For more than four years, the “Capitalization of good practices in support of agricultural production and food security” project tested and adapted methodologies for experience capitalization and to identify good practices in Niger and Burkina Faso.
The project was implemented in Niger and Burkina Faso from January 2009 to June 2013. The organization of a knowledge share fair in June 2010 in Niamey added a regional aspect to the sharing of experiences, it was followed by the Share fair in Rome, September 2011 and two mini-share fairs in December 2012 in Niger and Burkina Faso.
The project team started out by identifying the innovative practices in agricultural input management that had emerged from the experiences of previous FAO projects. As part of the capitalization project, action-research helped to identify key success factors and constraints linked to a practice. The lessons learned led to approaches for improving practices. Documents in the form of experience fact sheets and case studies were developed. From the outset gender was integrated into the action-research and documentation. To achieve this, the team and its partners participated in awareness-rising and training sessions on gender issues.
The project also documented existing methodologies for experience capitalization, in order to choose one that is best suited to the needs of FAO and the nature of the project. Project partners presented their methodologies for experience capitalization during a Knowledge Share Fair held in June 2010 in Niamey. The team decided to adapt the methodology presented by the Centre of Information on Low External Input and Sustainable Agriculture (ILEIA) in its publication “Learning from experience: a manual for organizing, analysing and documenting field based information” (2007), and update it.
Writing workshops were another concrete stage in the capitalization process. They gave an indication of the levels of knowledge, but also of elements that may be missing in the documentation approach. The aim of these workshops was to set down on paper all the information relative to a practice, in a way that is readily understandable. In December 2011 the project moved to the action-training phase for partners so that everyone would be in a position to use the methodology for experience capitalization. For one year the partners put into practice what they had learned during the training. After the first training session, the participants left with an action plan and the promise of meeting up again to share their good practice fact sheets. Each month, the project opened its doors to its partners so that they could present their products, ask questions and exchange with the team.
Many different ways to share information
The good practices and the experiences documented took many different forms. First and foremost, the goal of capitalization is to improve the quality of the work, share experiences, adopt good practices and scale them up. The information documented has been adapted to different target audiences and has used various communication channels. As well as written documents, such as case studies, experience fact sheets, information fact sheets, good practice fact sheets and methodological fact sheets, the project also produced posters with more graphic displays of information. In an effort to reach out to rural communities, radio dramas were written and performed by a local theatre group, with the aim of informing listeners about the good practices in an entertaining way. The programmes, made in local languages, were broadcast by a large number of rural and community radio stations. The project has also produced videos, which use images to convey ideas that the written word cannot always express. This is an excellent tool for relaying information to farmers’ associations.
To close the project, mini knowledge share fairs were organized in Niger and Burkina Faso as a way of sharing the results of the project with all the partners and stakeholders. Since December 2012, the project partners have continued the work of dissemination and appropriation.
Based on the four years of practice, FAO developed a concept note “Good practices at FAO: Experience capitalization for continuous learning” (2013) and a template to document good practices. The concept note describes why good practices matter and which methodology can be used to engage in an experience capitalization process.
The experience capitalization process is described as a capitalization cycle, which will allow good practices to emerge. It is a five step participatory, iterative a non-linear process.
- Capacity built in experience capitalization of FAO staff and project partners
- Wide dissemination of the capitalized good practices and up scaling of several of the practices
- Development of methodology for experience capitalization for FAO and a template for documenting experiences and good practices
- Systematically integrate experience capitalization into the project cycle;
- Plan it from the beginning of a project along the different steps;
- Use participatory methodologies to ensure effective involvement of stakeholders;
- Integrate monitoring and evaluations, allowing comparison and verification of data and information obtained at the different steps of the implementation of the practice;
- Follow approaches that are useful for the process, such as analytical, self-evaluation and self-criticism approaches and be open to criticism and changes;
- Use communication for development;
- Use knowledge sharing methods and tools;
- Take gender into account, and include specificities of different target groups;
- Make sure people involved in experience capitalization are part of the project or organization.
This article was prepared for the “Expert Consultation on Experience Capitalization” which took place at the FAO headquarters in Rome, March 2014.