July 2008

Nancy White (Full Circle Associates)

Nancy White works with organizations to strengthen collaboration and communication online and offline. She has a special interest in online facilitation, teams and communities of practice, and whole systems change. She is about to publish a book with Etienne Wenger and John Smith on stewarding technologies in support of communities and is learning graphic facilitation. Nancy is based in Seattle, Washington in the US.

Simone Staiger (CGIAR ICT-KM)

Simone Staiger-Rivas is leader of the Institutional Knowledge Sharing Project. She is a trained social communicator with 13 years’ experience in the coordination of electronic communications projects. Her interest lies in the enhancement of collaboration in institutional settings that contribute to organizational learning and change. Simone is based at CIAT, Colombia.

Gauri Salokhe (FAO)

Gauri Salokhe is information professional with 8 years’ experience in information management. She is working on Knowledge Management activities at FAO and has been promoting knowledge sharing through her many projects. Her interests lie in helping develop skills and ideas that encourage and enhance sharing. Gauri is based in Rome, Italy.

Pete Shelton (IFPRI)

Peter is an Information and Knowledge Management Specialist at IFPRI. He has a background in soil science, farmer training and environmental education. His responsibilities include managing institutional databases and websites and training research staff in using new information technologies to support their work. Pete is based in Washington, DC in the US.

The CGIAR has just launched a new Web system: CGMap at cgmap.cgiar.org from where CGIAR research plans since 2003 can be easily accessed. 

Each year, all CGIAR Centers look to the future, review research agendas and make adjustment according to the realities of current and expected priorities. This information becomes the basis for the Annual Medium Term Plans (MTPs) for the 15 centers and the Challenge Programs of the CGIAR.

This wealth of information is now easily available on line.

Download MTPs
Full MTP documents are available for download.

Browse MTPs
Here you can browse and download individual projects, overviews and annexes, by Center.

Search CGIAR 
The search engine, powered by Google, allows you to search MTP projects and selected CGIAR Web sites.

Do a search and you will get the results grouped under four tabs. By clicking on the different tabs, you can see results selectively by:

  • Current MTP (2008-2010),
  • Submitted MTPs (2009-2011),
  • All the MTPs since 2003 (this is the full available archive of MTP documents) and the
  • CGIAR System will return results from a broad range of CGIAR Centers and System units Web sites.

New functionalities will soon be launched that will help answer specific questions about the CGIAR research agenda, such as how many projects are  contributing to a certain system priority, which countries are targeted as potential beneficiary, the related donors and financial information.

At the mid-point of the Knowledge Sharing in Research (KSinR) and its 6 Pilot Projects a monitoring and evaluation exercise was carried out to understand projects’ progress, capture any results and lessons, and to plan for the second half of the projects’ time periods.

This was done primarily through the submission of Mid-Point project reports (see Documentation and Outputs page for reports) followed up with questions and discussions from the KSinR Project Leader either virtually or via telephone conversation.

In some cases an M&E visit has also been carried out with the Pilot Projects…with more to come.

The framework and questions for the mid-point report, follow-up discussions and interviews during visits were develope using the Impact Pathways approach, which is being used as the monitoring and evaluation(M&E) and impact assessment methodology for the KSinR project.

Mid-Project update sheets have been developed providing a short summary of activities carried out, initial lessons and future plans. These can be found on the KS website or below:

  1. KSinR Project-update sheet
  2. WorldFish M&E and Impact Asessment Pilot project Impact Pathway-update sheet
  3. IWMI WASPA LA Impact Pathway-update sheet
  4. CIFOR Resarch priority assessment Pilot Project Impact Pathway-update sheet
  5. IRRI Rice Knowledge Bank Pilot Project Impact Pathway-update sheet
  6. IWMI Knowledge Sharing in Wastewater projects Pilot Project Impact Pathway-update sheet
  7. ICARDA Farmers’ Conference Pilot Project Impact Pathway- update sheet

Discover, understand and apply innovative knowledge sharing approaches to deliver outcomes that have impact!

