The implementation of a market-oriented agricultural development strategy requires improved access to knowledge on technology and institutional innovations. The IPMS Project works to assist the Ethiopian Minstiry of Agriculture and Rural Development in developing a knowledge management system that can help facilitate such access to agricultural knowledge and information -- including indigenous knowledge.
The project’s baseline studies reveal that even though most farmers receive information on production technologies, translating such information into actionable understanding (knowledge) and adoption of technologies was limited.Since access to relevant knowledge is one of the key factors that determine agricultural production & productivity improvements, developing a knowledge management system that can help address this challenge was chosen as a focus area of the IPMS project.
There are many methods, processes and tools available to assist knowledge needs and availability assessment, capturing and synthesis. The project focuses on selected knowledge management tools, approaches, and methods that are relevant and practical to the on-the-ground realities of the extension staff, DAs and farmers in the Woredas in which it operates. Following are areas of knowledge management the project has been trying to develop.
Ethiopian Agriculture Portal
The project in partnership with the federal Ministry of Agriculture & Rural Development (MoARD) established the Ethiopian Agriculture Portal (EAP) www.eap.gov.et, EAP is a web-based gateway to agricultural information resources relevant to Ethiopian agriculture.
The portal is intended to assist experts in the extension system, researchers, policy makers, students, NGOs, CBOs, and other stakeholders in Ethiopian agriculture by availing timely and relevant agricultural information resources. The EAP aggregates information from diverse national and international sources in a simple and logically structured user interface. Documents are added to the portal after screening by a group of content managers that review each document for its relevance, timeliness, accuracy, and level-of-complexity in light of the target audiences.
Since access to the Internet is not always available, the project has developed an offline version of the portal that provides local (offline) access to most of the features of the online version of the EAP.
Woreda Knowledge Centers
The project has established agricultural knowledge centers in each of the PLWs, zones, regional bureaus of agriculture, and regional agricultural research institutes, where it operates. There are currently 28 such centers. Each center has five computers, a printer, a TV set, DVD Player, books, manuals, training materials, and in some locations selected demonstration materials. These centers provide the Woreda extension personnel easier access to agricultural information and thus empower them to be better prepared to discharge their extension duties. The centers also stimulate knowledge sharing by providing a convenient venue for such activities.
Enhancing the role of Farmer Training Centers
In the last five years, the Ethiopian government has initiated establishment of over 15,000 Farmer Training Centers (FTC), with three Development Agents (DAs) each. While FTCs are used mainly for conducting formal modular training, this infrastructure can be enhanced and leveraged as venues for knowledge sharing and facilitating linkages with various market actors and service providers. The project supports 40 FTCs (4 per PLW) by equipping them with computers, printers, TV sets, DVD Players, books, manuals, demonstration materials, and generators where necessary. The project stresses community ownership as a key to the sustainable use of the facilities.
The project attempts to find the most efficient way to share practical knowledge with carefully selected farmers, extension workers, targeted administrative staff and policy makers. Study tours or experience sharing visits serve as one of the methods the project uses in which a selected number of actors witness relevant achievements, good practices, and challenges faced and resolved in areas outside their PA/PLW/Region. Destination and study tour content are discussed by the stakeholders and lessons learned are discussed and shared. When facilitating study tours, selecting early adopters and/or change champions with a demonstrated capability to influence their peers increases the likelihood that a promising idea is broadly disseminated.
Field days/demonstrations bring together a large number of farmers, extension workers, researchers, local administrators and members of the private sector to share knowledge to scale out/introduce successful interventions within a village or to other villages/communities in or outside the PLW.
The project facilitated the first agricultural innovations and technology exhibition with the Tigray BoARD in 2006. Since then, agricultural exhibitions (at local, regional, and national levels) have flourished around the country. They are used both for disseminating knowledge to a broader audience and to showcase community and individual achievements in the agriculture sector. IPMS participates in exhibitions when opportunities for sharing it’s experiences and when appropriate target audience (farmers, private sector, policy makers) with whom the project would like to interact are present.