In an earlier post I announced the ICT-KM program was undergoing a health check.

Let me be frank. Having two external experts, completely new to the Program, take a very close look at what we have been doing, made me nervous. Would I be able to explain the complexity of the environment we operate in, would I be able to explain the process that brought us here, how we developed the strategy, why we chose those projects, why certain things just did not work, so many “why’s and how’s”. Would I be able to explain that more than outputs I look at outcomes, at changes in behaviors as indicators of success….

The review lasted a few months, during this period the reviewers read documents, listened to what we had to say, interviewed many many people, imparted a survey, looked at our reports, our budgets, our accounting….

Well, their report just came out….. and it exceeds even the “best” I could hope for. The reviewers have shown a great ability to wade through the intricacies of the program, and read straight through….coming out with a fair, objective and very very supportive review.

The report will soon be public and it will be my pleasure to share the main learnings with you all.

There are many people who have contributed immeasurably to the Program’s success; people who work diligently and quietly behind the scenes to make sure that all our projects are implemented smoothly and kept on schedule; people who are committed to taking the Program forward. Without such dedication, the Program would cease to be.

I  greatly appreciate the willingness of the many of you who generously contributed feedback and  ideas to the reviewers.

To everyone who has contributed to the Program in the 6 years of its life, I thank you for your support and look forward to your continued involvement as the Program enters its next phase in a renewed CGIAR.


A conversation with Meshak Nyabenge, GIS Unit Manager, WorldAgroforestry Center (ICRAF) Nairobi at the CSI-AGCommons meeting in Nairobi

Q: What sparked your interested in GIS?

A: As a kid, I was always imagining I could develop a boundary map of my village. I don’t know why–maybe ‘cause I was good in geography. I thought why not have a map of our own place, know where it begins and ends.

At the University of Nairobi I studied surveying and photogrametry—how to interpret aerial photos. Fortunately a professor impressed on me the benefits of geographical information. So now I’m a GIS analyst instead of surveying people’s plots and getting into land conflicts over where somebody’s property ends and where somebody else’s begins.”

Q: What are some of the cool things happening with GIS at ICRAF?

A: One is mapping of rainwater harvesting and potential in Africa. We estimated
how much rainwater can be harvested in a particular place based on rainfall and use of a specific technology—roof catchment, rock catchment, runoff, other methods. people can see how much water they’re likely to capture in a local area, with which technologies. It’s being used by the rainwater network in Kenya and at ICRAF.

Also, ICRAF wanted to scale up their agroforestry programs. So we developed suitability maps as way of targeting where to scale up use of, say, fodder trees, like caliandra, glyricidia.

Third is, for GTZ and an energy company, we mapped where 11 key biofuel crops could be grown in Kenya. We looked at jatropha, croton, caster, coconut, cotton, sorghum, sugar cane, sunflower, rapeseed (canola) pagamia…. The oil crops would be for producing biodiesel, and the others, like sugar cane, for bioethanol.

Q: What’s next?

A: We’re now combining the biophysical and agronomic data with socioeconomic data—population, labour availability. Then we’ll know where it’s most suitable to invest in biofuel crops—and what the potential returns would be.

GTZ and the Government of Kenya plan to use this information for planning and as the basis of investment discussions.

We’ve now received funding to map four more countries: Ethiopia, Rwanda, TZ, Uganda for biofuel potential.

We’re also working with a Kenya-based NGO—the Vanilla Jatropha Development Foundation—to do biofuel mapping, specifically for potential for plantations of jatropha, the “oil tree.”

Q: What do you like most about working with GIS?

A: I use it to conceptualize the human dream. And I can manipulate options to come up with scenarios, applied in different fields. Basically, I’ve always worked with geographic information, and can’t imagine not doing so.

Q: So how about that village map?

A: Until now I still haven’t done it…. There have been a lot of other things to do!

   Srikant Vasan, BMGF  

Srikant Vasan, BMGF

An interview with Srikant Vasan, Senior Program Officer for Agricultural Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and member of the AGCommons steering committee. Now at the AGCommons meeting in Nairobi

Q: What’s the Gates Foundation’s major interest in Geographic Information Systems (GIS)?

A: Agriculture is your prototypical geospatially referenced industry.

Q: Um, translation, please?

A: In other words, for agriculture, location is critically important. It matters where your farm is, what type of soil is there, where the water table is, what your climate patterns are, the distance to your markets. That’s why maps are interesting. The other piece is: Agriculture is very technology and information intensive. We’re big believers in the power of science and technology to improve outcomes. So for both these reasons, we think of geo-spatial information as a key piece of the puzzle.

Q: How are you using GIS?

A: First of all, location intelligence forms a key piece of several grants across our portfolio, from AfSIS (building digital soil maps) to HarvestChoice (enabling key analyses using geospatial information in agricultural development to AWhere (creating local weather data layers to better inform farming decisions). Second, my colleagues in the policy and statistics sub-initiative are looking at primary “Statistics from Space” data and filling gaps, to feed policymakers’ decisions, and enable better crop models using remote sensing data. My focus, though, is based on the assumption that there’s a lot of data already– but it doesn’t get to the field. We want to help data cross boundaries–boundaries within and between institutions. And also to disseminate information out to the field and closer to the farmer. I’m interested in seeing a transition from a focus on data to a focus on solutions. This is happening in bits and pieces. Why should a farmer care what we’re doing How can this data affect a farmer’s life? How can it ultimately improve incomes on the small farm, the dollar-a-day farm?