FAO logo

FAO logo

We are very pleased to announce that FAO and the ICT-KM Program are joining forces for the second edition of this workshop, which will offer FAO and CGIAR staff as well as their research partners an opportunity to explore and experiment with knowledge sharing (KS) principles and methods. Through an innovative three phase approach participants will get an understanding and appreciation of the value of KS in research and institutional settings.

Dates: Phase 1 (online) starts on September, 8. The face-to-face meeting takes place in Rome, Italy from October 7-9. Phase 3 is online and goes on up to March 2009.

Costs: 500 USD. You can choose to participate in phases 1, 1+2, or 1+2+3 of the course. You mustparticipate in phase 1 to participate in phase 2, and both 1 and 2 to participate in phase 3.

Download the workshop flyer at: http://www.ks-cgiar.org/images/stories/pdf/fao_cg_workshop.pdf

Have a look at the Toolkit to get an overview of KS approaches: http://www.kstoolkit.org

This blog has a workshop category with extensive information: https://ictkm.wordpress.com/category/ks-course/

David Raitzer, Project Leader of the CIFOR KSinR Pilot Project on “Shared learning to enhance research priority assessment practices” will be presenting the work of his Pilot Project on the ‘CGIAR experience on priority setting’ as a valuable knowledge sharing strategy leading to more effective research and impact.

He will be making his presentation at an International Workshop on “methodological innovations in impact assessment of agricultural research investments” being organised by EMBRAPA at their Headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil on 12-14th November 2008. The next CGIAR IAFP-SPIA meeting is scheduled to be held right before this on 10-11 November 2008 also at EMBRAPA Headquarters in Brasilia, Brazil, an event which David Raitzer is helping to organise and also attending. For more information-see link to CGIAR’s Impact Calendar

The presentation will be made in a 30 minute slot provided to David in a section of the workshop devoted to looking at “Ex-ante impact evaluation and priority setting in agricultural research”:
11:00 -11:30 – Paper G2 – Prioritizing Agricultural Research for Development: Experience and Lessons from the CGIAR – David Raitzer, CIFOR

The presentation by David will be based on the forthcoming CABI-published book entitled “Prioritizing Agricultural Research for Development: Experience and Lessons” being produced from the Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot project run by CIFOR.

The book, which should be finalized just before the workshop, involves 12 CGIAR IARCs, as well as other partners. This compendium shares experiences and innovations with priority assessment methods in the CGIAR and its partners at various levels, and with respect to a diverse array of research areas. Each chapter presents and appraises one or more methods that have been used to articulate, explore, and assess impact pathways and research priorities in one or more CGIAR centres. Subsequently, each chapter appraises experiences with the methods described, so as to communicate and share strengths and weaknesses encountered for each approach. These chapters are followed by a “synthesis” chapter that draws together real world methodological lessons from the case chapters.

The presentation is aimed at:

  • raising awareness about the topic, the KSinR Pilot Project, and the book
  • giving an overview of the contents of the book
  • facilitating a discussion on the value of sharing knowledge around this topic and the ways it can be best done

We look forward to the results of this presentation, which will also be documented on the KS website (www.ks-cgiar.org) and on this blog…

In response to an increasing demand for training in urban agriculture, Ryerson University’s Centre for Studies in Food Security and The Chang School are developing a portfolio of distance education courses on urban agriculture in partnership with ETC-Urban Agriculture and the international network of Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture and Food security (RUAF). See the flyer for more details on the courses.

Training and awareness videos that have been developed and used through the support of the IWMI Wastewater KSinR Pilot project to outreach messages on good practices of wastewater use coming out of research projects to caterers, farmers and extension agents are to become resources for these Urban Agriculture courses.

Information on the videos can be found at on the IWMI Wastewater training and awareness videos page.

