Gathering information - team work and flexibility

Hari Sharma Neupane

Together with my colleague, Krishna Prasad Paudel, we joined the CTA-run training on experience capitalization in Goa

I work as a Local Entrepreneurship and Institutional Development Consultant in the IFAD-sponsored Improved Seeds for Farmers Programme (KUBK-ISFP) in Nepal. Krishna is a Monitoring & Evaluation and Knowledge Management Officer. In August 2017, a second workshop will follow-up on this first one. We are joining the workshops to learn about new methodologies for documenting and learning from our experiences. This may well be the new way forward for us in reporting on our programmes.

Women present at the SFACLs management handover ceremony, Chaurjhari, Rukum district of Nepal. Photo credits: Mr. Rajendra Prasain and Mr. Nir Bahadur Adhikari

I arrived at the workshop with very limited prior knowledge on the experience capitalization process, so for me most parts of the process were innovative. We learned about the concepts, and we started framing our own experience, which we wanted to capitalize on through documenting and sharing.

Sharpening our focus

The expansion of rural financing services is one of the key interventions in the rural areas of our programme. This is done through a cooperative approach to ensure outreach of rural finance for seed and livestock based businesses. We set up a number of cooperatives base on a model called Small Farmers Agriculture Cooperative Limited (SFACL). The programme team, including Krishna and I, decided to focus on women’s experiences within this cooperative approach to expanding micro-finance. The SFACL model includes awareness raising and capacity building amongst the communities identified in the programme. We partner with the Small Farmer Development Bank and the Nepal Agriculture Cooperative Central Federation Limited (NACCFL). We chose this experience because within the KUBK-ISFP programme, we have had success with engaging rural women. Our approach could be replicated in other areas. We also felt that we have plenty of information to support an experience capitalization process for this experience. This was based on the fact that there is an extensive bank of data relating to all the activities performed so far. But with so much potentially useful information, the question remains: where to begin, and what information is most relevant?

First, I made a distinction between primary and secondary information to be collected. Primary information is the information we will have to collect ourselves, and secondary information that which we can get from existing reports and databases. To collect the primary information, we plan to use different and complementary methods. The methods include focus group discussions, interviews with key informants, questionnaires, and field observations. The collection of secondary information is more simple and can be done from our desks. For instance, I have requested with our partners – the Small Farmers Development Bank (SFDB) and Nepal Agriculture Cooperative Central Federation Limited (NACCFL) – to send their annual reports and, where possible, also information from their databases. I don’t expect any difficulties here because we already have well established relationships with each other.

As I am the lead facilitator of the process, I made a plan for the timing of information collection. In July, we will have two weeks in which I hope to be able to collect most of it.

A team effort

Krishna and I cannot collect all the primary information by ourselves. So, this is where other project staff and field trainers come in – we will act as a team.

Vegetable farming financed by Bijaya Nagar Women SFACL, Pyuthan district of Nepal. Photo credits: Mr. Rajendra Prasain and Mr. Nir Bahadur Adhikari

We had already presented the essence of the experience capitalization process with the programme management. However, the programme field staff and the field trainers already know a lot about the programme and have very good connections in the field, but they are not yet familiar with experience capitalization.  It’s most important to make sure that all the field staff, including field trainers, understand why we are going through this experience capitalization process, and that they feel comfortable with it. For this we are planning a three-hour meeting with all project staff and field trainers to explain the process, it’s objectives, and their tasks. This is an important step to make sure that we all collect useful information. If the field staff understand the process, they will be better able to explain to other stakeholders from the programme, such as the farmers who are members of the newly established SFACLs, why we are asking them more questions. And, hopefully all of our stakeholders will understand that the process can be useful for them as well.

Understanding what experience capitalization is all about is not quite enough to make sure all stakeholders can share their opinions and experiences. We will also try to create an enabling environment. In other words, we have to gain trust. This is why we work with the field staff who know the farmers, and not with outsiders to collect the information. Apart from this enabling environment we try to ensure everyone’s participation. This explains why we want to use the different methods for collecting information mentioned above. For now, my homework is to finalize the questions for the household surveys and the checklists that we will use for the interviews with key informants and focus group discussions.

Flexibility

So far, I have not changed my ideas about the way we will collect our information. However, we have not yet started with the questionnaires on the ground. The questions may need to be adapted if they are misunderstood. Or, the time schedule may need to be changed if we face practical hurdles in the field such as inaccessible roads. Flexibility is key to putting your plan into action! In August, we will have our second workshop on experience capitalization. We should have all of the information collected and organized by then and be ready for the analysis and the writing part of the process. The good thing is that we will have the opportunity to put our lessons from experience capitalization into practice as the project runs up to 2019.

 

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