It’s good to talk:

An interview with Alexandra Clemett from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) on the KSinR Pilot Project – ‘Learning Alliances for Wastewater Agriculture and Sanitation for Poverty Alleviation (WASPA-LA)’

Achieving complex change often involves many different people, with many different priorities, who are engaged in many different things. And, if you need all of them to cooperate for your change to be successfully implemented, you have quite a challenge.

This was the challenge faced by Alexandra Clemett, Project Leader of a Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot Project awarded to IWMI, when working on a wastewater agriculture project in Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.

In each of the cities where we work you’ll quite often have different organisations that are responsible for quite similar things,” says Alex. “You might have the urban development authority that does the planning and then the municipal council that has to implement. So you really need them to know what each other is doing, planning together and working very closely.

Different stakeholders need to be connected

Different stakeholders need to be connected

And this has not been happening-the results of which are reflected in sectoral planning, poor communication among government officials, no involvement of community members, lack of knowledge about other sectors and alternative technologies, and, sometimes, ignorance that wastewater irrigation is even taking place.

The team decided to use a ‘Learning Alliances’ approach to try to bring people together to share knowledge and collaborate more effectively to achieve their goals.

Stakeholders getting together to discuss in the WASPA Learning Alliance

Stakeholders getting together to discuss in the WASPA Learning Alliance

The idea was to bring all the different stakeholders together to talk to each other and understand each others’ issues so that they could try to build a better plan for addressing the wastewater and sanitation situation in the two Cities. So we brought together the municipal council, the water board, local government officials, the hospital, local people and farmers. We tried to bring in universities, too, because they could potentially bring in technical solutions.

A Learning Alliance is supposed to have platforms at different levels: National, intermediate, and community – which bring stakeholders together to promote and facilitate learning within them and also between the different levels. It is very strongly focused on effective sharing of knowledge and not just bringing people together.”

Although she believes knowledge sharing was useful, Alex says that she would, in the future, use an altered version of  the particular approach chosen- the Learning Alliance- if at all.

The approach was very time-consuming and a lot of the research became geared towards learning about and evaluating the Learning Alliance methodology itself.”

Unfortunately we haven’t really had any research results on whether this new approach improved health or livelihoods,” she says. “I think, whilst the method was useful, it was really time-consuming. I would not use it in that way again. I would modify it and use particular elements of it. And I wouldn’t even call it a Learning Alliance, because that just confused people. Not everyone knows the names of these types of approaches. It is what they do to serve a project which is better to focus on.

For Alex, the overall goal of the project was to find ways that wastewater can be managed properly so that household sewage and industrial waste does not enter the canals which then run into the paddy fields. While this overarching ambition wasn’t completely achieved, something did happen while the project was running. People became more aware of the issues involved.

This is not something that Alex underestimates.

If what we have achieved by the time the project ends is that all of the stakeholders are much more aware of the issue, then we still will have achieved a lot” she says.

Some people didn’t even know that wastewater was being used for agriculture, says Alex.

And some didn’t want to know because it’s actually illegal. But because these farmers don’t have access to better quality water they just go ahead and use it. So I think that at least some of the people who were involved in the planning and management of wastewater through the Learning Alliance now have better understanding of the issues.

The idea to involve universities in the Learning Alliance also achieved some new awareness and change amongst the other stakeholders.

Conducting studies on the canals

We’ve got some universities doing studies on small–scale appropriate treatment,” says Alex. “In the beginning the municipal councils were just not interested in things like this. They just wanted large–scale treatment, but now they’re starting to realise that these are good options that they can potentially achieve and potentially afford.”

Conducting studies on the canals

So even if the situation has not been completely resolved, some changes – especially in awareness – have happened from the various stakeholders coming together and sharing knowledge in the Learning Alliance.

So it is in fact good to talk.

For more information and outputs from this project- see the IWMI WASPA LA KSinR Pilot Project page

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Sharing knowledge can save lives:

An interview with Phillip Amoah and Tonya Schuetz  from the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) on the KSinR Pilot Project- ‘The Knowledge Sharing approach to safe food

A lack of knowledge in Ghana can get you thrown in jail or even killed. Such are the stakes when dealing with the food that people eat.

