Search Results for '"innovation platform"'


Community members from Gebugesa village using grazing land for social gathering

As part of the Nile Basin Development Challenge, local Innovation Platforms (IP) have been formed in three sites in the Blue Nile Basin of Ethiopia to improve approaches to rain water management. It is hoped that local level platforms will enable actors to exchange knowledge, promote innovation capacity and participate in joint action. To date, platform members have worked together, facilitated by ILRI/IWMI researchers, to identify common rainwater management (RWM) issues and to design pilot interventions to address these issues. Care has been taken to ensure that the selected issues represent community concerns as well as the challenges prioritized by decision makers.

Emerging from the discussions, soil erosion was identified as a major problem in Jeldu and Diga, while unrestricted livestock grazing was ranked as a priority in Fogera. A combination of backyard forage development and improved management of communal grazing lands were identified as strategies to address problems of feed shortage and soil degradation in all three sites. Action research sites were then established to pilot these interventions and generate greater understanding of the challenges faced by both farmers and decision makers during the planning and implementation of such interventions.

In August 2012, members of the Fogera Innovation Platform began working with community members in Gebugesa village within the Mizwa river catchment area. Gebugesa village has 21 households which depend on a nearby communal grazing area to meet their fodder needs. IP members decided to target this area with interventions to improve pasture quality and quantity in an attempt to encourage community members to decrease the practice of unrestricted grazing.

A 3.5 hectare area was designated for enclosure and improved fodder plants were introduced. IP members designated a technical group to be responsible for site selection, community engagement and awareness creation and the acquisition of fodder plants.

Shortly after activities began it was reported that farmers had uprooted the fodder plants they themselves had planted. Members of the technical group reported the problem to researchers from ILRI/IWMI who then visited the site in order to facilitate a consultation process with farmers and IP members. The subsequent discussions generated valuable lessons.

Community members from Gebugesa village acknowledged problems with severe feed shortages. Although there are diverse animal feed sources available in the area, namely crop residues, grazing land and woodland, amounts are not sufficient to meet local demand. Although this is a recognized problem, community members were resistant to enclosing communal grazing land for a variety of reasons, none of which were considered by the platform members when designing the interventions. The designated grazing area is an open space accessible by the households living around it. This space is used for a variety of community gatherings, including weddings and funerals, and as such plays an important role in bringing people together and in the maintenance of key social networks.

The grazing area is also used in a variety of ways by different community members. Communal grazing areas are particularly important for households without livestock who rely on these areas for dung collection. Due to the lack of alternative fuel sources, dung makes a vital contribution to local livelihoods. Enclosing grazing areas and keeping livestock at home denies vulnerable members of the community access to this resource. Women also expressed concerns about the impact that these changes could have on their children’s safety. In rural areas of Ethiopia it is often the responsibility of children to look after livestock. Women felt that their children would be safer managing livestock on nearby grazing lands as it is easy for them to follow their movements whilst they are engaged in other farm activities. Many women from the community were therefore reluctant to engage with the proposed interventions.

Community members from Limbichoch village discuss enclosure of grazing land with ILRI researcher

Lack of understanding about the multiple functions that these communal areas serve ultimately undermined the efforts made by the platform members. This serves to highlight a fundamental disconnect between the perspectives of community members and decision makers who are often removed from the day-to-day realities of rural life, and emphasizes the need for greater community participation in the design and implementation of such interventions.

It should also be highlighted that the grazing enclosure and associated fodder development interventions initiated by the innovation platform had never been attempted in this particular area. Due to the precarious nature of many subsistence farmer livelihoods and the subsequent focus on food security, farmers are often suspicious about new technologies or innovations unless they see concrete evidence of their impact. This is understandable as any change to tried-and-tested traditional practices and land management strategies entails a degree of risk for farmers.

With this in mind, platform members planned to engage farmers in experience sharing visits to areas where alternative management of grazing areas have successfully been introduced. However, due to a number of constraints this was not achieved and as a result farmers lost confidence in the initiative. A number of farmers also expressed a fear that the platform interventions were part of a hidden agenda to take land for a government afforestation program.

