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-