Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Drops of conversation verging onto deltas of cooperation?

As I started writing this post, the AgKnowledge ShareFair was about to close and (two or three) hundreds of participants were about to bring back the incredible energy created in those three Fair days back to their work environment. There was an incredible interaction and buzz at the various sessions organised for the Fair and outside – and the question remains: what was more worthwhile: the official programme or the unofficial – social – programme?

At any rate it is a good moment to look back at the end of the pathways, including the water pathway. There as in other pathways, the key question was whether the weaving of conversations started in the share fair would lead to concrete cooperation. In the lingo developed over the last few days in this smaller water channel, the question was thus whether drops of conversation would verge onto deltas of cooperation...

The challenge with water is that it is divided into distinct sub-sectors, and our group of participants represented that diversity: water & sanitation, water for agriculture or water (simply). To join it all up, the red thread – uh, stream – here was to focus on innovation and cooperation/coordination within and among water sectors. And the global pool bar (world café) discussion particularly stressed: lack of incentives, institutional and personal egoism, poor learning and documentation culture, blatant lack of coordination and harmonisation, disconnect between the various actors.

In the second session, the stream talents (1) presented their work and discussed it with other water heads at the Share Fair. Again some interesting issues came out and particularly the Challenge programme for water and food had a useful take about strategies to engage multiple stakeholders (and what’s in it for them?), sustainability issues and an exit strategy. But the micro tube drip irrigation system also triggered a lot of interest

The last session of this stream, finally, was all about cooperation among participants. First off, we scanned potential cooperation among participants? Then we looked at the water towers (information repositories / one-stop shops and other water portals), rivers (discussion groups about water), water carts (newsletters and other special project initiatives) and fountains (water events coming up next). At that stage, the water heads formed a meagre meander and the gravity-led system to raise the water was not strong enough to deliver good water in sufficient quantity and quality.

The final part of this water stream was reflective and showed that focusing on the big picture was not a bad idea. It emphasised the need for the water sectors to form one strong delta. In spite of forming a small stream, water made its way through the Share Fair and is promising to grow stronger. The collection of sonar signals from the water club indicates that there is definitely willingness to tear down the water walls and connect the water towers.

What next? We can’t really tell at this stage but we have a rendez-vous at the end of this year to see how contacts have been followed up. Oh, and though this is a grapevine signal, I heard some people say that AgKnowledge should be followed by another similar event, perhaps more focused on water... WatKnowledge are you talking about? Let’s hope we find out before water’s under the bridge...

The results of discussions and of the session are available on: http://agknowledgeafrica.wikispaces.com/LP-water#res

(1) These talents featured: a) the resource centre network (in Ghana) to organise WASH sector information management and national knowledge sharing across a variety of actors; b) RiPPLE the action-research programme on planning and financing water that leads also to productive activities using the learning and practice alliance (a multi-stakeholder process with platforms at district, regional and national level); c) the Nile Basin Water and Food Challenge Programme (multidisciplinary research framework for the design of transboundary solutions to the Nile Basin’s many challenges) and finally d) the dissemination of the micro-tube drip irrigation developed by the University of Arba Minch.

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