Reflections from ‘Meeting on CCARDESA Agricultural Information, Communication, and Knowledge Management System’, SADC and CTA efforts, 11-14 th September, 2016, Johannesburg, Republic of South Africa
The Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA) with technical and financial support from the Centre for Agriculture and Rural Cooperation (CTA) organized a 4-day meeting for CCARDESA focal persons of Agricultural Information, Knowledge and Communication Management at Birchwood Hotel from 11 to 14th September, 2016, in Johannesburg, the Republic of South Africa. The meeting aimed to provide a platform for sharing experiences among focal persons and planning for continuity of CCARDESA’s efforts that were being supported by CTA to promote exchange of information, knowledge and communication in agriculture research and development. The second aim of the meeting was motivated by the fact that financial support from CTA was coming to an end. Officials from CTA and CCARDESA provided a framework for discussion in the meeting.
Opening the meeting on 11th September, 2016, both the CTA Senior Programmes Officer, Krishan Bheenick, and the CCARDESA Informaster (ICT Manager), Dydimus Zengenene asked and challenged meeting participants to review their experiences in the course of establishing the Southern Africa Agricultural Information Knowledge Management System and to map way-forward for continuity of their activities post- CTA support in that order. Based on guidance from the two officials, participants and facilitators jointly decided modes of operation in the meeting.
The meeting facilitators and participants adopted different approaches of exchanging experiences and knowledge among themselves to achieve its objectives. Highlights of the meeting included a deeper reflection by participants on efforts made by CCARDESA towards information, communication, and knowledge management since 2014 with support from CTA. The meeting also provided for training of focal persons on specific areas of web-portal management for anchoring the regional platform. Participants in the meeting made presentations on topical issues, held group discussions, and individual hands-on experiences with uploading and managing resources, that include published articles, as well as reports of events relevant to the themes being addressed by CCARDESA.
Reflections on experiences of focal persons revealed that they had been facing similar challenges in their efforts to share information, knowledge of climate smart agriculture practices and promotion of underutilized crops in different member states. Experiences in the meeting showed increased understanding of information, communication, and knowledge management among the focal persons. The meeting instilled a sense of ownership and commitment among focal persons on processes of mobilizing climate smart agriculture resources and expertise for purposes of sharing to address issues affecting agriculture productivity in the region in light of climate change and demographic changes.
It was evident from the meeting that support by CTA to CCARDESA had made significant contributions towards building capacity among SADC members-states in the area of agriculture information and knowledge management. Reflections among participants showed that increased knowledge and skills of managing the regional web-portal will go a long way in improving its outlook. The improved web-portal outlook has the promise to motivate stakeholders to use resources and information packaged into the portal. Improved design of the portal potentially improves easy of use and interactivity. The mode of discussion in the meeting instilled a sense of ownership of the process of managing the system among focal persons in the member-states, this gives the promise of sustainability of efforts in the region. The meeting was therefore important to SADC member- states as it contributes to improved access to information and knowledge for agricultural development. However, payback from investments made by CTA and CCARDESA will be determined by continued commitment and innovativeness among individual focal persons and as group.