With the distance learning course targeting people from various organizations and areas of work, around the world, the videos will serve as a useful resource for information and recommendations derived from a set of research projects which have been working on the topic of wastewater in urban agriculture in West Africa.

The videos, initially designed to help achieve knowledge sharing with caterers, farmers and extension agents, will now achieve even more knowledge sharing with the various ‘students’ of the distance learning courses” highlighted Dr. Pay Drechsel, IWMI Theme Leader and Researcher on Wastewater.

The blog post on July 15th 2008 by Nadia Manning-Thomas entitled ‘ICARDA KSinR project uses mobile phones for knowledge sharing’ has been picked up by various others who are interested in exploring, learning and promoting the value of mobile phones in research and development.

The blog post was referred to on SmartMobs blog–see post:

The IRRI Rice Knowledge Bank [RKB] is the central repository for all IRRI’s research-based rice science and rice farming knowledge that is relevant to the extension-farmer community. The IRRI RKB is also the model for similar RKBs in each partner country where the individual countries select, validate and modify rice farming knowledge for their extension/farmer communities. The strength of the RKB community depends on developing a shared vision for the RKBs, a sharing of knowledge and exchanging information about technical issues.

Recently the RKB has undergone a significant revision in its form and much effort is now being expended in updating the content. The new form for all content will be Joomla-based, an open source software platform that is inexpensive and easy for partner countries to use for modification of IRRI content. In addition, some new features are being considered in the form of ‘expert systems’ – the very popular Rice Doctor will be upgraded to link to other content within the RKB, and ‘expert systems’ for farm machinery purchase will be added.

This is an opportune time to gain in-depth advice from IRRI’s RKB constituency and to build an institutional understanding of the challenges in managing up to date knowledge for extension. This will also strengthen the longer term linkage between NAFRI and IRRI in the processes of knowledge management for rice and build stronger two way communication.

As part of its Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot project, IRRI has invited and funded a 1 month on-the-job traineeship for a person from the Laos Ministry of Agriculture to work within the RKB technical team on re-structuring an adding extra features to the RKB.

Activities during this one month included:
(1) Review of the Joomla directions from the point of view of in-country partners and provide advice as to its suitability.
(2) Assisting in the conversion of electronic books and e-learning products to the new format and advise on their appropriateness.
(3) Creating a PowerPoint presentation showing a wide range of fact sheet formats.
(4) Creating a set of instructions for in-country partners regarding the conversion of IRRI content to local form and languages.
(5) Advising on how to address the issue of ‘facilitated learning’ conducted by in-country partners based on the IRRI e-learning courses.
(6) Assisting in the technical re-design of the Rice Doctor and the implantation of other ‘expert system’ modules.

In addition, the on-the-job-training activity will create a model of closer technical cooperation between IRRI RKB and its in-country partners which will be necessary in the move to greater exchange of knowledge between countries.

The person chosen for the on-the-job-training was Virachith. He has just completed his one month and we hope to share some of his experiences and lessons in future blog posts.

According to Noel Magor, Head of training at IRRI, “Virachith had a very productive time here and so I was more than happy that we had taken the steps to bring him here within the time of the KSinR Pilot project”.

In efforts to increase efficiency and innovation, the CGIAR decided to explore alternatives to our current email infrastructure through a Case study, starting with Google Applications.

The case study was launched formally on June 24, 2008 and currently there are more than 300 participants from 14 CGIAR Centers.

CGgMAIL Start page

CGgMAIL Start page

CGgMail is the CGIAR branded version of the services Google offers with Gmail. As we are a not-for-profit organization, CGgMail users do not see the advertisements that users of “free” Gmail accounts see when using the service. Plus, we have access to 24/7 support. Each user gets a mail account with 6861 megabytes of storage, which is increased a little every day. For many users that amount of space is enough for a lifetime of emails. Forget about having to delete from full inboxes.

