A series of capitalization processes started with representatives of some of the member organizations of the East Africa Farmers Federation (MVIWATA, the Uganda National Farmers Federation, the Kenya National Farmers Federation and the Kenya Livestock Producers Association). This started with a first workshop which took place in Nairobi, in November, 2016, and was completed in a second one in Arusha, in March 2017. The results will soon be published.
The first workshop was planned for four days, and was meant to follow a “learning by doing” approach: participants were not just to discuss the concepts, principles and methodology to follow, but were also invited to start an experience capitalization process. We started with a short introduction of all participants, as well as of the project. We discussed the methodology to follow, and the need to get the process started. We also discussed the need to work with colleagues back home (e.g. when looking for additional information), the need to complete the process and, preferably, meet again, and the need to take specific steps to ensure that the approach is mainstreamed.
Basic concepts, principles and conditions
Experience capitalization was seen as an approach that leads to lessons and “new knowledge”, and which therefore helps projects improve what participants do, be more efficient and effective, and also inspire others. We looked at this approach as part of a broader strategy for knowledge management, and at the need to link and work together with other related initiatives (such as those run by the communications team, or by those at M&E). Participants also discussed the many “objections” which are commonly given, as a reason for not starting a capitalization process (e.g., it is too complicated, it takes too long, it is not clear who benefits form it), and the best way to advocate and convince colleagues of the benefits it brings.
Participants had then to select the experience that wanted to describe and analyse, thinking of a case that would meet a few conditions: one that they know very well and for which there is sufficient information, one which has the potential for sharing lessons, and one which is particularly interesting, and for which there “is demand”. We discussed the benefits of considering its USP: the unique selling point. Each one was then asked to “draw the boundaries” of this experience, choosing the location and the time period in which each case was / has been implemented, the objectives, the main strategy, etc. The next step was to describe every case, highlighting everything that was done, all the results achieved, and also showing the main difficulties found.
What are we writing about?
Different experiences were described and analysed, and lessons are already being drawn. Among these, for example,
- the process of improving maize processing in the Ilakala village, in the Morogoro region in Tanzania. Running since March 2016, this project run by MVIWATA is meant to help improve the food supply to the community, and help farmers incerase their income. This is showing positive results : the introduction of a movable maize shelling machine, for example, has helped reduce the labour and transport costs;
- the participation of young farmers in vegetable production in the Rakai distrisct in the central region of Uganda. Since July 2015, UNFFE has tried to engage youth farmers in discussions about how best to engage them and use their str5ength, time and ideas. They have organized training sessions, run a stakeholder mapping sessions to identify the best way to influence decision makers, and then organized meetings with the local government officials;
- the afforestation efforts in the Ludewa district, inthe southern highlands of Tanzania, run to minimise the effects of climate change and to improve farmers livelihoods by increasing production. The main strategy has included the use of improved cooking stoves, planting trees, and also conducting short training courses on the effects of climate change and the best way to adapt to them;
- the partnership between KLPA and Airtel to market a mobile service application that will give agricultural information to farmers in Kenya. The main objective is to enable farmers to increase yields andproductivity through ag-advisory messages, starting in the Kisii district;
- farmers’engagement with decision makers in Kenya. Farmers are rarely engaged in policy processes; this reduces the possibility of influencing the support provided by the government for agricultural development. As a membership-based organization, the Kenya National Farmers Federation is trying to fill in the gaps and enhancing their skills to articulate issues and participate in various processes, for example with a tool called FACT.
The second workshop
After the first meeting, participants developed their own stories. They collected additional information with their colleagues, and worked together with the EAFF representatives to organize the information available. This helped them prepare a new draft version of their documents. A second meeting was then organized to complete the process, focusing on the latter stages of the experience capitalization process:
- Sharing. We looked at the need to reach out and bring the results of a capitalization exercise to a broader audience, for which it is necessary to prepare a communications strategy. We saw that this starts by identifying the target audience, distinguishing between the different groups of people that can be reached, and focusing on their specific characteristics (in particular their knowledge, attitudes and practice). A next step was to look at the possible products, considering that written products are not the only option, and then to look at the possible channels to use. As mentioned, this depends on the size of the intended audience and the possibility to interact with them. The session finished with a discussion on the need to get feedback, seeing if the communication strategy is on track.
