Natasja Sheriff, Project Leader of the WorldFish KSinR Pilot Project, together with Tonya Schuetz (IWMI)-who helped facilitate the WorldFish Pilot’s training workshop, wrote and submitted a paper for the workshop ‘Rethinking impact: Understanding the Complexity of Poverty and Change‘ which was convened in Cali, Colombia 26-29 March 2008.

The paper, entitled “Monitoring for change, assessing for impact: the WorldFish center experience” can be viewed from the following link- paper. This paper was based on the experience gained from the initial introduction to and use by the Project of Outcome Mapping and Most Significnat Change-the workshop which was described in a previous bog post.

According to the paper “like many CG centers, a traditional emphasis on the development and dissemination of new technolgies has shaped impact assessment within the WorldFish center” and ” assessing the impact of projects undertaken…has largely been quantitative in nature, applying economic models to assess productivity, welfare and technological efficiency for example”.

This paper contends that “in comparison to ex post impact assessment activities, less attention has been given to monitoring and evaluation, and to the process of learning and adaptation, during project implementation”.

This paper outlines the new trend of research towards a broader approach to addressing poverty alleviation and the move towards development and application of methods which increase the impact of agricultural research on poverty and which facilitate learning and change.

The paper posits that “there is a lack of appropriate, effective tools for participatory monitoring and evaluation for application in a natural resource management context” and “simultaneously there has been a trend towards increased partner collaboration and impact-oriented research which requires a more responsive and adaptive approach to impact assessment and M&E than has been previously applied”.

This was the driver behind the proposal of the CP35 project at the WorldFish Centre to the Knowledge Sharing in Research call for proposals, to pilot new M&E methods to compliment existing quantitative M&E tools, and to support a more open and responsive approach to change occurring in communities involved in the project. This paper outlines the initial experiences of the project in piloting new approaches to M&E and impact assessment mainly in the form of Outcome Mapping and Most Significant Change methods.

The paper provides a rationale for the choice of particular approaches, examining what potential fit and benefit they would have with the research project into which they would be integrated.

Next a clear description of the activities undertaken to introduce and initiate such methods was provided.

The real ‘meat’ of the paper comes in the strong review and analysis of the piloting of these kind of methods which is presented in the form of annotated lists of ‘benefits’ and ‘issues hindering effectiveness’ of each of the methods being employed. While there were some initial positive signs of benefits that would/could be derived from using such methods, the challenges, issues and concerns raised were more of a highlight.

Some benefits include:

  • Creating a longer term vision for sustainability and impact
  • Identifying unanticipated problems and constraints to project success
  • Revealing outcome and impact priorities held by project participants and stakeholders
  • Creating a sense of ownership and responsibility for project success
  • Clarifying roles and responsibilities
  • Articulating where change is needed and monitoring progress towards required change

Some disadvantages identifed were:

  • The potential for unequal power relationships amongst stakeholders (and even team) to influence the process/method
  • Relative complexity of the approach
  • Difficulty in communicating terminologies and processes in various languages
  • Substantial time investment of project team and stakeholders to work through OM
  • Potential for misinterpretation and inappropriate application of the concept of ‘behavioural change’

Although some negative consequences were described, these were proposed to be valuable learning experiences from which specific attention could be paid to relevant modifications and adaptations which could be made for future use in the project-in its other country sites.

The authors concluded, therefore that “there is a need to carefully evaluate alternative methodologies available to research scientists and to put forward appropriate tools for impact assessment and M&E that can be readily taken up and applied in R4D, particularly in the natural resource management context”.

The CGIAR WorldFish Centre also has a Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot Project. This Pilot is working on the “application of KS tools to impact monitoring and Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) in a community-based fish culture project in Vietnam”. The Pilot is part of a large multi-country Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF) project known as CP35. For more information on this Pilot project-check out the WorldFish Pilot webpage. The main KS tools being piloted in the project are Outcome Mapping and Most Significant Change–for more information on these tools check out the KS toolkit.

As part of this Pilot a start-up workshop was held 19-22 of February 2008 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. The workshop was organised and run by Tonya Schuetz who has alot of experience in applying Outcome Mapping to various research projects. The workshop involved two major activities:

  1. training of the CP35 project team in Vietnam in the use of Outcome Mapping and Most Significant Change methodologies using lecture-based training and practical exercises
  2. community meetings (2) at the project sites to initiate outcome mapping with project beneficiaries

The objective of the whole workshop was “to define and prepare the implementation of Knowledge Sharing tools- Outcome Mapping (OM) and Most Significant Change (MSC)- as a complementary project monitoring and evaluation component”.

