Collaborate, Create, Communicate

Our journey has started: the first day at AgKnowledge ShareFair

The Ethiopian horn blower was at it again at the beginning of the first formal day of proceedings (see report on Day Zero) of the AgKnowledge Africa Share Fair, calling us all to order to get the day underway. Participants were 300 strong for the opening session on the campus of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

The session began with a welcome speech by Bruce Scott (ILRI’s Director of Partnerships and Communications), who talked about the importance of small-holder farmers having access to the knowledge necessary to support and boost the agricultural sector in Africa. Then Lamourdia Thiombian, the representative from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), talked about the importance of gatherings like the Share Fair to facilitate knowledge sharing across all levels.

“Knowledge sharing is not only about sharing, it’s about people networking and working together,” he said.

Koda Traore from the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) highlighted the importance of sharing knowledge and allowing it to flow freely, horizontally and vertically. Then Roxanna Samii (International Fund for Agricultural Developemnt – IFAD) gave us a bit of a history lesson when she talked about the origins of the Share Fair and the impact it has had on many organizations.

Owen Barder, the Director of aidinfo – a program of Development Initiatives that aims to make information about aid more easily accessible – gave a compelling talk entitled “Is agriculture the key to development?

This charismatic speaker talked about information and knowledge being fundamental drivers for economic growth, and introduced the concept of “wicked problems”, which are at the heart of development, and how we sometimes fail to understand them. He also promoted the use of feedback loops, as they drive performance in terms of service delivery.

The social media team caught up with Owen after his talk. Find out what he had to say about development and the need for free access to a diversity of ideas, information and knowledge in this short video interview.

Learning Pathways

The remainder of the morning focused on a series of ‘learning pathways’ that cover four key areas: agriculture and water; agriculture and climate change; land; and livestock. At the heart of the Share Fair, such pathways integrate key knowledge processes and major knowledge spaces in a participatory process of mapping, sharing and connecting the people attending.

Agriculture and Water Pathway

During this first session on water, participants (at grassroots, district, national and international levels) brainstormed the main issues they face at their individual levels: the capacity to process and document information, poor access to information, language, inadequate use of technology for knowledge sharing, and a lack of harmonisation of initiatives. The rest of the session focused on the challenges of generating/scaling up innovation, developing cooperation and coordination, and developing and sharing knowledge in the water sectors.

Land Pathway

The land pathway got underway with the help of knowledge from land right practitioners from Benin, Tanzania, Niger, Madagascar, Swaziland, Ethiopia and the Philippines. The focus of this pathway is to map out complementary good practices and innovations as part of a knowledge exchange program on the customary land tenure and management systems.

Mike Taylor of the International Land Coalition opened by saying, “Access to land and secure land tenure are key to poverty reduction.”

Agriculture and Climate Change Pathway

This session was reported in French by participant Camille De Stoop. About 50 participants were in attendance; they had a chance to discuss the causes of climate change, and the impact on ecosystems, agriculture and health.

Livestock Pathway

A series of mapping exercises exploring the landscape and actors involved with it kicked off this session. Participants identified three key areas of knowledge management: seeding ideas, removing bottlenecks, and sharing stories. On Wednesday, the discussion will continue with the sharing of experiences and brokerage sessions. The group will also seek to find answers to the questions that emerged, as well as other effective ways to share knowledge.

Work on the pathways will continue over three days in total, so look out for further updates!

And so onto the market place

One of the things that make the Addis Share Fair a unique experience is the way in which the local culture has been woven seamlessly into the event. From the horn blower keeping us on time for the various sessions, to the aromatic Bunna coffee to which some of us are becoming addicted, to the delicious Ethiopian fare laid on for lunch… we’re all impressed by the local food and customs, and the warm hospitality shown to everyone.

The Share Fair continued its local theme with an Ethiopian market place spread out across the ILRI campus. Participants went from stall to stall sharing their “knowledge wares”. The organizers were each given a donkey (see my previous post) as a means of transport to share their knowledge within the market place – providing participants with a source of mobile information and amusement.

A fun time was had by all.

Wednesday will continue with the pathways and also begin with the focus groups. So please stay tuned!

A big thank you to the Social Media Team (a group of enthusiastic volunteers spear-headed by Peter Casier) for covering all the sessions and getting reports out so quickly. Peter’s wrap-up blog post from Day Zero, How to report on social media in 60 minutes?, will give you more of an insight into what it takes to cover the Share Fair.

You can follow the Share Fair via the Social Media Team’s coverage on the Share Fair official blog as well as the individual sites of the various tools used:
• Blog: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddisblog
• Wiki: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddiswiki
• Tweets: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddistweets
• Photos: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddisphotos
• Videos: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddisblips
• Social web: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddismention
• Share fair FM: http://tinyurl.com/sfaddisfm

Check out the agenda and stay tuned for more tweeting and blogging from Addis!

Do not forget to check the official summary of each day’s events