The work of one the Pilot Projects of the Knowledge Sharing in Research(KSinR) Project  has been recently documented as dfid-r4d-case-study-series-ksinr-highlighted-in-listpart of the DFID Research for Development (R4D) case study series. The case study focuses on the exciting and innovative International Farmers’ Conference ( that was organised by ICARDA as part of its grant from the KSinR project to try out new knowledge sharing-oriented approaches to improve interaction and learning between researcher and stakeholders.

Check it out at


The text from the Case Study is below:

Sharing knowledge – tell us a story

Stories are a common tool used by farmers to communicate and get their message across. So could storytelling be a useful way for farmers to share experiences and information with scientists? The Participatory Plant Breeding (PPB) program of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) wanted to give it a try, in order to demonstrate to researchers the value of farmer knowledge in plant breeding processes. With support from the Knowledge Sharing in Research (KSinR) project, of the CGIAR’s Information Communication Technology and Knowledge Management (ICT-KM) Program, this ICARDA-led Pilot Project is examining the value of storytelling, as a way of helping farmers to share their findings during PPB trials, and discuss their experience of farming more generally.

In May 2008, a four-day International Farmers’ Conference was organised bringing together more than 50 farmers from Syria, Algeria, Iran, Jordan, Egypt and Eritrea with researchers at ICARDA HQ in Syria. Instead of the standard conference format, the farmers were asked to share their experiences of farming and plant breeding through storytelling. The importance of better communication between crop breeders and farmers was underlined by Dr. Stefania Grando, Senior Researcher of the PPB at ICARDA: “PPB is being adopted relatively slowly, despite its proven efficacy, often due to a reluctance to work with farmers, amidst doubts of the knowledge and experience that farmers may have.

” Are you sitting comfortably?”

According to two of the conference organisers, Alessandra Galie and Bernhard Hack, the storytelling format was flexible enough to accommodate whatever issues the participants wanted to discuss, while also being less formal than conventional presentations. Participants found them easy to understand, with farmers from Syria commenting that the stories were “better than speeches, because they felt more like real life.” Ruqeia, a young Syrian farmer, believed she had learned a lot, particularly from the other Syrian farmers, about planting, fertiliser use, harvesting and storing seeds, and would use this new knowledge in her fields during the next year. Such farmer-to-farmer extension was, according to scientist and participant Maatougui Mohammad (ICARDA), a key benefit of the conference, of particular value to farmers from countries whose formal extension services are weak or non-existent.

Spreading the word

The Farmers’ Conference is one of a number of strategies now being explored under the KSinR project. Other approaches being piloted include the use of farmer fairs and participatory evaluation workshops, as well as radio programmes, training videos, and databases to better communicate research findings to target groups. The farmers’ stories will now be featured on a conference website (, in the form of audio files and written transcripts, translated into all the languages spoken by the participants. The site will also contain video clips of the storytelling, which can be sent by mobile phone. Sami Jaber, a farmer from Al Sweida in Syria, began his story with a saying: “If you don’t plant it, you don’t experience it.” The organisers are hopeful that retelling the stories, whether in person, online or by phone will help to spread the knowledge that comes from experience, for the benefit of other farmers and the crop breeders who work on their behalf.

More information:

* This case study is based on an article originally published in the DFID-supported New Agriculturist in September 2008

* DFID provides core funding to the CGIAR centres, including funding specifically allocated to ICARDA.

Source: WRENmedia Categories: Information and Communication, Sustainable Agriculture Date

Added: 31 March 2009

 In Maputo last month, as part of a workshop put together by the CGIAR ICT-KM Program, FARA and DFID-R4D to examine ‘opening access to agricultural research, we disucced.ways to enhance the ‘applicability’ of agricultural research outputs.  See also previous posting


Nadia Manning-Thomas brought together the discussions on ‘how to make our research more applicable’, as follows:


1.       Priority setting: We need better methods and consistent approaches to help achieve priority setting. Need to make sure to include all key stakeholders in our priority setting exercises.


2.       Re-orient our thinking about the contribution of research to development goals: We often plan our research according to the things we are good at, the things we know how to do, and then see how what we find as a result of doing our methods can contribute to something larger (a goal). Instead, we need to think more about the real problems, needs and goals and how we can contribute to solving them.


3.       Collaborating and partnerships: It is key that partners and stakeholders are engaged in our research and that we cultivate appropriate relationships with them. But we cannot just acquire partners or form partnerships in name. It is vital to make our research more applicable to know when and how to make collaboration effective. We need to know with which partners we should be working and on what types of activity, so we can enrich the research process for all involved.


4.       How to get an effective multiplier effect for participation: How can we find more effective ways to facilitate participation in our projects, to implement them despite budgetary and time restraints, and also to have multiplier effects?


5.       Embed research in reality: To make research more applicable, we need to fit our research to the particular contexts in which we are working. It is also vital to look at the whole value chain. This will help to make it more applicable to real life conditions.


6.       Develop and use knowledge products as tools: Very often research institutes produce various products such as policy briefs and the emphasis is on the end-product. These products in themselves will not necessarily do anything. It is necessary to think differently about products as tools in a more active and dynamic process of influencing and providing information for decision-making. Therefore we must design products so they fit the ways we hope they will be used.


