Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Agknowledge Africa Share Fair officially opens with a compelling talk by Owen Barder #sfaddis

Originally posted on IFAD social reporting blog

At 8:50 on the dot, our Ethiopian horn blower - the official time keeper - called us to order and over 300 participants gathered in the big tent for the opening session of Agknolwedge Knowledge Share Fair. What a nice turn out!!!

For the opening session we had short statements from Bruce Scott ILRI's boss, followed by Lamourdia Thiombian, FAO representative, Koda Traore, CTA and I had the honour of representing IFAD.

Bruce talked about the how important it is for smallholder farmers to have the required knowledge to support and boost the agriculture sector in Africa. He talked about how smallholder farmers hold the key to transforming agriculture in Africa - something very close to IFAD's heart, mission and vision.

Mr Thiombian stressed the importance of informal gatherings, such as this very event to facilitate knowledge sharing across all levels. He also underscored the fact that people in Africa have a very good culture of sharing knowledge which has not necessarily been used for scientific purposes.

Mr Thiombian very succinctly shared the connecting and collecting dimensions of knowledge management, knowledge sharing in this soundbites: "Knowledge sharing is not only about sharing, it's about people networking and working together".

Koda representing CTA talked about how we should not confine knowledge in a box and highlighted the importance of sharing it and allowing knowledge to flow freely, horizontally and vertically.

I gave a bit of history of how this share fair came to be and how Share Fair 2009 co-organized by the Rome-based agencies has positively impacted our respective organizations and helped us to demystify knowledge management. No doubt, this Africa Share Fair will bring another wave of these changes.

I also talked about importance of puttinglocal knowledge in the forefront and sharing it, sharing it and sharing it!

Owen Barder gave a compelling talk entitled "is agriculture the key to development". You can download at http://www.owen.org/wp-content/uploads/101019-Addis-Share-Fair.pdf. Owen is a very charismatic and compelling speaker, so I probably will not do him justice by trying to summarize the salient points of his talk, that is why I recommend you look at his presentation yourselves - especially the slide on

He talked about why knowledge is important for development. He talked about how through out history information and knowledge matters because it is a fundamental driver for economic growth. He then introduced the concept of wicked problems which are at the heart of development, and how we sometimes fail to understand these problems let alone even dreaming to coming up with a solution for them.

He showed a video to make the case that all successful complex systems are the result of evolution!!! What a concept, right?!!! And proceeded to make the point that development is "wicked problem" and has many complexities.

He made the case that we need to concentrate on making knowledge in development more evolutionary and the fact that we do not need authoritative answers, but diversity in answers. He said: "We need diversity, engagement and feedback process".

He underscored the importance of feedback loops as they drive performance in terms of service delivery and made the case that as change makers we need to build feedback loops. He proceeded to say that people get information in the context of something that they are doing and in the context of their daily life!

He made the case for publishing information in an open standard way to allow a seamless sharing of information.

His slide on shift of paradigm and how knowledge for development has evolved over time from secrecy to communication to being wired - or rather all the concepts that have expired, or are tired and finally the new paradigm of engagement is a gem!!!! One to live by!!

Thank you Owen for such a refreshing and unconventional talk. Much appreciated. I sincerely hope our paths will cross sooner rather than later, because all of us have a lot to learn from you!!!

So this was just a short summary of this morning. As I am writing this blogpost, the market place is well under way. I'll be posting the pictures shorty, so do not run away!!! Stay put. More coming soon.

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