Thursday, October 21, 2010

Knowledge should travel in the right direction and faster!

Make Knowledge Travel.

This was the issue discussed by AgKnowledge Africa participants this morning under a fully booked Tent 2.
The session, facilitated by Nadia Manning Thomas (CGIAR), started with a video showing how a natural disaster in Uganda, although forecast by researchers, had caused the death of more than 300 people as no one did anything to prevent it.
It is very common, unfortunately, that the right information does not reach the right people at the right time.

Where does the problem lie?
In the researchers that do not communicate with the farmers for whom scientific publications are inaccessible?
In the communication officers that do not ask for information but, when they do so, are unable to fully master and understand technical documentation?
In the indigenous people whose valuable experience is not shared widely enough?

The discussion that followed the video involved all the participants to the session and a panel of experts working for research, communications and information systems.
As the discussion developed it was clear that we all have a role in making knowledge travel: researchers, communications persons, information systems developers, the policy makers, education systems, extension people, farmers, the private sector and all of us as human beings.

Research: Communication should be incorporated in the researchers’ activities. They should learn how to communicate and share their outcomes in a way which is accessible to those who need to use the information.

Media and Communications Experts: How can the farmers come to them if they if they do not know about their existence? The communication experts should look for the researchers and repackage their information in a format which is accessible to the grassroots level.

Information Systems Developers: They should make sure that technology is functioning and friendly. Technology should facilitate communication not obstruct it.

Policy Makers: Their mandate and also their interest consist of preventing disasters and improving living conditions. But how to effectively link the policy makers with the researchers and the indigenous people?

Indigenous People/Farmers: They could play a key role in knowledge travel thanks to their hands-on experience passed on along the centuries. Researchers need their inputs and support.
Also knowledge sharing among the farmers themselves should be improved, even with some creativity. During the discussion one of the participants mentioned that from the lessons learnt from the farmers, radio scripts could be produced and broadcast for the advantage of other farmers.

All agreed that there is a gap among the actors mentioned above. They all need each other to complete the communication chain but they do not talk enough to each other.
Extension services and advisors are two of the rings that could help hold the chain together facilitating the dialogue among all parties and acting as a central thread.
No doubt farmer schools are also a very valuable tool in the process of knowledge sharing and so is the role of school in children’s education: Children can pass information on to their parents, read out booklets for them, etc.
Online tools such as TECA (Technology for Development) from FAO can make a difference as they present technical information in a simplified form so that extension workers can use it to support the farmers.
It is important to bear in mind that also the private sector plays an important role in this chain; its interests are linked to the market and, consequently, to successful crop production and good land and livestock conditions.

The second part of the video shown at the end of the group discussion highlighted a series of initiatives as a response to lack of information and knowledge sharing.
CGIAR with its Triple A Framework for Availability, Accessibility and Applicability of Research Outputs, and the CIARD initiative aiming to make research results more accessible and usable by stakeholders are two good examples of how development can be enhanced by knowledge sharing, especially when there is coherence among methods used by different groups.

No comments:

Post a Comment