Although the pilot interventions initiated in Gebugesa village were largely unsuccessful the lessons generated have been invaluable for those involved. NBDC researchers working with the platform members were aware of the differences in perspectives between farmers and local experts and administrators. Apprehension about the lack of community voice in the Fogera platform led to a period of community engagement involving the use of participatory video. Videos made by community members expressing some of the issues highlighted above were screened to members of the innovation platform but did not seem to inform the design of the pilot interventions. This is in many ways unsurprising since certain attitudes and ways of interacting are so firmly entrenched that alternatives cannot simply be told but must be experienced by the actors concerned in order for meaningful change to take place.

Backyard fodder development with farmers in Limbichoch village

Following the problems with the Gebugesa intervention site, NBDC researchers have worked with members of the innovation platform to review their efforts and synthesize the lessons learned. After discussions with Gebugesa community members the decision was taken to establish a second site in a neighbouring area.

Although this was in many ways disappointing it was essential that the wishes of community members were respected. Work began in July to establish a second site in Limbichoch village. This time there was a more concerted effort to involve the community in selecting the intervention area. Since then a 3.75 hectare area has been enclosed and selected community members have begun backyard fodder development, initial reactions have been positive.

NBDC researchers and IP members are working hard to ensure that bylaws are drafted with community members in the second site to encourage a sense of ownership and to ensure that the interventions take into account community concerns and meet the needs of different social groups.

Farmers and IP members planting improved forage on grazing land in Limbichoch village

Work is also being done to share lessons between farmers in the two sites. This will be important for the success of these interventions at a larger scale.

Participating farmers are also being given training on how to maintain the enclosed area, how to integrate improved forage plants, and techniques for collectively managing and utilizing the fodder produced.

It is hoped that this training will be incorporated with farmers’ traditional knowledge and practices, leading to strengthened capacity, improved livestock productivity and in the long term better land and water management.

ILRI’s Beth Cullen was recently interviewed by the USAID Feed the Future Agrilinks web site about innovation platforms and participatory video.

Read the interview

Watch the video:

Local innovation platforms are used in several CGIAR  Challenge Program for Water and Food-supported Basin Development Challenges – the Mekong, Volta and Nile as mechanisms to help bring about technological and institutional innovation in a more effective and participatory manner.

On 15 June, ILRI’s Beth Cullen, working on the Integrating technologies, policies and institutions project updated team members and other partners on progress so far with the local innovation platforms in the NBDC.

Watch/Listen to her presentation:

 

In her presentation, Beth covered several questions: Do these platforms bring much return against the time invested in them? How to facilitate them locally? How to ensure local and national platforms reinforce each other? How to balance the importance of a rich learning process with the necessity to demonstrate outcomes?

Among the challenges faced by the team:

  • The local facilitation needs to be done well; is very time-consuming (especially as we are researchers who don’t usually have the needed skills).
  • ‘We’ have been driving the agenda’s, our timescales, etc. How to match this with others’ agendas. Tension between moving at stakeholder pace versus ‘our’ timetables and the need to ‘see’ results.
  • How do we incorporate existing knowledge from other (external) actors into local platforms?
  • How do we meet all the expectations – local as well as in our own research teams – with limited resources?
  • It is clear that process is as important as outcomes! But developing a good process doesn’t necessarily ensure impact…”

The presentation generated lively discussion … focusing on the different potential uses of platforms and the the danger that ‘platforming’ gets in the way of action. Some people wondered if there is a an effective alternative to all the meetings and processes involved … is it enough to just have someone who brings people together and brokers  joint actions? The two key results/actions we need are:  creating or catalyzing the linkages among people and ‘getting to action’ in which the people organize themselves.

In the end, nobody questioned the underlying value of such platforms, but the challenge remains how to make them truly useful in terms of their ultimate ‘end game’ – to deliver solutions that communities can benefit from.