CGgMail is not only email. CGgMAIL account participants have options for a number of other services, such as:
Google Calendar™ – users can schedule their events, create personal calendars, invite colleagues to events, set up meetings and even receive SMS notifications on their mobile phones.
Google Talk™ – supports built-in instant messaging on your mailbox, with a chat history that is searchable
Google Docs™ – allows users to create and collaborate on documents, presentations and spreadsheets in real-time with colleagues or partners worldwide.
Google Sites™ is an online application that makes creating a team Web site as easy as editing a document. You can quickly gather a variety of information in one place – including videos, calendars, presentations, attachments and text – and easily share it for viewing or editing with a small group, your entire organization or the world.
Google Start Page™ – offers the ability to create a personalized “Start” page that gives at-a-glance access to all these Google services in one page, including any key resources that may be useful. You can choose and organize content such as your latest Gmail messages, Chat, Calendar, facebook, wordpress, headlines from Google News and other top news sources, weather forecasts, bookmarks for quick access to your favorite sites from any computer, or your own sections with content you find from across the Web.

The case study is still ongoing until August 15, 2008 so more details of the outcomes of this study will come soon. For more information about the study, please contact: support@cggmail.org.

The International Water and Sanitation Centre-IRC, is one of the partners in the IWMI lead Wastewater, Agriculture, and Sanitation in Poverty Alleviation (WASPA) project which is using a Learning Alliance approach in the two project sites: Kurunegala, Sri Lanka and Rajshahi, Bangladesh.
IRC has been championing, supporting the use of and learning about Learning Alliances in a number of projects around the world.

Given the common interest in better understanding the use and value of such a knowledge sharing approach as Learning Alliances–IRC and KSinR have linked up and are trying to establish some joint activities around learning and communicating about Learning Alliances.

IRC now features the Knowledge Sharing in Research project on its website–under its WASPA project Learning Alliance theme–see link

Knowledge Sharing in Research section on IRC\'s-Learning Alliance section webpage

Knowledge Sharing in Research section on IRC's-Learning Alliance section webpage

According to Carmen Dasilva, an IRC researcher working on the WASPA project “the KSinR blog also provides some interesting lessons and questions relevant for our own work on multi-stakeholder learning.”

The Knowledge Sharing in Research project has been featured on the website of the Challenge Program of Water and Food (CPWF)–www.waterandfood.org/, under the ‘Research’ tab– see KSinR link

Link to \'Knowledge sharing project\' page from CPWF homepage

Link to 'Knowledge sharing project' page from CPWF homepage

\'Knowledge Sharing in Research\' page on CPWF website

'Knowledge Sharing in Research' page on CPWF website

The Knowledge Sharing project-both Phase I and II- have enjoyed great support from the CPWF, which itself adopts many principles and frameworks of knowledge sharing in research.

The CPWF contributes to the KSinR initiative’s Pilot Projects through the work and collaboration of its own projects and relationships–see below:

1. KSinR Pilot Project: Application of KS tools to impact monitoring and project M&E to a community-based fish culture project in Vietnam

Centre: WorldFish
Project Leader: Dr. Natasja Sheriff
Location: Vietnam
CPWF affiliation: CPWF Project No. 35 Community-based fish culture in seasonal flood plains and irrigation systems

2. KSinR Pilot Project: Knowledge Management Harmonizing Research Output in the Northern Uplands of Laos PDR

Project Leader: Dr. Ben Samson
Location: Laos
CPWF affiliation: Some of the results being harmonised, packaged and added to the Rice Knowledge Bank are from CPWF projects including:

1) Inventories of community resources, indigenous knowledge (IRRI-IFAD-CPWF)
2) More effective strategies for rapid dissemination of technologies (IRRI-IFAD-CPWF)
3) Improved capacity of NARES to plan and implement integrative research and development (IRRI-IFAD-CPWF)
4) Improved rice-based cropping systems for uplands for raising farm productivity (IRRI-CPWF-DMC-CIRAD-CIAT)
5) Managing land and water resources of communities in a sustainable manner (IRRI-CPWF)
6) Improved rice varieties and crop and water management practices to raise water productivity (IRRI-CPWF)

