeting  
The energy, enthusiasm and commitment were palpable throughout the 3 days of the meeting! 

Thanks to IFPRI’s Information and Knowledge Management Specialist Pete Shelton the KS Toolkit has a new section on RSS. He shares with us the following tips:

  • Although RSS and newsreader services are often promoted as potential time savers, they also can be highly addictive. Thus, instead of resulting in less time following your favorite websites and blogs, you often spend the same or more time following more and more (and more!) websites and blogs. As Lee Lefever warns, “Be careful- it’s addictive!”
  • There seems to be a general pattern from passive RSS use to a more proactive approach that involves sharing your subscribed and favorited items with friends, family and colleagues. To offer one analogy, users often begin by setting up an iGoogle page featuring feeds from their favorite sites, blogs, etc. and may even go about organizing them by topic, etc. using the tab feature. As you get used to using iGoogle, however, you may find that you only follow feeds featured in your home tab and you may also want to keep better track of your favorite articles, blog posts, etc. Subscribing to these feeds using a newsreader like Google Reader will allow you to save these items by tagging, starring or sharing them in your reader while also acting as a searchable database for all the content in your subscribed feeds. Moreover, Reader allows you to remix these items into your own customized feed, which you can then publish to your own website, blog or share with your email contacts.
  • Try doing a Google News search for coverage of your organization in the news media. These results can be used to create a dynamic feed (i.e., automatically includes new stories as they are published), which then can be published directly to your organization’s website or you can subscribe to this feed using your newsreader software of choice. Using newsreader software such as Google Reader allows you to selectively tag, star and share which items to publish to a new feed produced by your newsreader that can then be republished to your site.


A quick look at the statistics of the different Knowledge Sharing Web resources shows the huge impact of the KS toolkit. While the KS Web site visits grows smoothly over the months and reaches now more than 1000 visits, the blog maintains itself in ups and downs and varies between 200 and 600 visits a month. The blog started in June 2007 and has currently 92 posts in 16 categories and with 111 tags. The Flickr photo gallery got more than 4,000 visits since its existence. But the KS toolkit seems to become the killer resource! Featuring 58 tools and methods, it has only been unofficially launched two months ago and counts already almost 20,000 views in that period! The following graph shows the stats of Web site, blog and toolkit, and in green the totals.

Mid-May, all set up for Workshop Day One, and for my Day One with ICT-KM. We meet in bucolic Maccarese, dotted with red poppies everywhere; a green morning scene governed by spring showers.


The leaders of some ICT-KM projects – Simone, LuzMa and Antonella – have the floor for most of this day. Nadia, out in Africa (Addis), has got the center of our table, where the conference phone is placed. The leaders speak of Project achievements, of challenges and perspectives, now that Projects are at mid-term. Discussions are around how to make the most of the knowledge sharing toolkit just launched, of lessons learned in workshops, of how to better partner with Centers, the CGIAR Secretariat, the IT teams and Information managers community, with researchers, scientists, and with outside partners. Antonella gives suggestions for adoption of CGMap, and the next generation of the CGXchange.


On the train to Rome, LuzMa, our CGVibrary leader, who works at IFPRI, confesses this is her best ICT-KM meeting ever, as she can finally speak openly and she feels she is being heard.


Day Two. Peter and Jim join us. They are two consultants who have been working with the ICT-KM program for a while. I may be forgiven for only knowing so far that, before moving on to IT strategy, Jim was a French horn player and a Music Major. Could admire both Peter and Jim’s articulate arguments for days on end. We have got only two days this time. LuzMa laughs at the irony of the password on my Bioversity-issued laptop: sunnydays. Still cloudy outside, while in the Conference Room everyone is shinning and radiating with ideas, planning and strategy.


Over morning coffee, oranges and bananas, David, a consultant who has been associated with ICT-KM from the start, presents a short history of the program from its beginnings in 2002 (when Enrica was hired as CIO), until this day. Will save the story of Enrica’s hiring for a separate Blog entry.


To the juice of the meeting: the CGIAR is about creating international and public research ‘goods’ – but they are not born so. When research produces an output, this needs to be worked on to be made public, and this is what ICT-KM plans to facilitate. ICT-KM could be, in Peter and David’s words, ‘the IPG (International Public Goods) midwife’.


Next on the agenda is Peter’s Power Point presentation on the ‘Triple A’ concept (Availability, Accessibility, Applicability). It will be made available on this site soon.


The evening is spent at Enrica’s house. At long length we make it there, seven of us jammed in Enrica’s four wheeler, after she rescues us from the rain. When we get to the house, Enrica’s son William is break-dance training Tania and Antonella among platters heavy with enough Italian foodstuffs to write about in a separate post. Peter and David only show up to work away at a laptop at Enrica’s dining room table; and Peter is still wearing his business suit.


Day Three is finally sunny, as everyone keeps noticing all the time. We get to see what Peter and David were engrossed in during our social evening. They did a second Power Point presentation (pretty amazing so few! We really practice what we preach!), this time on the ‘Three Cs’: Connectivity, Content, Culture . We split in smaller groups all over the sunny Bioversity terrace and fine-tune our work prospects under the above mentioned Cs’.


Once we agree on a ’Three Cs’ action plan, we return to the sunny terrace. We split again and talk on ICT-KMs Communications needs. Blogging is part of the discussion.


End of workshop. Great exercise in democracy, great focus gained. On the lighter side, great jokes told –  at one point Jim fell under the table and Fiona almost knocked the wall from laughing too hard. We conclude that we will stay close colleagues and friends, despite geography, and that we will make an effort in all the areas we highlighted. And then we run to catch the train back to Rome.


What we (and not only we, but everyone in CGIAR) will focus on now, is writing our Medium Term Plan. The deadline is June 15, as everyone knows. Good luck with that!






Email, virus, and spam volume continues to increase.  Consider this: in July 2007 ,  5 million messages were being addressed to the over 8,000 CGIAR staff all over the world —by  March-2008,  this had risen to 24 million. This means 32,000 messages per hour are sent to us, a 500% increase over the 6,000 per hour of nine months ago.   Even more interesting, over 80% are spam.

A partnership with CGNET and Symantec avoids these messages from reaching our networks and thus keeping valuable network bandwidth in the many remote locations we work free, so our scientists can concentrate on what really matters: focusing their efforts on the much needed life-saving research.

success story: every little helps

Next time you get up from your computer, consider this – you could be helping scientists discover new ways to attack the global food crisis, find a cure for cancer or understand the impact of climate change on Africa… more  from super computers to super rice 



Next Page »