The latest newsletter of GFAR features an article about the ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Sharing in Research project and its Pilot Projects. See links and article below.

See: GFAR Newsletter

See: article on KSinR project and Pilots

The CGIAR: learning how to improve its research effectiveness and impact through knowledge sharing

The CGIAR Centres and Programs together with their many partners, are creating a wealth of knowledge that is aimed at helping to increase productivity within agriculture and improve livelihoods of people, primarily in developing countries. While all players are doing much to ensure that this knowledge is widely shared and applied, certain obstacles to the uptake, use and impact of this wealth of knowledge continue to exist. One of the missing elements between knowledge generation and the application of such knowledge is knowledge sharing. Knowledge sharing involves learning from stakeholders what knowledge gaps exist and what is needed to close these gaps; increasing collaboration and interaction of all actors throughout knowledge generation processes; and finding more effective ways of delivering knowledge in a manner appropriate to the particular target groups whose decision-making and actions we seek to influence and support. This requires better understanding and support of new knowledge systems, knowledge sharing approaches, and innovation mechanisms.
To address this, the CGIAR through its system-wide program on Information Communication Technology and Knowledge Management (ICT-KM) initiated a two-year project starting in 2007 entitled ‘Improving the effectiveness of the CGIAR through knowledge sharing’ with a major component focused on Knowledge Sharing in Research (KSinR). The goal of the KSinR Project is to help improve the effectiveness and impact of CGIAR research through providing options and lessons around good practices of knowledge sharing in research.
KSinR’s main learning vehicle is six on-going CGIAR research projects which are using knowledge sharing approaches integrated into various stages of the research process, representing a new way of doing research aimed at greater impact. This includes the use of a multi-stakeholder framework for conducting research as being tried by IWMI through its use of the Learning Alliance approach in the ‘Wastewater , Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty alleviation’ (WASPA) project aimed at improving coordination amongst stakeholders and getting research into use. This project is also developing a process mentoring method to monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of the Learning Alliance approach. The ICARDA Farmers’ Conference project is providing lessons on mechanisms for sharing knowledge with and learning from farmers to help with better design and carrying out of plant breeding research. The CIFOR Pilot is exploring better ways to share research priority assessment methodologies and the experiences around using them, as this is an important tool in figuring out those areas and types of research which can provide the greatest impact. The IWMI Wastewater project is testing various dissemination methods to improve uptake and use of research results.
This includes use of radio programs, training videos, contribution to curricula, and flip charts with printed messages and visuals to get across good practices in using wastewater.
Similarly the IRRI-lead Pilot is also exploring innovative dissemination methods through the development of the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank (LRKB) as a mechanism to make research accessible for extension agents to use with farmers.
Information packets based on research identified by a variety of stakeholders are being developed in appropriate formats to be included in the LRKB. The WorldFish Centre Pilot Project is also trying out participatory monitoring and evaluation, as well as impact assessment methodologies with the aim of learning together with stakeholders throughout the research process, and gaining their perspective on progress and impact.
Synthesis of the results across KSinR and all of its Pilot Projects and other activities will be documented in a variety of media including the KS website (, the KSinR blog, and through the development of practical how-to documents to be made widely available and presented at upcoming CGIAR and other fora.

Contact person:
Nadia Manning-Thomas, KSinR Project Leader,
IWMI Nile Basin and East Africa office, ILRI Campus, Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
On the SciDevNet website Opinions section today- there is an interesting article entitled ‘Scientists: wake up and communicate!’ from Valerie Corfield–read article below.
This brings up alot of the same issues being discussed in the CGIAR currently in terms how can we find ways to both interact better with stakeholders in our research process, but also importantly how can we find better ways to communicate and share the valuable knowledge generated from research with stakeholders that can and should make use of it.
This is something that the Knowledge Sharing in Research project of the CGIAR ICT-KM Program has been working on learning about and promoting.

Valerie Corfield calls for researchers to become ‘communicating scientists’.  How can we do this in the CGIAR as well?

‘Scientists: wake up and communicate!’

12 February 2009


Communicating scientists must share their knowledge beyond academia

Researchers in developing nations must become ‘communicating scientists’, sharing their knowledge beyond academia, says Valerie Corfield.

