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Learning from Experience

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Knowledge management

Development projects frequently come to an end without those involved having time to analyse the lessons learned and ensure that their activities have a lasting impact. A three-year project managed by CTA and funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) was launched in 2016 to tackle this problem. The ‘Capitalising on Experiences for Greater Impact on Rural Development’ project helps individuals and organisations reflect on their activities, write about their experiences which can be applied to future initiatives.

During 2016 and 2017, CTA and its partners convened experience capitalisation workshops in the ACP regions where CTA works, as well as in Southeast Asia, India and Nepal, and Latin America. Two workshops were held in each region. During the first, those attending chose which experiences to focus on before carrying out a detailed analysis of the lessons learned. The second workshop was devoted to writing and presenting stories and preparing action plans for the future. In 2018, CTA and IFAD produced six experience capitalisation publications. For many workshop participants, this was their first opportunity to showcase their experiences to a wider public.

Experiences, of course, refer to a great spectrum of activities. To give just one example, the experience capitalisation workshops held in East Africa in 2018 focused on public, private and producer partnerships. These included projects designed to increase awareness of post-harvest best practice for maize in Rwanda, improve market access for fruit and vegetable growers in Zanzibar, boost soybean production in Uganda and set up an agricultural growth corridor in Tanzania.

“The main aim of the project has been to validate the approach of experience capitalisation,” says Jorge Chavez-Tafur, CTA Associate Programme Coordinator for Knowledge Management. “We wanted to demonstrate that experience capitalisation is possible, that it is not expensive, and that you do not necessarily require an external consultant, nor a lot of time.”

According to many of CTA’s partners, the workshops have had a real impact. Take, for example, the experience of the Savannah Young Farmers Network in northern Ghana. Its executive director Moses Nganwani Tia was able to reflect on the network’s flagship youth-in-agribusiness development initiative, Innovation Hub (iHub), when he attended CTA’s experience capitalisation workshops in West Africa in 2017.

In 2016, 10 farmers expressed an interest in working with iHub to establish a beekeeping industry in Ghana’s Upper East region. The Timonde Bee Keepers Association set up 52 beehives with an annual honey production capacity of 450 kg, with support from a climate adaptation fund. According to Moses, the experience capitalisation workshop, and the lessons learned from examining iHub activities, led to significant expansion of the beekeeping industry. Some 377 women have now adopted beekeeping in six villages and UNDP, the World Bank and the Ministry of Environment, are now promoting beekeeping as an activity which can help communities become more resilient to climate change.

One of the most interesting results is that CTA itself has become an enthusiastic adopter of the approach, and during 2018 a series of experience capitalisation workshops brought together CTA staff and partners. The processes have focused on the CTA thematic areas of youth, ICTs and digitalisation, climate-smart agriculture and gender.

In October 2018, the project held a facilitator’s meeting at IFAD’s headquarters in Rome. This was attended by 28 facilitators, all of whom had completed their own capitalisation process during the past 2 years, and also supported others. Participants were able to reflect on the main issues which need to be considered before and during the capitalisation process. The workshop also discussed and validated a facilitators’ guide which will be published in early 2019. “I think the process of experience capitalisation has really taken off now, and many of those who have benefited from our workshops will continue to use it and promote it after our project ends in 2019,” says Chavez-Tafur.  

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