Communication for Development and Knowledge Management

The new Strategic Plan expanded the Communication for Development Program to include Knowledge Management. The Board and Management realized that the organization was generating huge amounts of knowledge and there is need for a better process of capturing, distributing and effectively utilizing this knowledge.

The information and knowledge that is in people’s heads and that has never been explicitly set down needs to be captured and made available, so it can be used by others in the organisation (Koenig: 2012). After more than a decade of transforming the lives of poor communities, Africa Harvest also discovered that there is rich information from the communities it works with. This information can enrich future project implementation especially with regard to increasing project ownership by target communities.

During the period under review, the new program began the process of collecting information from different projects and sharing this internally and externally through meetings, workshops and conferences, websites and social networks such as Twitter and Facebook. The Program has also puts much effort to regularly inform diverse stakeholders through regular online newsletters.

For effectiveness, the Communication for Development and Knowledge Management program has been defined into seven themes:

– A GHA-sensitive public engagement strategy
– A GHA-based public technology acceptance
– Innovative use of ICT
– Community engagement with behaviour change monitoring
– Publications and use of other multimedia modes
– Documentation and knowledge management
– Promotion of technology

During the period under review, the program was implemented through these projects:

1. The Africa Biotech Outreach Project
2. The Africa Harvest 10-year Strategic Plan
3. Africa Harvest Annual Report
4. Brochures for Training: Sorghum for Multiple Uses (SMU) Value Chain in Kenya and Tanzania
5. Agriculture Stakeholders’ Forums
6. Food Security and Livelihoods through an Improved Sorghum Value Chain in Kenya
7. Online outreach

1. The Africa Biotech Outreach Project

In slightly more than a decade, the biotech debate in Africa has shifted significantly from “whether to adopt the technology” and the safety of the technology to “what crops and traits will be useful for the continent.” While there is still a lot that needs to be done to increase acceptance and a better appreciation of science in general, the new focus is putting in place science-based and workable biosafety and regulatory systems.

There is also new thinking that increased funding and better designed public/private sector projects could be the answer to gaining required traction. This is supported by the few joint research and development projects that have helped expand the basis for public acceptance. By focusing on African crops such as banana, cassava and sorghum, the biotechnology is now viewed as part of a bouquet of possible solutions.

During the year under review, there were four countries that had commercialized biotech products in Africa. Kenya – which is the fourth country (after South Africa, Burkina Faso and Egypt) to have a GM law – expects to commercialize Bt cotton soon. Uganda and Nigeria have Biosafety Bills that could be passed into law after Presidential ascent (for Nigeria) and Parliamentary debate (for Uganda).

The Africa Biotech Outreach Project is supported by Croplife International. It focuses on biotech outreach, acceptance and effective implementation of science-based Biosafety laws in several African countries. Africa Harvest has the mandate for Kenya, Uganda and Burkina Faso. During the year under review, several key achievements were made:

 In partnership with EuropaBio, Africa Harvest organized an exchange visit for African and European journalists to visit various biotech research projects in Uganda. Of strategic importance – to Africa Harvest – was the inclusion of journalists from Burkina Faso (where Africa Harvest is involved) and Ghana (Africa Harvest plans to work in 2013);
 In 2012 the project placed greater emphasis on biosafety and regulatory outreach.
o For Kenya, the goal was to speed up commercialization, protect legislative gains and reach out to key stakeholders involved in the Bt Commercialization Taskforce;
o For Uganda, efforts focused on speeding up the passage of the Biosafety Bill and activities related to media outreach;
o In Burkina Faso, the project focused on defending and expanding the technology achievements especially in French-speaking West Africa.
 In all the target countries stakeholders such as farmer leaders, journalists, agricultural extension officers, government officials, representatives of community based organizations were sensitized on GM technology;
 Training on Technology Stewardship, Issues Management and Communication for Scientists, Policymakers and Regulators: The project spearheaded capacity building of key stakeholders so as to improve understanding of and decision making over the technology.
 Stronger links were developed, between public research institutions, universities and regulators. This is a precursor to more effective networking, sharing information and training objectives that contributes towards public acceptance of plant biotechnology.
In other activities related to the Africa Biotech Outreach Project
 Africa Harvest CEO, Dr. Florence Wambugu, was one of the guests at the launch of a new index on food security. The Index was developed by the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and commissioned by DuPont.
 Africa Harvest hosted a “CLI Grantees Social Media Workshop” at its Nairobi Office. The resource persons were Deb Castious and Alex Rikus from CLI. Attendees included IT and web developers from AfricaBio, AfricaHarvest, ABSF and ISAAA. SCIFODE (Uganda) and AATF also sent representatives. Three key goals were achieved:
a) Capacity building designed to take advantage of the emerging social media opportunities;
b) Discussions on how the CLI Africa grantees can best pool resources to maximize information sharing opportunities through the social media;
c) Possibility of setting up an African Social Media Platform

2. The Africa Harvest 10-year Strategic Plan

After the Board of Director’s adopted the Strategic Plan, the Communication for Development Program & Knowledge Management Program provided leadership for the editing, design and printing of the document. The Plan was distributed in hard-copy version as well as PDF and other online formats. Internal and external audiences were reached through a Board press conference (at which the Plan was launched), through social media (Facebook and Twitter) and several editions of the online newsletters.

1. Africa Harvest Annual Report

Like the Strategic Plan, the Annual Report was approved by the Board of Directors. A similar distribution strategy was effected. Utilizing the segmented databases that the Program has developed, most stakeholders were reached. Data confirms that the two documents drive the most visits to the main Africa Harvest website.

2. Brochures for Training: Sorghum for Multiple Uses (SMU) Value Chain in Kenya and Tanzania

Brochures were developed for training farmers on sorghum field management, pest and disease management and harvest and post-harvest handling under the Robust Commercially and Sustainable Sorghum for Multiple Uses (SMU) Value Chain in Kenya and Tanzania project.

3. Agriculture Stakeholders’ Forums

Africa Harvest is a member of District Stakeholder Forums in Tharaka, Meru South, Kibwezi, Imenti North, Kitui and Mwingi. The organization chaired the Stakeholders’ Forum in Meru south while acting as key stakeholder in the other district forums. The Forums played a fundamental role in networking, data base profiling, field days organisation and farmers trainings. Africa Harvest’s field officers were elected to serve in various capacities and levels in the Forums enabling participation in district development related decision making.

4. Food Security and Livelihoods through an Improved Sorghum Value Chain in Kenya

While implementing this project Africa Harvest prepared brochures and branding materials. To enhance wide reach, especially to target communities, the brochures were prepared both in English and the local language, Kikamba. The brochures were printed and supplied to beneficiaries for reference and future use. The brochures were shared with all the target beneficiaries and contained information (from planting to harvesting) on Sorghum as well as planting information on other drought tolerant crops (Cowpeas and Green grams) that were grown by the beneficiaries – as a value add measure. A project banner was also developed and printed for use in branding the project and particularly during community events.