As scientists, most of us accept that ‘engagement’ activities, like keeping policymakers informed of science and technology advances and stimulating science curiosity in the young, are essential for developing a technologically-literate society. We cannot afford to work in isolation from our colleagues and from public and policy arenas.

Yet, my personal experience in South Africa shows that communicating scientists are often lone voices, unable to expand, or sometimes even sustain, their efforts.

For South Africa, this is partly because our recent political history has promoted a top-down approach to science communication, with little funding for public communication activities.

This emphasis on research without dissemination to a wider audience has helped foster long-lasting inequalities in education.

Until recently, as in many developing countries, incentives for scientists to become involved in or to sustain communication initiatives have been almost totally lacking.

Changing attitudes

But gradually, following other countries’ leads, and international donors increasing requirements to translate research into results for the general public, South Africa’s national funding bodies have begun to ask scientists how they will get their findings ‘back to the community’.

A growing number of success stories illustrate this change in attitude. For example, a tuberculosis initiative supported by the South African National Research Foundation has run informative, interactive and fun sports days for communities in the Western Cape. The foundation now provides some funding for outreach and communication.

The annual SciFest Africa and nationwide science weeks organised by the South African Department of Science and Technology are also promoting engagement between scientists, science communicators and even some politicians. Science centres and festivals can serve as intermediaries and are excellent ways to establish sustainable opportunities for dialogue between scientists and the public.

Of course, some branches of science offer more opportunities to engage the public than others. Charismatic animals, for example, catch people’s imaginations and can be used to help examine broader environmental and global issues. Successful public engagement here has included research on leopard toads, dolphins, tortoises and even sharks and vultures.

Other topics have more direct appeal to policymakers, for example research relevant to freshwater resources, food and public health. In such areas, scientists are well-placed to present the latest thinking and give informed advice. The South African Medical Research Council now recognises this and is encouraging its scientists to publish relevant evidence-based policy documents, making these a performance measure linked to bonuses and promotion.

The way forward

But how can we build on these efforts? Scientists must become proactive, and form a network of contacts beyond their own academic brotherhood. And they should recognise the value of science intermediaries, such as science centres and funding agencies’ research translation offices.

They must establish a lobby group to make institutions and government recognise the value of sharing research in accessible language.

They must also raise awareness of the need for grants and awards to fund engagement activities.

Equally importantly, to become communicating scientists, researchers must help others to spread the word. This means training ‘home-language facilitators’ — for example, staff at science centres who are fluent in a local language like Zulu. It also means attending science communication conferences to present research to science communicators — those who study the science of communicating science but who may not practice the methods.

They should also tell their more traditional audiences, at research-based science conferences, about their successful engagement activities.

Above all, being a communicating scientist means being cooperative — for example, by exploring new, sustainable ‘share-ware’ resources that can be borrowed or stored electronically for duplication. Successful communicating scientists do not selfishly guard their own successes — for example, when invited to speak to politicians, they use the opportunity to provide a list of other communicating scientist speakers on a range of relevant topics.

Communicating scientists in the developing world: it’s time to wake up, find each other and get involved!

Valerie Corfield is an associate professor at the US/MRC Centre for Molecular and Cellular Biology in the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa.

The January 2009 edition of the Europe Newsletter of the International Association of Facilitators recently re-printed the article “ Sharing knowledge – tell us a story”  (Pages 10-12 ) from The New Agriculturist Magazine on how agricultural researchers are using storytelling as a way to collect local knowledge.

The newsletter featuring the story is available from this link

 They also used as a cover picture a photo showing participants during a fieldFront cover of IAF newsletter0featuring photo from Farmers' Conference trip to Souran, south of Aleppo, to visit Participatory Plant Breeding sites (Credit: ICARDA)

Front cover of IAF newsletter featuring photo from Farmers’ Conference

IWMI’s newsletter ‘Water Figures’ Issue 3 2008 released this month has an article in it on the work of the KSinR Project and its Pilot Projects“Improving the Impact of research through Knowledge Sharing” by Nadia Manning-Thomas.