3. KSinR Pilot Project: Safe food despite wastewater irrigation: A Knowledge Sharing Approach
Centre: IWMI
Project Leader: Tonya Schuetz
Location: Ghana (West Africa region)
CPWF affiliation: CPWF Project No. 51 The impact of wastewater irrigation on human health and food safety among urban communities in the Volta Basin

4. KSinR Pilot Project: International Farmers Conference
Centre: ICARDA
Project Leader: Dr. Stefania Grando
Location: Syria (with other locations)
CPWF affiliation: Related to work of ICARDA’s Participatory Plant Breeding Program which includes CPWF Project No. 2 Water Productivity Improvement in Eritrea which was involved in the Farmers’ Conference idea and implementation

5. KSinR Pilot Project: Shared Learning to Enhance Research Priority Assessment Practices
Centre: CIFOR
Project Leader: David Raitzer
Location: Global across CGIAR
CPWF affiliation: A chapter in a compendium being developed in this Pilot Project concerns research priority assessment methodology and experience in the CPWF, written by Boru Douthwaite, Ronald Mackay, Sophie Alvarez, J.D.H. Keatinge, Graham Thiele and Jamie Watts (Concordia University, CGIAR Challenge Programme on Water and Food, CIP and Bioversity International)

In sub-Saharan Africa, where wastewater treatment does not keep pace with city growth, the use of polluted water in irrigated vegetable production is very common. This puts urban dwellers at risk as these vegetables are part of the urban fast food. An number of entry points for health risk reduction are important, including safer irrigation practices as well as food safety and hygiene.

As part of their knowledge sharing efforts to improve collaboration and delivery of research results, the IWMI Wastewater KSinR Pilot project has supported a number of Wastewater projects run by IWMI and supported by CPWF in West Africa to develop a number of videos to help spread messages coming out of the research. These include:

1. “Improving Food Safety in Africa-where vegetables are irrigated with polluted water.

This is an awareness and training video for staff of street restaurants.

This video tries to convey 8 basic rules for the food catering sector as identified in two projects carried out by IWMI through funding and support of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food. These give special attention to contaminated vegetables in the general frame of food safety.

To keep the messages as realistic as possible the video applied the concept of ‘participatory video making’ in close collaboration with the street food catering services sector in Ghana.

This video is in English with French subtitles available.

Handouts with main messages in English and French are available and are to be given out to the audience to whom the video is being shown.

2. “Good farming practices to reduce vegetable contamination. Options test in wastewater-irrigated farms in Ghana”

This is an awareness and training video for extension officers and farmers.

An important entry point for health risk reduction is the farm where safer farming and irrigation practices can reduce the initial crop contamination levels significantly.

This video tries to convey 10 options for farmers as identified and tested in a project of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF), lead by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI)

This video is in English with French subtitles available.

These videos have been used a number of training and other workshops.

The IWMI Wastewater KSinR Pilot project is focused on using knowledge sharing approaches to promote better use of wastewater in food production. This Pilot project recently published an article in the RUAF Regional Newsletter Urban AgricInfo Vol.2, Issue No.1, ISSN, March 2008, p 2-3.

See- Knowledge sharing on’Good Practices’ for Safer Vegetable production

The article highlights that in most urban centres in Ghana where no treatment for wastewater is available, most of this wastewater ends up in urban drains and water bodies- sources which are used by urban farmers to grow perishable vegetables. While this may have some positive livelihoods benefits, it has major health implications which must be addressed.

With many hard ways (e.g restrictions, laws etc) often failing to solve the problem, research from IWMI, KNUST and IDS have tried to find soft ways of addressing the problem in the form of ‘good practices’ for farmers and food vendors.

