The African Development Bank Group is supporting the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) in its efforts to build the African agricultural research knowledge management capacity and the adoption and dissemination of proven agricultural technologies. This support is in the form of a grant facility to be implemented through a Bank project titled ‘Promotion of Science and Technology for Agricultural Development in Africa (PSTAD)’. The project has two major complementary components, namely 1) Knowledge and Information Management aimed at creating a functional African network for agricultural knowledge, information and learning system with the purpose of improving the access, sharing of research results on technologies and good agricultural practices, using a continental agricultural information system (AIS), while also providing support in ICT equipment and improved Internet connectivity avoiding duplication, and 2) Technology Transfer and Good Agricultural Practices, aimed at facilitating faster adoption of proven technologies by the farmers through the use of the platform approach.
The establishment of the African network for agricultural knowledge, information and learning system is following a phased approach.
The first phase has been successfully implemented through the establishment of the eRAILS platform (http://www.erails.net), which is an integrated tool allowing the 34 countries covered by the project, and even those not involved, to develop their national portals and institutional/individual information systems for knowledge sharing, access to technologies and learning.
The phase 2 eRAILS is focused on content management, specifically on how the system can be used to allow information flow from the scientists or agriculture experts to respond directly to farmer’s needs. At the same time being able to collect information from farming communities. More specifically the objective of phase 2 is to:
1. Establish operational structure and resources within selected countries to coordinate and facilitate the targeted information and knowledge exchange beyond internet access.
2. Develop integrated information systems to allow eRAILS functionalities to accommodate information gathered from rural communities and shared to wider RAILS communities.
3. Build rural communities that integrate learning mechanisms within their community structure and invest in knowledge management.
4. Build relevant content within the eRAILS platform to strengthen its capacity as dynamic agriculture knowledge exchange platform. That farming communities are able to formulate questions for agriculture experts (including scientists) to respond. At the same time, increase research contribution to development and improve policy making in agriculture.
Above all the project aims at the establishment of innovative services for efficient and effective farmer advisory service delivery at various levels i.e. community, national, sub-regional and regional level.
In order to achieve these objectives, the project has organized a team composed of different task managers with specific roles in delivering the services to the farmers. These task managers include the Field agents, Local data entry agent, KMS agent, National facilitator National facilitator, etc. (for more details concerning their respective roles see:http://www.erails.net/FARA/erails2/erails2/the-task-managers/
The purpose of this workshop was to familiarize and train national facilitators as well as some RAILS national focal persons on the principles and practices of the eRAILS 2 system, including: understanding the operation of the information exchange service; conducting an interview with a farmer and formulating a request; publishing the request on the RUN platform; developing the answer: make an interview with an expert, looking for additional information and formulating the response; explaining the answer to farmers and assessing response, etc.
The following outputs were expected from the training:
- National facilitators fully operational and aware of their responsibilities
- National facilitators trained and fit to train the other service providers in their countries
- National facilitators able to effectively mobilize the other task managers around the various tasks, and to work in a multi- stakeholder team for a joint delivery of the service to farmers
- The questionnaires that will be used for information and data gathering reviewed and adopted
- The experiences gathered during the definition of the KMS and recruitment of national facilitators are analysed and lessons drawn
- Option for further up-scaling and out-scaling to get the system going in the remaining countries are discussed and recommendation taken
- Options for collaboration with other initiatives and in particular the collaboration with other PSTAD activities, e.g. DONATA are discussed
The training had a mix of theoretical sessions and practical sessions on the field. Participants were put in a real field situation involving the various tasks related to the management of the voucher system on the ground, e.g. making a farm interview and formulating a request; interviewing experts and searching for complementary information and formulating the response, publishing the response on RUN system, etc. Each participant will receive a digital camera to be used for picture taking on the field.
The workshopwas facilitated by the consultant assisted by FARA and the Ugandan managers of the voucher system who have developed a strong experience in the implementation of the system in
The primary beneficiaries of this activity were the young national facilitators from
On the other hand, the various types of data collected on the field in the different countries involved in the project will represent a valuable source of unique information for relevant analysis for decision making concerning the farms, the crops, the livestock, the farmers, etc.