Garbage trap put in at head of derivation canal going to farmers' fields through Learning Alliance in IWMI WASPA project

The article begins with a look at some of the activities being undertaken by IWMI researchers:

Garbage trap put in at head of derivation canal going to farmers

Alexandra Clemett, Samyuktha Varma and K. Jinapala, from the ‘Wastewater, Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty Alleviation’ (WASPA) project, are all seated in a room with community members, farmers, Municipal
Council members, NGOs and other organizations talking about putting a garbage trap on a diversion canal that leads to the rice paddies of a group of farmers outside of Kurunegala town, Sri Lanka.

Phillip Amoah- IWMI researcher- discusses good wastewater use practices with farmers and caterers at a WorldCafe-style meeting organised by the IWMI Wastewater KSinR Pilot Project in Ghana

Meanwhile, in Accra, Ghana, researchers from IWMI – Tonya Schuetz, Pay Drechsel and Phillip Amoah -together with local partners at the University for Development Studies, Gordana Kranjac-Berisavljevic,

Phillip Amoah- IWMI researcher- discusses good wastewater use practices with farmers and caterers at a WorldCafe-style meeting organised by the IWMI Wastewater KSinR Pilot Project in Ghana

the University of Science and Technology and Abubakar Bakang, are organizing a World Café with local
farmers, extension agents and caterers, talking about good practices for using wastewater in urban agriculture.

The article then goes on to ask: “These are all IWMI researchers – but what are they doing?”- since it seems quite different from usual research activities.

The article explains that “They are all carrying out research projects within the IWMI portfolio but are at the same time using some innovative knowledge sharing approaches with stakeholders and partners.

..and now comes an even bigger question- “But WHY?

According to the article: “Despite the wealth of knowledge generated by research projects throughout the CGIAR, there continues to be a gap between knowledge generated and the application of such knowledge for the improvement of food production and livelihoods, particularly in developing countries. The key challenge is to make research relevant to people and issues on the ground, to build capacity of others to tackle these
issues, and to find appropriate ways to deliver research results to those stakeholders who can make use of this knowledge

The article then goes on to further describe the work of the six Pilot Projects of the Knowledge Sharing in Research Project which are all trying out knowledge sharing-oriented approaches in various stages of their research projects in order to :

  • improve the relevance of the research chosen
  • enhance the planning of the research through taking into account local knowledge, needs and priorities
  • involve stakeholders directly in research activities
  • disseminate research-generated knowledge in ways that are meaningful and accessible to various target groups
  • promote wider learning throughout the research process through more participatory forms of M&E

A previous post informed you all about an article- ‘Sharing knowledge-Tell us a story‘- based on the Knowledge Sharing in Research(KSinR) Project and its Pilot Projects in the New Agriculturalist Magazine (September edition).

This article got alot of interesting feedback and has been picked up by other publications, websites and blogs.

The KSinR story’s publicity and interest are further reflected in the fact that the story appears in the ‘Top Five Articles- As rated by readers’–highlighted with an orange box in the screen shot below:

In the recent edition of the New Agriculturalist Magazine (October 2008) is an interesting article on ‘Points of View: Agricultural research and development- which way now?” presenting a selection of viewpoints from some of those researchers, practitioners, private sector and farmer representatives, and those from international and donor organizations who met in December at the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), UK, to reflect, review and propose ideas to improve research and development in agriculture. Amongst these points of view presented are some from researchers of the CGIAR and many partners and stakeholders of CGIAR research.

According to the article “There was a general consensus that farmers and farming systems are changing and that there is an urgent need for changes in approach if more effective agricultural development is to be achieved“.

See below for some of the points of view presented. This is also something that the Knowledge Sharing in Research project is also working on (see KSinR article in New Agriculturalist-Sept edition)…

…but what is YOUR ‘Point of View’?

Share it with us!