These ‘good practices’ (knowledge) however need to be carefully targeted at a variety of stakeholders and shared with them using various channels. Thus the intention behind this Pilot project to find and use knowledge sharing approaches to help promote safer wastewater use.

This article outlines one innovative knowledge sharing approach used in the project.

Using a World Cafe approach, the Pilot Project allowed various stakeholders to provide feedback and opinions in an a structured yet informal discussion format in small groups about the messages that had been developed from the research findings. The goal of the meeting was “to find out from farmers and street food vendors about the necessary framework for changing their behaviour to follow the key messages for health risk reduction“.

Groups of farmers in Accra discussing the tested methods for health risk reduction (31st October 2007)

Not only was the activity meant to increase awareness of the health related risks and to provide ‘good practices’ of health risk reduction, but it was also to allow the research team to discuss with the stakeholders (and thereby assess) the feasibility and adoptability of the “good practices”.

The conclusion of the article highlights that “the participants revealed that the current methods are used because they are not aware of the dangers associated with their practices. Therefore, they suggested that education of these ‘good practices’ should be increased to cover the majority of farmers and street vendors“.

The results from this World Cafe exercise have been helping to strengthen and format the messages on “best practices” and the ways for them to be disseminated to various target groups, with the aim of increasing adoption of these practices.

Yesterday I attended seminar on ILRI Addis campus given by two senior researchers: Berhanu and Ananda- on the topic of how to integrate Value Chain Analysis and Agricultural Innovation Systems approaches in order to move forward and achieve an agenda for research for development. This was an interesting seminar which sparked many questions and discussions between the presenters and the many CGIAR staff members present.

Of interest to the Knowledge Sharing in Research project was the highlighting of one of the main differences in the innovation systems perspective as compared to earlier theories and approaches to research.

As the presenters pointed out, the main thrust for research has always been knowledge creation and generation- which they entitled INVENTION–coming up with solutions.

However much knowledge (and technology) has been created by various types of research systems over the years which has never been adopted or used and remains ‘sitting on the shelf’. The presenters indicated that this is because research just stops at the point of knowledge creation without considering ‘who will use this?”, “how will/can it be applied?”

But INNOVATIONS or changes, as different from an INVENTION, only happen when knowledge and technology is used or applied to achieve social and economic benefit. It has therefore been recognised that knowledge is only one component necessary for bringing about an innovation as the ultimate goal, and that interaction and learning amongst a number of key actors is also required.

The presenters highlighted that “there is a need to think about who is going to use the knowledge and technology being created and plan how this will happen. It is necessary to bring the relevant actors in at various stages of the knowledge creation process, right from design stage, in order to facilitate the adoption and use of such knowledge after it has been created.”

While many agree with the theoretical and intellectual underpinnings to this framework and agree with the propositions it makes, there is still a looming question about how this new type of approach can be operationalised.

“What does it actually look like?” asked one person attending the seminar, “What activities does it include? how can I realistically introduce it and use it in my research program?”.

The practical approaches to how to collaborate, learn together, and share knowledge with various actors is what is missing from this still conceptual discussion.

Quite often the innovation systems approach seems to be quite big, all-encompassing–leading to failure from trying to make such a big leap. One reason for failure to adopt or successfully use an Innovation Systems approach in agricultural research may be because it requires such big changes in approach that research organizations are unable to support due to lack of skills to carry it out, it being heavily time-consuming and expensive, it is a complex approach, and it involves many more activities than research organisations can or feel that they should be carrying out themselves.

What the Knowledge Sharing in Research project brings to this particular table is a set of options for how to undertake activities to achieve such objectives put forward for necessary improvements in research processes to enable it to contribute more to development outcomes. These may be small-scale approaches or frameworks which can be integrated into the research process/cycle itself to improve it along the lines which the Innovation Systems calls for. These are innovations at various stages in the research process which help us to improve our imapct by making efforts to complete the chain of effective knowledge generation, dissemination, adaptation and utilization.