In Ghana a lot of vegetables are produced using wastewater,” explains Philip Amoah, leader of the Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot Project.

Vegetables being watered with wastewater

Vegetables being watered with wastewater

“These vegetables are likely to be consumed raw. Lettuce, cabbage, raw onions. And this can have a lot of health implications.

IWMI has been undertaking a number of projects that are trying to conduct research to come up with simple risk-reduction options that can be used on farms, at markets and at food preparation points to make food safer. The teams test various interventions from farm to fork to enhance food safety and the potential to institutionalize such interventions so they become common practice.

The projects are then compiling techniques that can teach food growers, sellers and producers easy ways of improving food safety. Once these techniques have been devised the challenge is to ensure that as many people as possible hear about them and put them into practice.

This is where knowledge sharing (KS) comes in. A grant from the CGIAR ICT-KM Program’s Knowledge Sharing in Research Project helped them to be able to explore and try out ways to take these results, make them easily understandable and useful and get them out to the stakeholders who need them.

We get the results from these projects, modify them in a way to make messages that the end–users will understand and then we come up with simple communication methods to get these messages out to those who are growing, selling and catering these vegetables which may be at risk,” says Philip.

Knowledge sharing has been used in this project in two main ways.

Knowledge sharing approaches were used to help the project, and its researchers, to interact and collaborate better with various stakeholders within the research process, to help to understand better the situation and needs, as well as to get feedback on project results and support in developing appropriate messages and communication mechanisms.

IWMI Wastewater farmer discussion

World Cafe conducted by IWMI Wastewater project

We started off with a series of World Cafes during the research project. The World Café is a methodology where you put people in a room together-in a café style setting, to try to make them as comfortable as possible to discuss with others, and get them to tackle certain key questions.” The World Café approach was used to facilitate an open discussion with key stakeholders on the messages develop by the project and the appropriateness, viability, constraints and effectiveness of these in achieving adoption of suggested innovations.

With a greater focus on knowledge sharing, the Project also looked for more effective ways of getting the key messages out to the target groups.

Radio was believed to be a perfect medium for communicating the findings to as wide as possible an audience and in various local languages spoken in Ghana.

We did radio programmes in local languages because radio is accessible in Ghana even for the farmers. Almost everyone has a small radio,” says Tonya Schuetz who has been also working on the project.

6-CD Case_Farmer-training-small

COver of DVD produced to share good practices with farmers

The projects also produced a series of DVDs on safe food practices and presented these to farmers and householders, extension agents, as well as caterers too.

The caterers are interesting because we didn’t have them in mind at all when we set up the project,” says Tonya. “When we thought of end-users, we thought on a household level. But then we conducted  a study that showed that it is more often caterers in the street who prepare the vegetables that are consumed raw.

As she explains, progress has been swift. “With this KSinR Pilot project I really felt like a lot went very well,” says Tonya

Before beginning a concerted campaign of knowledge sharing in research, Philip says he sometimes had difficulty communicating even simple messages like the need for farmers to water crops at the root so as not to splash soil on to the leaves, causing a potential health hazard.

One time I was chased out of a vegetable growing site in Accra when I went to take water samples because at that time the farmers were not involved in the project,” he says.

They said that people had come before and taken water samples, after which some of the farmers had been arrested and people wouldn’t buy their vegetables. But now that we’ve got them involved, we better understand their situation and find better ways to communicate the results of the research to them to help them make changes and improvements. I’m free to go there at any time, to take samples and to do what ever research I want to do. And that has really helped a lot. So knowledge sharing is something I really want in my future research. I’ve even joined the farmers association now, attend meeting and pay dues and they now recognize me as one of them.

Tonya says it was not only farmers, but researchers, too, who changed their attitudes.

We started off working with researchers who were open to it but did not really believe in it,” she says. “They felt that knowledge sharing was something they had already been doing for a long time. But when they saw how we used various knowledge sharing methodologies even at a very early stage in our project and the results we got, they realised that it was slightly different to what they’d been doing before. It’s a lot more about continuous interaction with stakeholders, rather than just going there once, talking to your partners and then just going and doing your research.”