In Ethiopia, these local platforms are complemented by a national land and water platform that, among other things, helps ensure effective links with policy-makers and financial partners. This platform already met in April and in December 2011 – a next meeting is planned in July 2012. These innovation platforms were also discussed in a dedicated session at the recent International Forum on Water and Food.

One of the ‘learning to innovate’ sessions in the 2011 Third International Forum on Water and Food looked at experiences within the CPWF with multi-stakeholder Platforms (MSP) and Innovation Platforms (IP).

The session started with a brief introduction, and then three presentations from Alan Duncan (ILRI/Nile – his presentation; a poster on innovation platforms), Andre van Rooyen (ICRISAT/Limpopo – his presentation) and Kim Geheb (Mekong – his presentation), each focusing on different ideas and experiences.

A ‘bus stop’ exercise followed, with a different but short presentation at each stop (see this video interview – in French – with Hubert Some from SNV).

Participants then formed into four groups to further discuss specific questions.

  1. How do we scale out such platform processes? Key notions include: replication; snowballing; relationships among the various stakeholders; step back to allow the process to move forward;  financial resources; the specific contexts; and skilled process facilitators …
  2. What are the most significant lessons and messages in this area for ‘research for development’? each process needs a vision, a dream; these processes  are complex and time-consuming to operationalize; we should not underestimate the role of networks; should informality receive institutional support?; multi-way communication is essential …
  3. What is new and innovative in the experiences shared? It explicitly concerned about benefits of specific groups of stakeholders; it is used to facilitate research through continuous dialogue; researchers are taking on broker roles; change results from processes that motivate multiple actors and networks;  innovations result from consolidating diverse actors …
  4. What are the research questions on platforms that could be addressed across CPWF Basins? How to monitor and track behavioural and institutional change; how can knowledge data and information be incorporated into how platforms do things, building up institutional learning over time; The need to compare different platform approaches and the outcomes they produce; How do local ownership processes develop in different contexts; Are there factors that constrain or prevent the success of such platforms, and how do we share these …

Watch the discussion group video reports:

Kim Meheb from the Mekong Basin rounded off the session by synthesizing the main ideas and lessons emerging. These include: There’s no ‘blueprint’ for doing multi-stakeholder platforms; one of the strengths of these approaches is they way they allow for things to change along a MSP process; we need to design processes to allow people to join along the way – a ‘snowballing’ effect; two-way dialogues between what research uncovers and what policymakers or local communities demand are important parts of what we want to achieve; the importance of the ‘capacity to listen’ is something that we need to pay much more attention to; we increase the potential for change ‘exponentially’ once trust enters the equation; and that ‘muddling through’ and opportunism are important aspects of ‘adaptive management’ … however, our organizations are often not good at grasping these opportunities – our structures and compliance mechanisms often inhibit this.

Read related blog posts:

ILRI’s Alan Duncan was asked to share a Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) ‘story’ at the recent International Forum on Water and Food.

Watch the video:

Alan’s story introduces some of the challenges that the Ethiopian Government faces in seeking to improve natural resources management at the local level, in the Blue Nile Basin. He reports that the sectors need to be better connected (water, agriculture, livestock); and more dialogue between officials and communities towards more participatory approaches to rainwater management.

One approach the NBDC is trying, is to support local ‘innovation platforms‘ – spaces for diverse actors to come together to engage in dialogue, and to jointly identify and address issues. The idea is that these will catalyze greater local participation and ownership of interventions, connect with national initiatives, and help make Ethiopian landscapes more productive.

He concludes stating that Ethiopia is known as the ‘water tower’ of Africa … with strong community participation and ownership, it could also be Africa’s breadbasket!

Change is not linear. Change is not easy. Changing the way research is carried out for more impact is certainly no exception.  In session of the Third International Forum for Water and Food, dedicated to innovation platforms, the tone was set: if we want to achieve impact, we have to change dramatically and it will not be a smooth learning curve.