Other objectives were also to :

  • build capacity of the project team in planning and using participatory M&E tools
  • develop the content of the relevant OM steps
  • develop the participatory impact monitoring system (journals), and also MSC approach to be used

Training the project team

The project team were introduced to and were lead through the Outcome Mapping steps of the intentional design stage and went through the monitoring stage, Outcome Journals and some of the Strategy journals.

The Most Significant Change approach was also introduced and titles of most significant change stories were collected from the CP35 team members, to be developed into full stories later.

One particular challenge that was experienced in the workshop was dealing with the diversity of the team’s level of English language command. Since the facilitator was not a Vietnamese-speaker it was decided that the team could develop the outcome mapping components in Vietnamese. This allowed the team to feel comfortable working in their own language and was used as an opportunity for certain staff with a good level of English to be trained in the role of co-trainers for their peers.

Community meetings to initiate methods

The meetings with the communities involved informing them of a new project review process-using OM- that the project will be using and which they want the communities to be involved in . The purpose of it was explained that the project team wants to get some feedback and recommendations from the community for further strategy and implementation of the project. In groups the participants:

  • formulated a vision (for 2013) for the project
  • formulated their contribution to the vision (outcome challenge)
  • the five partner categories produced a set of progress markers for timelines of 2009, 2001 and 2013

The progress markers were written directly into outcome journals and the next step-since the project has already started- was to do an evaluation (in percentage) of how much of the progress markers have already been realised.

Also in the community meetings, every participant was asked to capture a most significant change story- telling a story about a change that they think was brought about through project activities. Since all participants were literate, they wrote their stories into a provided format.

Follow-up steps

The immediate follow-up to the workshop was firstly to involve translation and documentation of all OM steps and MSC stories developed during the workshop since they were all done in Vietnamese. The CP 35 team also will develop progress markers for each community group to capture what changes the team itself expects from them. The two sets of progress markers for each boundary partner (those from themselves and those from team perspective) will be discussed, and agreement on one set will be made. Further follow-up will take place during the next trip to Vietnam in July and include:

  • using the Outcome Journals with each group for a next round of evaluation-using agreed set of progress markers
  • review of the progress markers developed
  • evaluate how the approach is working and what it is bringing to the project
  • consider possible modifications and adaptations to the methods to suit the project context and needs


The project team, now having been trained, needs to make a decision on how many communities they want to implement Outcome Mapping. It is also recognized that the OM method cannot be applied in the same way and to the same degree in all of the communities depending on their involvement in the project, their attitude towards the project and taking into account the individual situation and context of each community, e.g how used to participation they are.

A report on the workshop was prepared by Tonya Schuetz and Natasja Sheriff and is available on the KS website.

The Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot Project of the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is using knowledge management/knowledge sharing to harmonise and share research outputs in the Northern uplands of Laos PDR. One of the main avenues for sharing research outputs is through the Rice Knowledge Bank(RKB). The aim of the project is to identify technologies and knowledge from research projects in the Laos Northern Uplands, have these transformed into useful information packets and loaded into the RKB database (web), and undertake training with extension and others to learn how to make use of the RKB and the information available within it in their work with farmers. Find out more on the IRRI Pilot webpage.

The first meeting for the project was held February 12th 2008 at the IRRI office in Luang Prabang, Laos. The meeting was entitled “Workshop for Enhancing Knowledge Sharing in the Northern Uplands of Laos through the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank(RKB)”. The workshop brought together Lao professionals from various government departments, extension services, and academic institutes along with staff from IRRI.

The workshop involved a number of key activities.

The first exercise consisted of the building a problem tree around the process of knowledge sharing in Luang Prabang. The main problem identified was the problem of ” weak linkage between research activities and the extension service in Northern Laos”. Groups of researchers and extension workers’ came up witha list of problems and cuases according to their particular point of view. Common points raised included:

  1. absence of coordination between researchers and extension workers
  2. lack of access to information and training of extension workers
  3. inadequate material to support extension work

Sharing of knowledge between researchers and extension workers was recognised as a win-win proposition for both parties.