Knowledge sharing has changed the way they work.”

Hopefully knowledge sharing will help us to save lives.

For more information and outputs from this project- see the IWMI Wastewater KSinR Pilot Project page

As part of the efforts of the Knowledge Sharing in Research Pilot project “Safe Food despite wastewater irrigation: a knowledge sharing approach” lead by the International Water Management Institute(IWMI), an innovative knowledge sharing approach has been developed to help share appropriate knowledge generated by research projects working on wastewater with key stakeholders.

Described as a ‘roadshow’ this knowledge sharing approach is designed to bring relevant stakeholders together to follow the contamination pathway from farm to fork to understand how the contamination occurs, what the health risks are, and then to look at and learn what practices could be used to reduce the contamination and health risks. Key in all of this is that all stakeholders from farmers, to market vendors to caterers to extension officers and policy makers observe , discuss and learn together.roadshow-title-slide

The overall objective is to improve the adoption potential by application of an knowledge sharing activity that brings together representatives of all involved groups along the contamination pathway in wastewater irrigated vegetable production.

Specific objectives include:

Bring together representatives of all stakeholder groups, researchers, farmers, vendors, market women, caterers and authorities to:

Ø discuss/ demonstrate identified health risk reduction options in a sequence along the contamination pathway.

Ø create a better understanding for each group of identified methods used at each level from the production, processing and up to the consumption what is involved and what is needed to jointly ensure the reduction of health risks

Ø show the correlations between the different levels of application of the health reducing methodologies, i.e. the accumulative effect or draw-backs in case of failure at individual stages.

Ø create a platform for exchange of related questions, challenges on the adoption potential of the identified option with all groups involved.

Ø see if the feeling of joint responsibility for the participating groups can be strengthened by knowledge sharing activities into research projects and thus the impact of our research.

Ø monitor and evaluate the benefits of knowledge sharing activities into research projects.

The KSinR pilot project has been developing and trying out various knowledge sharing approaches to:

  • find better ways to interact with stakeholders during the research process
  • increase learning throughout the process
  • find better ways to share valuable research results with target groups

The roadshow is one of a variety of approaches that has been used.

The roadshow approach was first used in Accra, Ghana by the project in November 2008-with resounding success. The other cities in Ghana where wastewater work has been done also wanted such an approach to be done there. So in March 2009 a roadshow was organised in Kumasi and Tamale Cities in Ghana.

I had a chance to visit during the roadshow in Kumasi, so will be posting some updates, photos etc from this exciting event.

A “Roadshow on health reduction along the contamination pathway” has been developed by the International Water Management Institute office in Ghana to use as a knowledge sharing approach for its work on wastewater. With funds from the ICT-KM Knowledge Sharing in Research project, the IWMI Wastewater Pilot Project developed this approach and first used it in Accra. With the success and popularity of this event in Accra it was decided to undertake a similar activity in Kumasi and Tamale-other major urban areas in the country where wastewater is also used in irrigating vegetables.

The next event in line is the Roadshow to be held in Kumasi on the 5th March 2009.

I will be participating in the event and will be reporting on it via this blog…so stay tuned!

The International Water Management Institute(IWMI) has this week, at the Stockholm Water Week, released a report on a study they conducted based on “case studies from 53 cities in developing nations examining where wastewater was being generated, how much was being used in urban agriculture, and to what degree the water was being treated“[BBC website]. The study resulted in a number of interesting findings about both positive and negative effects of wastewater use in (urban) agriculture).

This has been covered by a number of news agencies including the BBC website article.

This study has also identified a number of practices which can help to alleviate the negative effects often incurred in wastewater use for farmers, caterers and others who are involved.