Read the full blog post by Ewen Le Borgne …

View a poster on local innovation platforms in the Nile BDC:

An innovation platform is a network of different stakeholders who come together to exchange knowledge and develop joint action to bring about change in livelihoods and natural resource management. The growing interest in innovation platforms recognizes that improvements to farmer livelihoods and environmental integrity depend not just on on-farm technologies but on wider institutions, markets and policies. Improved land and water management practices can often be more readily and sustainably achieved by addressing these wider issues than by a narrow focus on changing farmer behaviour, but addressing them requires the involvement of a wide variety of stakeholders from communities, government, NGOs, research and private sector. Although this approach may require more patience the results are likely to be more sustained and far-reaching.

The types of issues that can be dealt with in an innovation platform can include:

Developing market chains: bringing together different actors along the value chain including producers, input suppliers, traders and regulatory bodies can help to identify and address bottlenecks along the value chain. Addressing these bottlenecks can directly benefit producers and increase incentives for farmers to invest in more market-oriented production for improved livelihoods.

Natural resource management enhancement: land and water issues tend to have a strong landscape dimension. The practices of upstream users can have important effects on downstream users. Also, small-scale irrigation schemes and soil and water conservation structures often affect multiple users and require collective action. Innovation platforms can provide a useful way of dealing with these landscape-level issues.


Combining talk with action

Innovation platforms are more than just places to talk. They need to lead to changes in farmer practice if they are to be effective. For example, as part of the IFAD-Fodder Adoption Project an innovation platform in Ada’a focusing on livestock feed issues catalyzed increased use of improved fodder varieties but also led to sourcing of improved dairy breeds and enhanced milk marketing arrangements (see fodderadoption.wordpress.com).

How could innovation platforms be useful in the NBDC programme?

The NBDC programme proposes to catalyse formation of local innovation platforms in our three study sites of Diga, Fogera and Jeldu. We would see these meeting 3 or 4 times a year or as needed. They will bring together actors at woreda level such as various government line departments (including those responsible for agriculture and water), NGO’s, private sector actors, researchers, community representatives and others. The platforms could also include actors from outside the woreda as the agenda broadens.

The aim will be to jointly identify constraints to improving land and water management at each site and then plan some practical joint actions to deal with them. The platforms would also provide a mechanism to seek resources to implement practical interventions identified within the platforms. As the platforms develop we could also link them to a national platform to provide a communication route to national actors. We seek local collaboration and co-development of these innovation platforms. We see the role of NBDC as catalysing initial formation of innovation platforms and then learning lessons about what makes them work.

By Alan Duncan

Download this as a brochure (also in Amharic, in Oromifa)

The Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) and the wider Challenge Program for Water and Food tried out several communication tools and approaches to make its research more useful and more likely to be used.

Among these tools and approaches, digital stories or photofilms) have proven to be great ways to place stories and human lives at the core of our work and thereby to capture and communicate the research we have conducted in more effective ways. Digital stories  help bring a lively and authentic feel to the stories shared. They can be used at field level for real life stories, as well as at higher levels to summarize conceptual work in a simpler way.

See an example of these digital stories below: a story weaving together the eight key messages of the Nile Basin Development Challenge and introducing a new paradigm for rainwater and land management in Ethiopia:

 

 

The latest NBDC technical report is an introductory guide to help people use photos, videos and audio files to develop such digital stories. The guide was produced for internal use by the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) but has wider usefulness.

The guide explains how to make a digital story. From interviewing and photographing to editing the pictures and audio-recordings and finally merging image and sound.

Download the guide

Discover 14 digital stories developed under the NBDC:

Discover these and all other NBDC videos

More on digital stories and photofilms at ILRI</em)

Wheels 1 The Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) established local Innovation Platforms (IPs) in each of the three sites where it worked.

The platforms aimed to bring stakeholders together (government offices, NGOs, researchers and community representatives) to identify joint solutions to pressing rainwater management challenges.

But how could action be incentivized when the returns on investment in natural resource management are so long-term?

In an effort to provide incentives for stakeholder engagement, the team trialled use of a small grant fund from the CPWF.