Following that, the workshop engaged participants in an exercise on identifying actors in knowledge sharing in Laos.

A major activity of the workshop was then to identify validated, documented and disseminated rice-based technologies. The objective was to identify technologies which the participants knew about and those they did not, those which have been written up into materials already, those which have been disseminated and are available and those not–and finally those technologies which should be included in the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank.

Finally an exercise was undertaken to trace the posisble pathways that technology may be disseminated from the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank, as a source of extension materials, mapped computer and internet access by level within key institutes and departments- being targeted as users of the RKB- and to village clusters and villages. The objective of this exercise was to identify potential points at which the extension materials my be downloaded off the internet or CD-ROMS and printed for field level staff and farmers.

This workshop was successful in bringing together relevant stakeholders and partners to discuss how to strengthen extension of research knowledge through use of the Rice Knowledge Bank.

Next steps include:

  • developing knowledge packets for all identified technologies, including translation into Laos-to be uploaded into RKB
  • formation of teams of researchers and technicians who work directly with farmer groups to advise on development of appropriate knowledge packets
  • training of extension and other personnel on the use of the RKB and technologies made available in it
  • making available up-to-date information to teaching institutions so that students can be trained using this knowledge

See Workshop report for more information.

As a key part of the follow-up to the Farmers’ Conference, held at ICARDA 4th-8th May 2008, I met with the team responsible for implementing the KSinR Pilot Project at ICARDA. We had an afternoon-long meeting to discuss the project and specifically the key KS activity-the International Farmers’ Conference. The meeting involved reviewing the project activities, evaluating the knowledge sharing strategies planned and implemented, and discussing the further activities and outputs to be completed.

Why a Farmers’ Conference for your research program?

The meeting began with a discussion about why the Participatory Plant Breeding Program at ICARDA had proposed to hold an International Farmers’ Conference as part of their research program. The team explained that participatory plant breeding is a way of working that strongly hinges on collaboration in research between scientists and farmers; a way of blending knowledge, experience, ideas, and practices of both groups to achieve something good and useful for improving agricultural productivity and the lives of people. But there is often a reluctance to work with farmers amidst doubts of the knowledge and experience that farmers may have which can be useful to research programs. There is also little opportunity for wider farmer-to-farmer sharing of knowledge and ideas. The Farmers’ Conference was designed to address these issues by providing a platform for farmers to share their knowledge with scientists and other farmers.

Some of the positive aspects of the Farmers’ Conference identified by the group were:

*The Farmers’ Conference was a unique opportunity for farmers to be the main actors giving presentations (telling their stories)-they had a great chance to share their knowledge, experiences, ideas, practices and skills

*The Farmers’ Conference was key in creating a situation in which farmers can discuss with farmers from other countries-from which a lot of new ideas were learned

*The farmers learnt a lot about new ways to contribute, collaborate and also share knowledge between themselves.

*Apart from the stories prepared for telling many other stories also came out.

*There were many extra benefits beyond time in the Farmers’ Conference-many additional interactions happened

Some of the challenges identified and discussed were:

*There were many languages spoken by the participants and this required a lot of translation. This put a lot of burden on the accompanying person of each group to do translation. It also meant that there were gaps in the flow of the presentations while waiting for translation.

*Another issue that became apparent was the difficulty in how to translate certain terminology between various languages

*One limitation to the Farmers’ Conference was that they would have liked to see more scientists there. Because the aim is/was to show scientists how much the farmers know and thus justifying the credibility of participatory research.

*Time was also a limiting factor. The Farmers’ Conference had a lot of energy and people wanted to talk and discuss a lot but the time had to be managed to get through the whole program.

What about the storytelling approach?

The project team had in the pre-conference preparations undertaken a large effort of identification, learning about and evaluation of various knowledge sharing tools which could be used in the Farmers’ Conference. The main one chosen was the storytelling approach. Now after the event, I asked the project team what their thoughts on the storytelling approach were.

Dr. Ceccarelli commented that “Some knowledge is buried deep down and cannot be obtained by simply asking farmers to tell you about their agricultural practices and experiences. You need ways to facilitate and stimulate farmers to think about their experiences and what they know, and then to help them to share this.
For example in the conference a farmer that has worked together with ICARDA programs and staff for 10 years told a new story which had knowledge and experience they had not heard from him before. When we asked him why he had not told us that before, he said that he only remembered the story after hearing some of the other stories from farmers.”

