Acknowledging this strategic role of meetings in agricultural and rural development, the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) convened a 3-day project review meeting during 23-25 November in Johannesburg, South Africa under the theme “Scaling-Up Climate Smart Agricultural Solutions for Cereals and Livestock Farmers in Southern Africa”, and on the back of the 4th Global Science Conference on Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA), 28-30 November.
On the first day, in front of 20 participants from Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe, Olu Ajayi, CTA Senior Programme Coordinator, stressed the fact that there was wide realization across geographical boundaries among researchers, practitioners, and communities of the stresses on agriculture as a result of climate change. The Head of the European Union (EU) delegation in South Africa, Arno Schaeffer gave the opening remarks in which he reiterated EU’s commitment to supporting the work on climate action in the region, and especially in South Africa. He emphasized on sustainable production and consumption, as a pillar in their present focus.
Kolawale Odubote, from Zambia Open University, informed participants that in their project, farmers and agro-dealers had a symbiotic relationship, and were depended on each other for their success. He noted that the professional relationship was essential to trust building among the value chain players. Also speaking during the event, Prince Kuipa, of the Zimbabwe Farmers Union (ZFU), explained a promising initiative, the Ecofarmer Combo that his organization was promoting in partnership with Econet Wireless Zimbabwe. The product is tailor-made and is suited to clients who are facing operational constraints in farming enterprises and are in need of accurate weather and climate information. Both organizations, ZFU and Econet were assisting farmers with key information for decision making.
During the second day, participants were introduced to Knowledge Management (KM), by Mr Krishan Bheenick, CTA Senior Programme Coordinator. Participants learned of “visioning” and “backcasting” in project implementation. Visioning was described as a process during which written and visualized statements of a community long-term goals and strategic objectives are developed, whereas, backcasting, is a method in which future desired conditions are envisioned and steps are then defined to attain those conditions rather than taking steps that are merely a continuation of present methods extrapolation into the future.
Bheenick, using Zambia as an example, suggested that this country could adopt lessons from the experiences from Zimbabwe. They were also lessons to inspire partners, for example, through the successful seed fairs in Zambia, where agricultural players (seed companies) came together to participate in the local programmes. Such experiences were shedding light on group dynamics in climate-resilient agriculture.
The National Association of Farmers in Malawi delegate, Wycliffe Kumwenda, gave a report on Malawi noting that in-country partners had been given an opportunity to work to improve their agriculture and that partners would need to ensure that they do their very best until the end of the project.
During the session on Resource Mobilization, facilitated by CTA officials, participants expressed positive belief in the project review meeting, the goodwill of CTA and its sponsors, and that the governments in the region would be inclined to support (even financially) the project if the results are out in the public. In-country support was also singled out as important in the future of the project in order to keep the momentum going. Partners acknowledged that they should properly manage their interventions so that the government could take up some of the issues to include in the policy agenda.
The third day was devoted to KM with the range of tools, methods and techniques available explained by Mr Bheenick, from CTA. He cautioned partners to be critical in their work and to share stories and experiences, taking context into consideration. Bheenick touched on various aspects such as communication at the project level, collaborative spaces in KM, and the KM platforms for knowledge exchange and sharing. In a knowledge harvesting exercise, participants were asked to do the following: think of an interesting thing they have learnt in the project, describe it, write a catchy title for the story, and present it to the group. This got participants to explore the scope of emerging experiences in CTA’s climate-resilient agricultural solutions.
The last segment of the meeting focused on the additional tasks that the partners needed to do in the project. The partners assured each other that they would hasten to complete the outstanding work in the project as the success of the project was dependent on their input and commitment. In sum, participants were appreciative that the meeting had given them new information, a sense of direction, and a feeling of success.