Sixty five professionals and experts on knowledge sharing and technology dissemination gathered in Mwanza, Tanzania from 1 to 5 October 2012. They were focal points for RAILS and DONATA platforms currently funded by the AfDB/PSTAD project through FARA’s leadership with SROs’ (ASARECA, CORAF/WECARD and CCARDESA)  coordinating support. IITA, CIP and ICRA are providing technical
backstopping and NRI on M&E process. 

Participants engaged in co-learning of the value chain approach
Participants engaged in co-learning of the value chain approach

Participants shared experiences in managing knowledge exchange and innovation platforms. They learnt about evolution on the use of the value chain approach along the upward (inputs) and downward (commodity) chain. Most of the learning and innovation platforms led by research start with the seed upward chain. Stakeholders then get more engaged through greater  interactions and understanding of issues and opportunities. This triggers interventions towards the downward chain such as processing and marketing of products.
A field day allowed interaction with farmers, processors, traders of orange-fleshed-sweet potato in the Mwanza district. The learning and innovation platforms in Mwanza have evolved over the past 4 years of their operation, with greater ownership by the local governments and cooperatives managing processing plants. The platforms were facilitated by LZARDI, ASARECA, CIP and FARA.

Field visit to a learning and innovation platform on orange-fleshed sweet potato highlighting nutritional value & food security for women & children

The workshop highlighted the importance of shared understanding on the value chain approach and variations in actual practice of establishing learning and innovation platforms based on culture, environment and available resources. There are some platforms with formal and some with informal institutional structures. Their form and operation depend on transactions made among members i.e. financial resources shared or technical advice. The basic and initial objective is food security linked to development perspective. As the learning and innovation platforms evolve, the commercial or business perspectives increases. Throughout the process, documentation and effective monitoring and evaluation mechanisms becomes critical for enhanced learning and accountability.

The participants at the inauguration of a processing plant for orange-fleshed sweet potato, as a result of the DONATA process. The processing plant will be managed by local cooperative with support from local district government.