Q: So how DO you get information to farmers?

A: A good example is Mali Shambani here in Kenya. It’s a radio program that reaches 2.2 milion farmers weekly with information they can use directly.

Q: Not very high tech….

A: It doesn’t need to be cool or fancy technology to be useful! Radio is fine by me. We’re also exploring using cellphones. There’s a model we’re looking into of farmer helplines: people can just call up and ask about their problem and get an answer. It’s showing good early signs of success. Video works, too: local mediators video what successful farmers are doing, then gather a group of 25 to come and watch the video together and talk. In terms of adoption of improved methods per cost – early indicators show that it is up to 10 times as cost effective as regular extension services. We’re planning to support it. Now they are dealing with 1500 farmers. How can you scale that up to 100 times that? And how do you show you have a viable model while doing so?

Q: What are other focus areas of the Foundation for agriculture?

A: The agricultural development initiative has four subdivisions: science and technology, farmer productivity, market access, and policy and statistics. We have 200-plus grants across those four initiatives.

Q: Do you work a lot with the CGIAR centres?

A: The foundation views the CG centers as key partners in our efforts across the board; CG centres are key grantees in all four of these areas.

Q: What is your background, and why are you at the Gates Foundation?

A: I’m an IT entrepreneur, having started, built and sold two companies. After selling the second company in 2007, I wanted to find a way to use my skills and experiences to try to ‘give back’, which is what led to this role at the Gates Foundation. I try to find ways to use IT to turbocharge our efforts to help smallholder farmers.

As you know, we have been trying to promote social reporting and live blogging, the on-line summary of conferences we attend or organize as a way of present a synopsis of each presentation, talk-by-talk, in nearly real time, so that you can feel included in the event even if you cannot travel to it.

At its best, reading the liveblog can be better than attending the talk. All the non-essential bla bla has been removed, and almost every talk captured. While video recordings of conferences are becoming more popular, a good liveblog is much quicker to scan and digest. We want to offer more and more liveblogging, so here we are pointing you to a great resource co-authored by Ethan Zuckerman, of Geek Corp, one of the best conference bloggers alive.

Ethan was the keynote speaker in the Web2fordev conference we organized two years ago in Rome.

We have more than 40 blog posts that our reporters from the ShareFair prepared for you. Hope you find them interesting. Let us know what you think!

Hope you will find these tips useful and they will inspire to join the CGIAR livebloggers movement:
Tips for conference bloggers

Thanks Jenin for pointing us to this resource!

Call me old-fashioned…but if there is something I want to know…I ask the expert. I always believe there is someone out there who has an answer to my questions! So here we are at the Knowledge ShareFair, an exceptionally succesful event (forgive my biased views!) where there are lots of people I could ask help me understand what Knowledge Management is. Geoff Parcell, the keynote speaker at the ShareFair, was facilitating a session about “Demistifying knowledge management” – a perfect opportunity, I thought, to find out what this is all about. Geoff, a practitioner of Knowledge Management, not really an expert (at least that’s what he says of himself) did something interesting…instead of trying to define knowledge management (I have tried that many times – and what frustrating experiences those were!), he gave us a self assesment sheet. km-self-assesment. Not a rigorous test, but a way to measure where you are and determine where you want to be: the rest is easy! As Geoff says, a good way to know your strengths is by comparing yourself with others. That’s why Geoff divided the large audience into groups. One for each organization, so the participants could assess themselves but also assess their organization, and determine how collectively they could move forward. A 5-level assessment sheet was given to us all to measure leadership behaviours, networking abilities, our capacity to learn before, during and after….. and then by comparing our organization with the others we could see areas where one could help the other.

Some of my initial reactions?
1- The areas being measured reinforced my belief that Knowledge Management and Sharing is just another way of doing things: a smarter way! .
2- There are many pessimists and optimists amongst us: staffers from one same organization had a very different perspective of where they were, but they started building some common grounds when they were determining where they wanted to be (GREAT!).
3- Maybe where you sit in an organization influences your view of where you are on the scale, but context and perspective are topics for another discussion.
4- You have to own a process: spending the time to figure out “where you are and where you want to be”, setting your own goals (individually and collectively) has a lot of value in ensuring these objectives do not stay just on paper…but you do something about them. It is like setting your own charter of commitment, something you can hang on your wall, remind yourself of, measure your progress….

We will hopefully be able to make this assessment toolkit available on our KS Toolkit
so you can see where you are in moving from the belief that “Knowledge is Power” to the belief



that “Sharing is power” as you can read in one of the thoughts left on the Knowledge of Tree in the Atrium.

I hope this Fair has been a real breadth of fresh air for you as it has been for the colleague who left this other card on the tree.

Fresh air

Fresh air

One of the innovative ideas at the ShareFair….tell us in 90 second what value Knowledge Sharing adds to your organization, project, initiative….

Watch some of the brave participants who accepted the 90 second challenge…

An extensive training programme is offered to all participants in the ShareFair. At the Fair you will have an opportunity to learn not only about Knowledge Sharing Methods but also about tools.

Firefox Web Browser and its Plug-ins
Social Bookmarking
Video Sharing
Blogging and Micro-blogging
Technical Tools for Social Networking
Google Apps
Web Meeting Tools

Check out the training program

And the Full Programme for detailed schedules.

Ever used our Knowledge Sharing Toolkit?