The Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) shut down its activities in December 2020 at the end of its mandate. The administrative closure of the Centre was completed in November 2021.

Effective tools for knowledge management and learning in agriculture and rural development

As part of implementing its mandate to support capacity development of institutions involved in agricultural and rural development (ARD) in the African, Caribbean and Pacific regions (ACP), the knowledge management (KM) team at the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) carried out desk research and analysis of KM methods and tools that are already being recommended and used by institutions in ARD.

Guidebooks on KM practice have been developed by several institutions but they propose a variety of methods and tools that can be overwhelming for a beginning KM practitioner in the ARD sector. Therefore, the purpose of CTA’s KM team was to explore if a framework could be developed to understand KM and a shortlist of KM methods and tools identified, providing a useful starting point for beginning KM practitioners. The approach used was to identify those methods and tools most often recommended in guidelines and toolkits produced by development organisations involved in agriculture and rural development. The assumption is made that the tools which are more popular in the guidelines are also the ones that have been found to be effective by these organisations. CTA’s KM team systematically searched for KM methods and tools listed in guidelines for their staff by 20 networks and institutions involved in KM in agriculture and rural development(KM4ARD). The compiled list was then analysed. This study has found that institutions use different terms to describe their perspective on KM. Furthermore, they use different terms for similar KM methods and tools. However, an overview of KM was possible, encompassing the various terms used but better visualised and understood through the use of diagrams. The KM process is described as a set of overlapping and interacting stages and also described diagrammatically. The desk study identified 125 individual terms describing a comprehensive list of KM methods and tools used by these networks. A few of the tools are mentioned by a majority of networks. Based on analysis of the descriptions of the methods and tools, these could be aggregated into clusters, which reflect similar conceptual approaches to the methods and tools. Thus, a set of 35 clusters of KM methods and tools have been identified. The popularity of the tools and methods corresponding to the clusters have been analysed both from the perspective of frequency of mentions and the spread of mentions across these networks. The results show consistency in the popularity of some of the clusters. The list of 35 KM methods and tools clusters represent the range of concepts of KM applied in agriculture and rural development. This list, along with the conceptual diagrams representing the perspectives of KM4ARD, as well as the overlapping stages of KM provide a useful framework to understand aspects of KM. Some aspects of KM are more visible than others, but the less visible aspects are no less important. Therefore, the beginning KM4ARD practitioner can make use of the framework to assess their requirements for KM based on their context, which specific aspects of KM they may want to focus on or opt for a holistic approach. Within the relevant clusters that relate to the KM processes they can identify specific methods and tools to apply. Finally, the beginning KM4ARD practitioner can resort to the literature already available about the specific methods and tools to inform implementation. CTA proposes to facilitate the discussion of the framework and the KM methods and tools with the KM4ARD community of practice through its KM4ARD blog.