Read the full story on the CPWF web site

More on the NBDC innovation platforms

Communication and knowledge management (KM) are among the pillars of the ‘Research for Development’ (R4D) approach of the Nile Basin Development Challenge and the wider Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF), as the recently published NBDC institutional history stressed.

On 2 and 3 December 2013,  the CPWF organized a workshop on communication and knowledge management to review the results of CPWF in these areas.

The workshop involved twelve participants from the six basins involved in CPWF (Andes, Ganges, Limpopo, Mekong, Nile and Volta), mostly communication/KM specialists but also the basin leaders for the Andes and Limpopo basins and an external consultant. Over the two days, they presented their communication and KM work and teased out some stories that illustrated the successes and challenges of each Basin’s experience. Finally, the group collectively developed a series of a) specific innovations that they thought were excellent examples that might be applied elsewhere and b) lessons and principles that matter for CKM to be performing better in wider programs.

The NBDC case was presented by Ewen Le Borgne:

Following this workshop, Michael Victor, the communication and knowledge management coordinator for CPWF was interviewed by Ewen Le Borgne to reflect back on the objectives and results of CPWF and NBDC. 

Ewen Le Borgne (ELB): What did CPWF set out to do with communication and knowledge management?

Michael Victor (MV):

When I arrived as a ‘comms guy’ I wanted to show that communication is not just about stories, but in CGIAR there was a lot of segmentation and silos. Boru Douthwaite (then head of CPWF Innovation and Impact) was very visionary about the integration of KM, comms, information management, monitoring and evaluation (M&E), so we had this great idea about integrating all these domains, wondering how to work together with people working in these related domains. And we struggled with that. We had a breakthrough meeting in 2012 where we started to see that learning was in the middle. The tools used in M&E (e.g. Outcome Mapping, Social Network Analysis) are not exclusive to it, they can be used for a whole series of purposes. There was recognition that we were bringing different expertise around similar tools. What we set out to do was to develop this overall approach, recognizing that we were moving towards programmatic approach to KM. this meant that different aspects of KM (M&E, Comms and Info) were seen as a strategic function helping research get to outcomes, rather than as administrative or support functions.

Michael Victor, leading communication work in the Challenge Program for Water and Food (Photo credit: CPWF)

Michael Victor, leading communication work in the Challenge Program for Water and Food (Photo credit: CPWF)

(ELB): What worked and what didn’t, generally?

(MV):  By the end, what worked well was this blurred boundaries approach. Everyone recognizes the role of KM in R4D, it’s very clear. That worked really well. Our whole decentralized approach worked really well, having this range of KM approaches across different basins, and how it came together was very valuable.

What didn’t work very well was moving communication activities beyond products and making sure they are seen as part of a wider change process.  We also did not evaluate and monitor our KM activities that well. The ‘learning’ or research on these aspects were weak and therefore has been difficult to show the benefits of this approach.

Perhaps also the comms side came off too strong, while other people (e.g. some basin leaders) wanted to understand the KM process behind this work.

(ELB): Specifically about the NBDC?

(MV):  When I started, I wanted to build upon the initial basins that were already developing their systems. Peter Ballantyne had this great approach of using NBDC as an experiment. I realized he had a vision and had the tools to do it. So I piggybacked what Peter did e.g. with CGSpace, rolling out wikis. NBDC were the first basin to roll out with the Mekong (and Andes).

One of the great things for NBDC was testing out all these tools and seeing it as an experiment for when CRPs were to be rolled out more widely

From the Mekong we also took ideas related to branding and identify (where the basin logos came from).

No other basin was developing anything replicable. NBDC was trying things in their institutional context, linking with innovation platforms, embedding comms and KM in the basin etc.

(ELB): How do we capitalize on the NBDC and CPWF work on communication and knowledge management?

(MV):  What we did last week (i.e. with the kmc4CRP workshop): Working with CGIAR Research Programs and focusing on one-on-one, face-to-face interactions, making sure that we have the stories readily accessible. We should try to get – whenever we can – other people to use existing websites, wikis etc. disseminating strategically.

See the results from the CPWF Communication and KM workshop