What ways could this agenda be taken forward? The group came up with the following:


·           Learn how to make better use of infomediaries

·           Pay attention to better attribution to our partners

·           Provide more information and guidance on the use of web 2.0 tools for learning and communication with others

·           Make sure all references we include to our own outputs and publications are also themselves accessible, and ‘hotlinked’

·           Examine ways to get feedback from partners, stakeholders, next users, end users etc

·           Define some conditions around applicability which we can use within our systems, such as DFID communication budget conditions

·           Better characterize, tag and assign metadata that will help people make use of data and information

·           Explore how collaborative learning platforms (including virtual ones) can be designed and implemented to help us work with a wide range of stakeholders

·           Learn more about potential of web 2.0 and mobile phones to collaborate with stakeholders to get their inputs and feedback and to share knowledge with them


Nadia Manning-Thomas reflected on some of these issues at a recent research communication workshop in Addis Ababa:


 The Maputo session was jointly organized by the CGIAR ICT-KM Program, FARA, and DFID’s R4D project led by CABI







Link to ICT-KM background paper for the Science Council –


Link to AAA concept on ICT-KM –


Link to ICT-KM –


Link to FARA –


More on this topic from DFID-R4D:


Link to CIARD:


 On 30 November 2008, some 35 people joined a side-session of the CGIAR AGM to discuss ‘Opening Access to Agricultural Research – A Triple-A Approach to Make Research Available and Useful.’ Participants were a broad mix, from communications, information management, science, and science management. It followed an earlier presentation with senior CGIAR managers as part of a discussion on international public goods.


The starting point was a ‘Triple A’ approach developed in late 2007 by the ICT-KM Program (and since broadened through partnership with CIARD) that focuses on the availability, accessibility and applicability of research outputs.


          Availability: assembling and storing outputs so they will be permanently accessible, and describing them in systems so others know, and can find, what has been produced.

          Accessibility: making outputs as easy to find and share and as open as possible, in the sense that others are free to use, reuse, and redistribute them, with appropriate acknowledgement and without restrictive legal, technological or financial barriers.

          Applicability:  research and innovation processes that are open to different sources of knowledge, and outputs that are easy to adapt, transform, apply and re-use.


An introductory presentation argued that many research outputs, especially in the form of publications, are generally much less accessible that we would wish – but that promising ‘pathways to accessibility’ do exist and can make a substantial difference along the entire research cycle. There are also promising new avenues through social media that have potential to open up and diversify research communication.


Participants formed groups to reflect on these notions and to identify concrete pathways and other solutions to overcome accessibility gaps.


Two groups looked particularly at availability and accessibility and one group examining applicability. In general, the Triple A approach was recognized as useful, particularly to help identify different publishing outlets and services where research outputs should be ‘posted.’


Both groups called on research institutes and centers to adopt common standards to describe and tag their outputs and when building information and web systems. They want the content of these systems to be easy to exchange and share. Initial efforts in this area by the CIARD initiative were recognized to be a good step forward.


One of the groups discussed whose responsibilities these issues should be – of information and communication specialists or of scientists themselves. The result seemed to be consensus that both groups have to be made much more aware of what is possible, with researchers and research managers needing additional capacity building, especially to ensure that they make communication an integral part of project planning, from inception to completion.


For the CGIAR, the recent performance monitoring was appreciated as creating an external demand on Centers to collect and list all their peer-reviewed outputs. It was suggested that this should be extended so the Science Council would expect Centers to also deposit a digital copy of all these outputs in a suitable institutional repository. Thus the quality and the accessibility of the outputs would be guaranteed.


Reflecting on the whole emphasis on peer reviewed outputs as ‘the’ indicators of science performance, Sheelagh O’Reilly from the Research Into Use Programme argued that publishing outside standard journals should be seen as “not only acceptable but highly appropriate”:


The Maputo session was jointly organized by the CGIAR ICT-KM Program, FARA, and DFID’s R4D project led by CABI




Link to ICT-KM background paper for the Science Council –


Link to AAA concept on ICT-KM –


More on this topic from DFID-R4D:



Research-oriented organizations cannot be satisfied just knowing they have produced high quality science. It is essential that the outputs of research are communicated and put to use, in the village, on the ground, in the lab, or across the negotiating table.
On 30 November 2008, the ICT-KM Program of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), the Forum on Agricultural Research for Africa (FARA) and the UK Department for International Development (DFID – through its R4D initiative) will organise a practical briefing session as part of the CGIAR Annual General Meeting in Maputo.

The session starts from the premise that research outputs can – and must – be much more open and accessible. For this:
–         We need to give priority to the ‘accessibility’ as well as to the ‘quality’ of research outputs.
–         We need a better overview of the various research products and the ways and means we can make them accessible.
–         We can use a ‘triple A’ policy and action checklist to maximize both the accessibility of these outputs and the chances that they will be applied and put to use.
–         We need to build communication partnerships with ‘adaptive and delivery’ agents that will take and apply knowledge from research, reinforcing their capacities as required.
The session draws on expertise from three partners – the CGIAR ICT-KM Program, FARA, and the DFID/R4D project led by CABI.
–         We will demonstrate the ‘accessibility gap’, showing how truly inaccessible some research outputs actually are.
–         We will illustrate ‘paths to accessibility’, showing concrete changes that help to make research outputs more accessible.
–         Participants will take away a checklist of questions and actions to help assess and improve the accessibility of their research.

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