Alessandra Galie, PhD student working on the project, expressed her feeling that despite trying to use storytelling as a more appropriate method, some farmers still felt like they needed to make a more formal speech. In discussing this issue, it was felt that there are various perspectives on what a story is. It calls into question what is meant by the term ‘story’ as it may be viewed differently by different people. It is also interesting to consider how people perceive stories to see how it will be accepted by different groups- farmers, researchers etc. It was proposed that it would be good next time to define more clearly what is expected from the story to be presented.

Also, while the Farmers’ Conference was about farmers sharing their knowledge and experience on agriculture through their stories, some of their stories were about many other things. Maatougui pointed out that this was not actually a bad thing, as the content of the stories told by the farmers reflects the reality of their situation, their priorities, their needs and their perspective. It helps scientists to learn about related issue in their lives-e.g religion, family etc- which have implications on their work, implications for agriculture.

The team all agreed that what was interesting was that some issues that came out of the stories were expected while some were unexpected and new and this will be useful in understanding farmers’ situations and needs, planning research and doing dissemination.
“While there may be varying opinions of the value of stories/storytelling, in the end the stories told are something from their experiences and usually has a take-home message” contended Maatougui.

One issue that was raised as we evaluated the way the conference was organised was whether speaking at the podium was really the right way, as some farmers may have felt scared to tell their story at the podium. Dr. Ceccarelli suggested that “while talking behind the podium may have been intimidating, it actually made the farmers feel proud also to be speaking from the same place as scientists do.”

Added value

The Pilot team described how the Farmers’ Conference also created opportunities.
One the one hand it created opportunities for farmers, who not only learned many new things but met people who could help them further. One example told by Dr. Stefania Grando, Project Leader of the KSinR Pilot, was of Ruqeia from Souran who after hearing the introduction of a representative from FAO to his Integrated Pest Management work found someone to help her with translation and approached him to discuss how she could improve the situation in her fields through this approach.

It also creates opportunities for research as an event like this can facilitate interaction which can lead to the start of useful collaboration. “It is necessary to find ways to stimulate the scientists to interact with farmers” commented Dr. Grando.

What are the possible benefits of a knowledge sharing approach such as the Farmers’ Conference to our research work?

What many scientists don’t realise or appreciate is that many innovations can come from sharing between farmers. At an event like the Farmers’ Conference, this kind of sharing can happen and the innovations are then stimulated.

Our research can be improved through learning about what the farmers think are their problems, what they do and what they know. What we want to unlock is “what do you talk about in your house? What do you discuss when you are making decision in your agriculture? How do you plan, and implement?”– and all of this can guide our research planning, experiments, and dissemination.

Dr. Ceccarelli also explained that “A benefit to our PPB research program in particular was that many of the farmers present at the conference are involved in the ICARDA participatory plant breeding program. They are all at different stages so can inform others about what the PPB program and process is like at various stages. It provides perspective and may encourage others to participate.”

Another possible impact on research could be that as farmers feel more confident and recognise the value of their own knowledge, experience and skills they may start to demand to be involved in research.

Some keys lessons learned from the process were:

* It is necessary to build in some flexibility into your approach/activity (such as Farmers’ Conference) so as to allow for spontaneous sharing activities to take place. At the Farmers’ Conference a Food and Seed Fair spontaneously took place on one of the days and this was a very positive element as it really helped to stimulate conversation and learning.

*It is about creating a conducive environment in which people feel comfortable to share

*Need to find new ways to attract the scientists to become involved in such an event

Finally when asked whether this particular knowledge sharing approach-the Farmers’ Conference and its various sharing activities- could be used or useful in other research programs, the Project team was very positive. “Since the main concept of the approach is about bringing together end users of research to share their knowledge with researchers and others-it can be used in any research program that is or wants to make use of collaboration with these key stakeholders” responded Dr. Grando.

“A lot of lessons have now been learnt from this event which will be useful to us and hopefully to others who want to plan a similar event-which can be a key resource in ensuring a successful collaborative research program”, concluded Dr. Ceccarelli.