- Writing and editing. Participants started collecting information during the first workshop, and most of them prepared a first draft document before coming to Arusha. On the basis of the progress made, we discussed the main issues to take into account when writing. This started with a few principles (e.g., texts have to be legible, concise, appealing and rigorous), and then we looked at the best way to go about it. Participants shared some of the difficulties they experienced, while we also looked at the need to (i) include dates for all activities and figures (data) that show results, (ii) add quotes, showing the opinions of those involved, (iii) add a short case study, building on what is shown on a photo, and (iv) remember the experience’s uniqueness throughout the text. Participants were given time to complete their texts, and received individual advice.
- “Using”: adoption and scaling up. A next step was to look at the need to encourage the use of the results of the process. Participants recognised that the purpose of an experience capitalization process is not to identify good practices, nor just to publish a document. After sharing the main lessons learnt, the purpose is to see them being used, and in this was having a larger impact. We talked about adoption and adaptation, looking at a process which is not automatic and which does not “happen while you sleep”. We looked at the innovations themselves and at the conditions they must fulfil for being adopted (like compatibility, social acceptability), and also at the external and internal factors involved. Next, we discussed the need to prepare for scaling up, looking at the main “drivers” and “spaces”. This was all seen as ideas to consider when preparing an action plan.
- Institutionalization. Next, we looked at the need to institutionalize the approach, as the main objective of this project. This followed the discussion on adoption and scaling up, but focused on the adoption of experience capitalization as a process (and not just of the lessons drawn) and on the need to create the conditions necessary so that “it is more than a one-time effort”. We looked at the general conditions which are needed for such a process to start (resources, participants, a critical attitude) and at the “finish line”: what do we see when an approach is institutionalized? Participants discussed the need to have procedures and methods in place, to have clear roles and responsibilities, or also to have a training scheme. They also looked at the need to show results. next, we looked at the main conditions needed, such as clear support, skills, specific information, and they all used this information to complete their action plans.
The different discussions and interactions among participants helped them all start and complete a capitalization process, and to draw lessons by doing it. We have now a set of cases that are clearly described and analysed (and which soon be published), with lessons to share between EAFF and with other interested organizations. Participants had very positive comments to share, which they did as part of the general evaluation: “the workshop provided lots of options that I will use to structure the learning component of my work”; “great facilitation, the venue was very good”, “the use of power points, discussions and role plays increased learning”, “my knowledge has been improved”; “the facilitator was a master of his subject, excellent delivery”.
“I learnt on how to capitalize experiences through proper writing skills in a way that lessons reaches the targeted audience. What’s most important is that experiences that needs to be capitalized should have unique lessons and no WHY questions to the audience to ensure that lessons are well understood and actions are being taken to generate change for greater impact. Also, lessons should convince people like authorities, project designers, managers and media for easier reaching of the audiences.” (Irene J. Kalagho, MVIWATA)
“Every experience has a lesson that need to be communicated. There is need to analyze the situation via self and also involving various stakeholders involved in your experience to bring out all the necessary information required. I also learnt that to write a compelling story we need to have a catchy title that will sell the idea that you are trying to promote in your experience, but to write a story takes a long time. There is a need to tell others about EC processes.” (Marygoretti Gachagua, EAFF)
“Every things I found in the workshop was nice but what I had been more interesting was the issues concerning how to write document (story). I become more interesting on this because our project and organization activities relaying much on writing, and we have been facing a challenges as the organization. In the workshop I come to realize that in writing a document or story we should have an attractive title that will sell the idea that we are trying to promote and to make our document more attractive to those we are target, through the workshop I discovered that there is principles in writing, that we must stimulate our thought by reading more and more while we are preparing to write. I was very interesting also on the other step in writing document such as writing every things come in your mind without consider a mistake while you are preparing writing, expand the outline by filling gaps on the key words you are sated, I realized also the first draft should not consider spelling mistake rather than the content of the document. Also during the workshop I discovered that in writing there should evidence of what we are presented. Avoiding using acronyms, uncommon names exaggeration and gender bias was another things learned during the workshop. Before you realized your document you should ask people to read it and we should be ready to reserve negative and positive comments. I like this because it will add something in daily activities.” (Remmy Urio, MVIWATA)