It is really just about minimising the risks from field to fork with a series of simple measures,” Dr Chartres explained. “[These include] letting the water settle in a pond, so a lot of the eggs from worms drop out of the water, and irrigating around the crops rather than on top of them.When the crop is harvested, it also needs to be washed with fresh, clean water in the market, and that water needs to be constantly changed so everything else is not contaminated.” [Taken from article on BBC website]

What this highlights therefore is that research such as this generates valuable knowledge which is required for informing and changing behaviour, practices and policies. In order for the research to influence these things and have an impact it must consider and work on the necessary next steps to get these messages out and knowledge about such practices into the hands of those who are using wastewater or handling products which are derived from wastewater irrigated agriculture. This may involve working directly with farmers or others using wastewater but may also involve equipping other intervention agents, such as extension officers, NGOs etc, with the right information and tools to work with communities directly.

How can we get key outcomes and impacts from this kind of research?

This is something that the IWMI Wastewater KSinR Pilot Project is working on. Based on findings from wastewater research projects conducted in urban areas in Ghana, the Pilot Project has been using knowledge sharing approaches in these research projects to:

  • better consult with, learn from and collaborate with various actors and stakeholders about the situation on the ground including the complexity and issues around wastewater use in agriculture (using Stakeholder meetings)
  • understand the adoption potential of various messages and practices being promoted from the research findings (using World Cafe approach)
  • disseminate research findings and messages about practices in appropriate and useful ways to the target groups intended (using flip charts, training and awareness videos, radio programs, etc)

Many of these efforts have been successful and efforts are continuing in trying to find ways which can better improve the impact of this valuable wastewater research.

In response to an increasing demand for training in urban agriculture, Ryerson University’s Centre for Studies in Food Security and The Chang School are developing a portfolio of distance education courses on urban agriculture in partnership with ETC-Urban Agriculture and the international network of Resource Centres on Urban Agriculture and Food security (RUAF). See the flyer for more details on the courses.

Training and awareness videos that have been developed and used through the support of the IWMI Wastewater KSinR Pilot project to outreach messages on good practices of wastewater use coming out of research projects to caterers, farmers and extension agents are to become resources for these Urban Agriculture courses.

Information on the videos can be found at on the IWMI Wastewater training and awareness videos page.

With the distance learning course targeting people from various organizations and areas of work, around the world, the videos will serve as a useful resource for information and recommendations derived from a set of research projects which have been working on the topic of wastewater in urban agriculture in West Africa.

The videos, initially designed to help achieve knowledge sharing with caterers, farmers and extension agents, will now achieve even more knowledge sharing with the various ‘students’ of the distance learning courses” highlighted Dr. Pay Drechsel, IWMI Theme Leader and Researcher on Wastewater.

In sub-Saharan Africa, where wastewater treatment does not keep pace with city growth, the use of polluted water in irrigated vegetable production is very common. This puts urban dwellers at risk as these vegetables are part of the urban fast food. An number of entry points for health risk reduction are important, including safer irrigation practices as well as food safety and hygiene.

As part of their knowledge sharing efforts to improve collaboration and delivery of research results, the IWMI Wastewater KSinR Pilot project has supported a number of Wastewater projects run by IWMI and supported by CPWF in West Africa to develop a number of videos to help spread messages coming out of the research. These include:

1. “Improving Food Safety in Africa-where vegetables are irrigated with polluted water.

This is an awareness and training video for staff of street restaurants.

This video tries to convey 8 basic rules for the food catering sector as identified in two projects carried out by IWMI through funding and support of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food. These give special attention to contaminated vegetables in the general frame of food safety.

To keep the messages as realistic as possible the video applied the concept of ‘participatory video making’ in close collaboration with the street food catering services sector in Ghana.

This video is in English with French subtitles available.

Handouts with main messages in English and French are available and are to be given out to the audience to whom the video is being shown.

2. “Good farming practices to reduce vegetable contamination. Options test in wastewater-irrigated farms in Ghana”

This is an awareness and training video for extension officers and farmers.

An important entry point for health risk reduction is the farm where safer farming and irrigation practices can reduce the initial crop contamination levels significantly.

This video tries to convey 10 options for farmers as identified and tested in a project of the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF), lead by the International Water Management Institute (IWMI)

This video is in English with French subtitles available.

These videos have been used a number of training and other workshops.