I had a chat with Maatougui Mohammad, researcher at ICARDA, who participated in the recently held Farmers’ Conference at ICARDA (4th-8th May) . Although perhaps one of the already ‘converted’, working on participatory plant breeding, he was very excited about  Farmers’ Conference. He said that it was really a dynamic and successful event bringing together farmers, scientists and others to focus particularly on the knowledge and experiences that farmers have.

“In my experience farmers have a lot of good knowledge, skills and experience-they are doing a lot of experimentation and implementation on their own, often with great success. We can learn a lot from them. The Farmers’ Conference gave them centre-stage to share with each other and also us-the research community. Because they also need our help, our research should take into account their situations, problems, what they know and what they are doing.”

Maatougui however indicated that as this was something new, of course there are challenges. A key challenge was that of language barriers. There was need for a lot of translation between the many languages and this takes a lot of time and effort.

We discussed the storytelling approach chosen for the conference with the response being that “stories are a good way of having the farmers share knowledge as it is like a synopsis of their experiences. It is a good way to talk to each other.” He did caution that “sometimes in stories the truly valuable content may only be a small part of what is shared” but followed this up by saying that ” the process itself is also very comfortable and empowering for them.” While he felt that stories were a useful approach for sharing knowledge, he suggested that this should be one part of the program of a knowledge sharing event like a Farmers’ Conference, with another key component being to work together in the fields. He also felt that it was necessary to have pictures, visuals, films etc as an addition to the stories to give people a better idea of conditions, problems, techniques, varieties, etc being discussed.
Maatougui felt very strongly that a positive component of the Farmers’ Conference was the time spent out in the fields, as this allowed for more context and reason to talk and discuss. He commented that another good way of communicating was through the Food and Seed Fair that was an activity which sprung up spontaneously during the Farmers’ Conference, in which farmers brought things to show and share.

For him the Farmers’ Conference was a good reminder of the fact that we work for farmers; that what we are doing is to develop technologies, varieties etc that will help improve the lives of farmers. Working together with and learning from farmers (in an event like this) helps to make research more appropriate by giving insight into problems, situations and needs on the ground as well as the innovation and knowledge that farmers may already have and be using.

The Farmers’ Conference also had other benefits. Maatougui pointed out that by facilitating farmers to share knowledge between themselves and learn from each other, this helps to create farmer-to-farmer extension, which is especially useful in countries where there is limited or even ineffective formal extension services. Farmers can feel that their knowledge is valuable and learn to share with other farmers. Introducing technology such as exchange of stories via cell phones can also be a useful mechanism for dissemination of farmer and research-generated knowledge.

Additional benefits coming out of such a knowledge sharing activity, that were indicated by Maatougui were:

*helping researchers to understand farmer expectations and needs
*listening to the farmers and working with them helps to develop trust.
*helping institutions to understand the context in which they are working
*helping us to plan research and understand how to disseminate
*learning alot about limitations to adoption

One thing to be improved, according to Maatougui, was that there should have been more researchers at the Farmers’ Conference, especially social scientists. He felt that scientists need to be more aware of what the farmers are thinking and doing and what they know in order to conduct better research and have better impact.

After visiting Ruqeia in Souran, Alessandra and I headed to the village of Lahessa outside of the town of Sweida, about an hour and half outside of Damascus. There we spent time with Camillia, Munifa, Ansaf, Ghazale, Ibdisam (5 women), and also Sammi (man)-all farmers who had participated in the Farmers’ Conference, held by ICARDA on May 4th-8th 2008.

We started off by asking them what could have been better for before-conference preparations. They responded that they would have liked someone to visit them before the conference to discuss about the conference, what would happen and what they would be expected to do.

While they had all gone to a conference before, e.g Farmers’ union, Women’s conference, they mentioned that they had never been to a conference like this one where they were allowed to share their knowledge and everyone listened to them. This helped them to gain confidence and learn alot.

We asked all of them what they think of stories/storytelling as an approach for sharing their knowledge with others and for learning from others. They all agreed that stories are better than speeches because “it is more like real life”. They pointed out that “if they do a speech they have to talk in formal language and will make mistakes. They feel more comfortable speaking in a story way.”

We discussed with them things they would like to see improved or different for an event like the Farmers’ Conference. They suggested that it would be better to have more open discussions and time for questions and answers. Aleassandra commented that while there was some time for open discussions and Q&A, because of the large number of farmers present-there were alot of stories to get through.
The farmers even proposed that some questions be asked directly to them, as they may otherwise never put up their hand to ask or answer a question.