Examples include–


*Use the Participatory Action Plan approach from IWMI WASPA LA

*Host an event in which stakeholders present their issues, knowledge, experiences and ideas–see ICARDA’ s Farmers’ Conference

*Try one of the methodologies from CIFOR’s collection of priority assessment methods–and learn from the experiences shared by the authors from various CGIAR Centres and partners

To COLLABORATE with stakeholders:

*Try using a Learning Alliance approach to bring stakeholders together to discuss issues, ideas, solutions and actions as done in the IWMI WASPA Pilot project

To LEARN together with stakeholders:

*Try some alternative, participatory monitoring evaluation and imapct assessment approaches which involve stakeholders in the process and focus on additional aspects of behavioral change, network relationships and stakeholder needs and perspectives, such as Outcome Mapping and Most Significant Change–like the WorldFish Pilot is trying–and perhaps develop an approach which fits your own project context and needs.

*Develop and use a process monitoring method to monitor and evaluate the process your project is using together with stakeholders to understand their perspective and the impact of the approach–see IWMI WASPA LA

To get research-generated knowledge out to target groups in more, appropriate ways, like:

*Using radio programs in local languages including presentation of information and a panel of experts for people to call-in to ask questions to-as being tried by IWMI Wastewater project

*Developing information packets of knowledge and technologies from various research projects and storing them in a database for access and use by extension agents and academics–like in the IRRI lead pilot project

*Developing awareness videos about key messages coming out of research projects to be shown at various events and opportunities. Videos can be tailored particularly to target groups. See those developed by IWMI Wastewater pilot project

..and more options and examples!

Perhaps we can still achieve the same objectives and reach the same end goal called for in the Innovation Systems movement but by integrating some (small) approaches which are manageable into our research process to make step-wise changes and improvements rather than having to make big leaps which cannot be easily supported.

This in itself can be an innovation for our own research for development processes.

For information on (agricultural) innovation systems:

-see presentation

-read paper: ‘Enhancing agricultural innovation systems” by WorldBank

-read ‘Challenges to strengthening agricultural innovation systems: Where do we go from here’ paper by Andy Hall, 2007

The Pilot Project run by The International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) is focused on research/researchers recognizing the value of farmer knowledge, getting farmers to value their own knowledge and ideas, and finding ways to share farmers’ and other sources of knowledge between farmers. The main activity of the Pilot Project revolved around the organizing of an International Farmers’ Conference.

Farmers' Conference website video quilt

Over 50 farmers attended this conference of a different kind. Instead of being passive participants, listening to presentations by researchers, the farmers were instead asked to present their situations, knowledge, experiences, ideas and skills using storytelling. The stories of the farmers were recorded in video, audio and text forms to be disseminated in various ways. All will be made available on a Conference website to be launched soon.

Farmers’ Conference website video quilt
Video clip showing how to share stories via mobile phones

Additionally the conference organizers uploaded small story clips onto mobile phones of farmers present and showed them how to send these to other farmers with mobile phones. This was done to stimulate some knowledge sharing and a sort of farmer-to-farmer extension system to help facilitate the spread of useful ideas, techniques and knowledge around agricultural activities, specifically plant breeding.

A small video clip was made to show farmers how to share the stories with each other and other farmers. This and other video clips will be available on the website.

Video clip showing how to share stories via mobile phones

Yes this technology exists and works in Syria and some of the other countries involved! No it doesn’t work for everyone-that is true.

When we interviewed some of the participants after the conference we asked about how they felt about the stories made available and shared on the mobile phones. Some of the comments made were:

  • “It is better for me, since I cannot read”
  • “I like it, but I cannot keep the video on my phone forever so I would like a printed copy of the information too.”
  • “I feel very proud to have the stories on my mobile phone and to be able to send them to others”
  • “Not everyone has a phone, especially women”
  • “It is nice to get the information as a story from a real person”

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