Knowledge for Development

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Spreading the word: the benefits of effective knowledge management

23-25 November, Johannesburg, South Africa

January 3, 2018

Krishan Bheenick, Senior Programme Coordinator of Knowledge Management at CTA, explains the value of knowledge management techniques such as experience capitalisation, which are being introduced as part of CTA’s Southern Africa Flagship Project with the aim to build smallholder farmers’ resilience through the adoption of climate smart agriculture. Experience capitalisation encourages people to reflect on their practices and understand the reasoning behind certain decisions, failures and successes. It ultimately provides the opportunity to learn from experiences and share these lessons.

Why and how is experience capitalisation applied in the CTA Southern Africa Flagship Project?  

We are proposing that our partners introduce experience capitalisation right at the start of the project to encourage people to think about why and how they are implementing it. In a recent review meeting, we heard that in Zambia project leaders organised ten seed fairs and reached a large number of farmers. The project partners from other Southern African countries were very interested in this approach, they were curious to understand how the project leaders in Zambia had successfully managed to bring seed companies, who are usually competitors, together in the same platform to provide information to the farmers. This is a clear example of an opportunity, in the early stages of the project, to document and share such knowledge, and thus a good case for experience capitalisation.  

In this project we are innovating with the use of weather-based index insurance and we cannot afford to wait until the project is over to start capturing the lessons and to document the impact. We need to be documenting as we move along in the project. This is why CTA is encouraging the project partners to reflect regularly on their practice, identify potential cases for experience capitalisation and capture the stories of those who are living the experience. We hope that the partners’ exposure to knowledge management techniques at a workshop, which took place during the project review meeting in Johannesburg between 23 and 25 November 2017, will encourage them to take on board experience capitalisation as they continue implementing the project.  

Will this approach to knowledge management help meet the objectives of the regional project?  

Definitely. Project partners are operating at a country level, while the project is being supported by CTA in the context of a regional intervention in Southern Africa. We are therefore looking for ways to capture the experiences of the project from the three countries and extrapolate the good practices to the other countries in the region, whether this is done by CTA or other development partners. We want project partners to document their experiences and make this knowledge available to help convince other countries to take the project concept forward, while also convincing new donors to invest in the region. We are hoping that more and more of our partners in the region will adopt experience capitalisation as a regular practice in knowledge management.  

How does this approach impact farmers, the target beneficiaries of the Southern Africa Flagship Project?  

Experience capitalisation enables us to tell a story with the human element fully integrated, so the lived experience of a particular farmer or group of farmers can be captured and passed on to inspire other farmers to use the same practices. Having that personal touch in each story is definitely what motivates other individuals to relate and adopt a practice.  

How do we plug in policy support to scale out knowledge management approaches?  

Policymakers are used to more tangible outputs and products and they may still have questions about this technique, but the best way to get the support of policymakers is to demonstrate how applying this knowledge management approach improves the effectiveness of project implementation. With the adoption of experience capitalisation, the stories are now coming from those who live the experience and benefit from projects or policies, they are the stories of the farmers told by the farmers themselves. Hearing the testimonials of these farmers and any policy-related impacts that are documented and shared in this way will encourage policymakers to do more to promote this knowledge management approach.  

Did we miss any opportunities by not telling our stories before?  

Yes. I think we previously missed out on opportunities because of the way we reported on our activities and projects without capturing the human experiences. Rather than wait until we get close to the end of the project to look for justifications for why we should continue, we should build and tell the story as we are going along to increase the visibility of impacts and help scale out activities. For example, the way Zambia organised its successful seed fairs seems to be promising, and as soon as we have documented it another project can pick this practice up and validate it in a different context. So, as we work towards developing these stories in the context of the Southern Africa regional project, we hope to make a case for the continuation and additional funding of such projects and initiatives both in this region and elsewhere.

Photo credit: CIAT/CCAFS