When asked what they expected the conference to be like they replied that they expected stories to be told and some discussion to be had.But there was alot more happening at the conference. They liked going into the fields and discussing things there and also really enjoyed the Food Fair where they could look at seeds and products made from plants grown.

Their list of things they learnt at the conference was quite long, including
-ways of planting watermelon
-how to make crosses
-using fertiliser
-about nematodes
-putting thyme and garlic in the bags with seeds to avoid bugs eating them
-plant thyme in between wheat and barley to avoid nematodes

But what was really good about the conference for them was that it allowed them to interact with and learn from others.

When asked if they thought anyone learned anything from them, they responded that the people from Eritrea asked them some further questions about how they do their farming and most people were interested in the way they make bread.

When asked how they felt about being at the conference with scientists, they said that they liked being with the scientists and would like the scientists to listen to them. They think it is a good idea to deal directly with scientists and tell them their problems, ideas and knowledge. They don’t know if the scientists will accept the idea but they think they should work together. They would also like to be able to ask scientists questions and to learn from them. It will help to improve their agriculture.

The Farmers’ Conference helped them to learn and to feel more comfortable to work with scientists. This will help improve their work with the ICARDA Participatory Plant Breeding Program (PPB).

They were also encouraged now to tell more farmers in their village to participate in the PPB program (since they got a better understanding and appreciation of what it is doing).

When asked what they would like to have as way of getting and keeping knowledge from the conference, they said they would like printed materials (for those who are literate), and longer movies on the cell phones. They also told us that they use the radio-so this could be a possible mechanism to consider for sharing stories and messages.

Alessandra spent time showing the women the Conference website (on CD) and explaining the different ways they can access information from the conference-some of which is not yet available. Since there is a computer with internet available in the women’s union in town, Alessandra encouraged them to try to use it and look at the website.

Overall, they expressed to us that the Farmers’ Conference helped them to gain knowledge, skills and experience for doing agriculture. In addition it helped them to gain confidence.

They said “now we feel that we can discuss with people”

It gave them motivation to work. One lady said she will now not keep any of her fields empty, without plants.

Ruqeia is young woman from the village of Souran, located about an hour away from ICARDA’s HQ in Syria. She was one of the Syrian farmers who attended the International Farmers’ Conference, held 4th-8th May 2008- a knowledge sharing initiative of the ICARDA Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot Project, supported by the CGIAR ICT-KM program.

Alessandra Galie from the ICARDA project team and myself (Nadia Manning-Thomas) went to visit Ruqeia to follow-up with her on her perception and thoughts of the Farmers’ Conference.

After taking over the farming duties in her household after her father died, Ruqeia has been facing the difficulties of farming and has been trying out a lot of things to improve her agricultural productivity. Thus when she was invited to participate in the Farmers’ Conference she was eager to attend as she is interested in improving her farming knowledge and skills, and felt that the conference would offer her an opportunity to do this and more.

When asked what she was expecting from the conference she indicated that her expectations were of discussions on problems experienced in farming and also sharing of some possible solutions.

She carefully prepared a story for the conference based on her own experience of the problems incurred in farming and knowledge she has developed in trying to address such problems in her own fields.

She told us that at the Conference she was at first scared and shy being with new people and in a new place. But when she started talking to people, she became more comfortable. A highlight for her was when she told her story, many people encouraged her and came up to her afterwards and told her that she was very knowledgeable in agriculture and should continue. This gave her a good feeling, made her more confident, and encouraged her a lot.

When asked what she learnt from being at the conference, Ruqeia answered that she got a lot of information from each country that was represented about soils, crops, environment and practices. She learnt a lot of new things about planting, using fertiliser, harvesting and good practise for keeping seeds. While she learnt a lot from the farmers from other countries, she felt that the most benefit for her was from listening to and learning from other Syrian farmers who share the same conditions as her. She said that she wrote down everything and will use many of the things she learnt in her fields next year.

When asked what could be done better for a conference like this, she responded that while it was good to have stories/speeches from all the farmers, she would have also liked to have speeches from the researchers. She was eager for the scientists to share their knowledge too.