To achieve greater progress we need to learn from what has worked and what has not worked in terms of farmer participatory research, and to mainstream involvement and give farmers, consumers and others more of a say in what research is undertaken. Researchers need to be asking themselves how they can be much more effective in working with farmers, national governments, consumers and the private sector to develop better technologies and better policies.
David Howlett, Central Research Department, UK Department for International Development (DFID)

I think one of the key elements is to come up with mechanisms that help to bring farmer knowledge and scientific knowledge together in such a way that it becomes accessible to a wide range of end-users and intermediary users or service providers.
Paul Van Mele, Africa Rice Center (WARDA)

Too much emphasis on methods and techniques, I believe, takes us away from the central principle: how do we learn from farmers? How do we enrich our understanding and build bridges between formal and informal science? I also think the time has come to move on from thinking of just farmers. Why not labourers, too? If the workers are better informed they can carry knowledge to many farms.
Anil Gupta, Indian Institute of Management

Do we want innovation or innovative people? One farmer in Sri Lanka trained 4000 other farmers at his own expense. What he did was more persuasive than ten published articles in journals. Many farmers are better educated and many have increased their commitment to farming. On the other hand, young people are deserting agriculture. Alongside these demographic and cultural changes we see a blurring of roles in agricultural research. It’s no longer that farmers do this and researchers’ role is to do that: I think extensionists, farmers and researchers can all become very good friends in the process and are more likely to be productive, and have impact if we break down the mental stereotypes of each other.
Norman Uphoff, Cornell International Institute for Food, Agriculture and Development

A basic characteristic of man is that we tend to accept the status quo and what is familiar rather than go for the challenge of change. Take scientists, they dwell on talking about concepts without wanting to really get to grips with change itself. What I believe is that in order to bring about change we have to change ourselves so that we will be able to reflect on our methodology and respond to the challenges of poverty, climate change and so on.
Adewale Adekunde, Sub-Saharan African Challenge Program, Forum for Agricultural Research for Africa (FARA)

There are a lot of actors in this. Researchers are one part of it, so are national governments, civil society, donor governments and of course the private sector. We do not expect researchers to achieve everything on their own. That will not make sense.
David Howlett, DFID, UK

Farmers and researchers are just two groups within a wider network of players that are required to bring innovation about. And I think one of our challenges really is to take away some of the emphasis on researchers and indeed on farmers and to look at the wider set of players that are required to make change happen.
Andy Hall, Merit Centre, United Nations University (UNU-Merit)

I feel it is wrong to think that innovations belong to the research sector. I think innovations are more likely to be nurtured by the development sector because innovations are supposed to be solutions to problems and so they emerge from the experiences of users testing ideas. Innovation is not something that can be anticipated, researched into. Innovation emerges.
Michael Kibue, Kikasha, Livestock (Beef) Association, Kenya

How do we ensure that there is a level playing field for different kinds of knowledge? Where is the forum where farmers, NGOs and even formal scientists can talk on equal terms? Knowledge dialogue is what I would like to see more effort going towards because, unless we identify and address the different hierarchies of power, then we will just strengthen all the existing asymmetries or inequalities in the system.
Shambu Prasad, Xavier Institute of Management, India

I think one of the areas that we certainly need to strengthen as we look at innovation systems is the whole area of farmer organisations and what role these can play in defining the research agenda.
Jemima Njuki, International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT)

How is the farmer going to really be an initiator rather than just a passive participant in participatory research? I want to discover and share ways of how we have empowered farmers, emancipated farmers, involved farmers, who really can participate in the process.
Lucy Mwangi, Kenya National Federation of Agricultural Producers (KENFAP)

To address problems on-farm we also have to look beyond the farming systems. Farmers and farming are influenced by many factors in the wider economic and political environment. So we are looking for innovative systems that really can address the issues in their complexity, but it all boils down to bringing farmers benefits in the way they relate to the world and to the regional and local markets that they are dealing with.
Julieta Rao, UPWARD Network, Philippines

What I would like to see is people reflecting on themselves, being aware of their own mindsets, being aware of what they see, what they don’t see, what they tend to prioritise and what they tend to push to one side. If that was a quality in the agricultural scientists and extensionists of the future, and if it was a quality in the managers and administrators and policymakers who are responsible for agricultural policy, then I think we could have a major transformation in the next 20 years.
Robert Chambers, Institute of Development Studies (IDS), University of Sussex, UK

There are hundreds or thousands of wonderful experiments going on at village level but that is not fully reflected in the mainstream of education, it is not reflected in the mainstream of institutions, of development agencies of DFID or FAO or World Bank. That is quite a challenge. Farmer champions have to speak up to convince policymakers and leaders, those who develop curricula in universities and ministers of agriculture who establish the policies within which research and development can work in a participatory way. But if we could get through to these I think we would be much happier. Maybe that could be the target for the next 20 years.

John Dixon, International Wheat and Maize Improvement Center (CIMMYT)

We need to change our way of doing things, our attitudes. We have to give a chance to the pastoralists or to the people directly to talk about themselves. Instead of us directing and dictating to them what to do, they should tell us what they need us to do. That approach should be the way forward to help to improve their lives and living conditions.
Dawit Abebe, Feinstein International Center, Tufts University, USA

The real challenge is how do we scale this out? How do we get, for example, national research programmes to use some of these innovations systems approaches? In some countries we are still seeing very top down approaches that, although they can work for certain purposes, we know are not empowering enough in terms of getting farmers out of poverty. We really need strategies of how to scale out these processes and how to institutionalise them, especially national programmes.
Jemima Njuki, CIAT

I would like to see a consensus on how to modify our approaches so that we can multiply our impact. No single person can finish the work in Africa – we have to work together. But if we continue to talk theoretically we may not be able to achieve this.
Adewale Adekunde, FARA

An article about the Knowledge Sharing in Research Project is the opening piece for the most recent News Bulletin of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI)-see it at the following link.

The article opens with a description of the IRRI-lead KSinR Pilot Project, which is developing and strengthening the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank as a mechanism to get valuable research-generated knowledge to farmers by making it appropriately packaged and available for use by extension agents.

The article goes on to further describe the KSinR project as a whole and providing information on the work of the other 5 KSinR Pilot Projects.

On the front page of the website of the International Water and Sanitation Centre-IRC is a new article entitled:

Documenting stories from the field(s)

This article describes the ‘process documentation’ work being done in the ‘Wastewater Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty Alleviation’ (WASPA) project funded by the EU and lead by IWMI, IRC, SEI, COSI and NGO Forum. The WASPA project is also supported by the ICT-KM’s Knowledge Sharing in Research project to develop, use and learn from a monitoring and evaluation(M&E) framework applied to the Learning Alliance approach being used in this project. The M&E framework is meant to provide lessons, both for internal and external audiences and uses, on the operation, role and value of the Learning Alliance approach in such a research for development-type project.

As part of its own M&E, the KSinR project has been making visits to its Pilot Projects to take part in events , observe activities, carry out M&E and conduct interviews with various stakeholders involved in the knowledge sharing strategies being piloted.

These interviews have also been useful for the process documentation and process monitoring initiatives of the WASPA project.

From story on website:

“As part of the CGIAR Knowledge Sharing in Research Project, the project team in Sri Lanka and a range of stakeholders were interviewed about their perspectives on the project approach. These stories, interviews and other group reflection efforts are part of the process documentation work: documenting for a better understanding why and how a project follows a particular course and the stories behind its successes and failures”

The interviews conducted with the IWMI WASPA LA KSinR Pilot Project (in Kurunegala, Sri Lanka), and other project interviews, are available on the KS website on the Documentation and Outputs page.

The ICT-KM Knowledge Sharing Project has continued to enjoy active engagement and interest from the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF). In this second Phase of the Project many of the six Knowledge Sharing in Research (KSinR) Project’s Pilot Projects are either directly involved in or related to the CPWF. These projects not only help to provide valuable lessons about the potential of knowledge sharing in research as an overall principle to help improve the impact of research, but showcase the reality of use, role and value of various knowledge sharing-oriented approaches which can be adopted in research programs, projects and activities.

An article about the work of the Knowledge Sharing in Research(KSinR) Project has been included in the latest edition of the newsletter of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food(CPWF) newsletter- see link.

Water & Food Edition 27, CPWF Newsletter Aug/Sept 2008

The article outlines the rationale, objectives and activities of the KSinR project overall, see excerpt below:

It then focuses in on the KSinR Pilot projects which are either directly related or somehow connected to the CPWF, highlighting their particular knowledge sharing strategies and initial lessons emerging.

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.