When asked what she liked about the Farmers’ Conference, she responded that in most other conferences only some people get to talk and everyone else has to listen. But in the Farmers’ Conference, everyone, especially the farmers, got to share their knowledge, methods and experiences.

We asked her if she liked the storytelling approach as a way of presenting. She said “of course, it was very helpful,” and then added “but it would also been good to have photos or some visuals so that we could see what the other places, approaches and real situations look like.” Other improvements she suggested were that ‘it would be better to sit at a table and tell her story rather than going up to speak at the podium in front of the whole room’. Another suggestion was that it would be better to have simultaneous translation since at times she got confused as the stories were translated between all the various languages.

While she knew about ICARDA before, the Farmers’ Conference also allowed her an opportunity to understand better what ICARDA is and does, see and learn about their experiments, and to get to know some ICARDA scientists.

Overall she was really happy to have had the chance to share her knowledge as well as learn from others.

When asked about how she would best like to receive information from the conference- she said that she prefers printed material as she cannot keep the video clips on the cell phone forever.

A highlight of the conference for her was the feeling that others valued what she had to say, which motivates her to want to work more to improve her farming.

We were impressed by the improvement in her confidence after the conference and heartened by her increased knowledge and enthusiasm.

Last week (June 2nd to 9th) I, Nadia Manning-Thomas, Project Leader of the Knowledge Sharing in Research project made a visit to the ICARDA KSinR Pilot Project in Syria. As you may have seen from previous blog posts, the ICARDA Pilot Project recently held their International Farmers’ Conference. As part of the Monitoring and Evaluation activities of the KSinR Project, I am visiting most of the Pilot Projects to do some M&E with them up the this point, hold discussions with them about future activities and direction, take part and make observations of activities, and do some interviews with the project team, other scientists, stakeholders and beneficiaries-all where possible.

I took the opportunity to visit ICARDA at this time, as the project was carrying out some follow-up fieldwork with farmers from Syria who had participated in the Farmers’ Conference. The follow-up fieldwork was aimed at:

  • interviewing the farmers-post-conference- on their thoughts, experiences and lessons learnt from participating in the event
  • informing them of materials and avenues for accessing information from the conference available and to be made available (e.g website, printed materials etc)
  • discussing with the farmers how they would like to best receive information as well participate in participatory research and knowledge sharing activities in the future

The fieldwork was undertaken in two villages: Souran and Sweida.

Interviews and discussions were also held with the project team to evaluate the conference and strategcally plan the final activities around

I talked with some other scientists at ICARDA about their perception of the Farmers’ Conference as well.

Finally I also discussed with personell involved in information management and communication about ways to disseminate and share knowledge and results from the Farmers’ Conference, additional Pilot Project activities, and the overall Knowledge Sharing in Research project.

Results from some of these discussions will be posted soon.

The IRRI Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot project held a workshop entitled “Workshop for Enhancing Knowledge Sharing in the Northern Uplands of Laos through the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank (RKB)”. The workshop was held on 12th February 2008 at the IRRI office in Luang Prabang.

Eleven Lao professionals from various agricultural research and extension centers and departments, Universities and Colleges attended the workshop. Dr. Noel Magor, Head of Training Center at IRRI and Dr. Benjamin Samson, Agronomist and Leader of the KSinR Pilot Project led the workshop.

The workshop included an activity to build a problem tree for the current process of knowledge sharing in Luang Prabang which resulted in the key problem identified being a “weak linkage between research activities and the extension service in Northern Laos”. Further identification of problems and causes from both researchers’ and extension workers’ points of view yielded the following common points:

1) absence of coordination between researchers and extension workers

2) lack of access to information and training of extension workers

Sharing of knowledge between researchers and extension workers was recognized as a win-win proposition for both parties.

The second half of the workshop consisted of an exercise to identify validated, documented and disseminated rice-based technologies. The objective of the exercise was to identify technologies which the researchers, teachers and extension workers knew about and to then develop a table to evaluate their status according to:

-are these being disseminated?

-are there extension materials based on this available?

-is this available to extension workers? to farmers? to Universities?

-is this recommended to be part of the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank?

A final exercise involved the tracing of possible pathways that technology may be disseminated from the Laos Rice Knowledge Bank, as a source of extension materials.

After a successful workshop, the next steps identified were for the development of fact sheets based on the technologies identified to be included in the RKB and training of personnel to use the RKB.

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-