The 3rd Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) Biennial Report (BR) stressed that “access to quality advisory services in agricultural production is important in all relevant segments of the food system”. There is a line that most Researchers won’t usually cross between the lab and the dusty field, yet that line makes all the difference in making a real impact at the last mile. That line is the sharing of research outputs with extension. The weak link between the extension and research is why the Comprehensive African Agriculture Development Programme Ex-Pillar 4 (CAADP-XP4) Knowledge Management & Communication (KMC) Technical Working Group met in Nairobi, Kenya, from 5th to 7th October 2022.
The CAADP-XP4 Consortium comprises the African Forum for Agricultural Advisory Services (AFAAS), Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF) and Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). AFAAS hosted the meeting with support from the European Union through the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD).
The main objectives of the meeting were to learn from the existing experience of research to extension (R2E) activities, discuss and agree on realistic indicators, targets, a roadmap, and digital tools used in the R2E agenda, and the interoperability of digital solutions used by the CAADPXP4 organizations.
The AFAAS Executive Director, Dr Silim Nahdy, gave his opening remarks, urging participants to break the chain of isolating research from extension. He emphasized the urgent need for research and extension to work together for the benefit of the farmers. Dr. Nahdy applauded the team for coming up with an important meeting as it is an excellent basis to think of solutions and develop a policy paper that could be shared with the main actors, in this case, the research and the extension. He also hoped the meeting would resolve the unique challenges around the topic.
The AFAAS Board Committee Member, Mrs. Mary Kamau, officially opened the meeting by sharing her experience working with research in the 1990s. She mentioned a regular engagement between the Researchers and the Extension Officers as the norm then. She also proposed the engagement of farmers at the innovation development stage because farmers are also innovators and researchers. She reminisced how her mother used to select seed from the middle part of a maize cob and reserve it for the next planting season, and she attested how effective the strategy worked. Therefore, she urged the participants to consider getting best practices from farmers instead of thinking that farmers are not knowledgeable.
During the meeting, the Knowledge Management Officers, Mr. Andri Raso from AFAAS, Mr. Ben Ilakut from ASARECA, Mrs. Bridget Kakuwa-Kasongamulilo from CCARDESA, and Mr Benjamin Abugri from FARA, shared their organization research to extension agenda and ways that they hope this agenda could be pushed forward. Mr. Peter Mwangi Gitika, the Country Focal Person for the Forum for Agricultural Advisory services Kenya (KeFAAS) and Mrs. Silvia Mburungu, the Communication, Information & Knowledge Management Officer, also presented the status of the R2E agenda at the KeFAAS.
Mr. Max Olupot, the AFAAS Director of Research and Programmes, reminded the participants that Knowledge management is critical for the CAADP-XP4 programme as it is part of the science-led research nexus and helps guide how to move the R2E agenda forward. “From experience, spots of success are there, and we need to probe why they worked, how they worked and turned the lives of smallholder farmers from grass to grace and from gloom to glory”, he emphasized.
Dr. Samson Eshetu, the Capacity Strengthening Specialist, provided the rationale and impetus for the R2E as being that research is done but not having an impact mainly because it was not demand-driven. Therefore, the R2E agenda will address the existing gaps and move away from the status quo to more impactful actions, such as packaging technologies in farmer-accessible formats instead of publications. He also emphasized that the CAADP-XP4 Model is an excellent model to bridge the gap.
Dr. Boniface Akaku, the Director of Information, Communication and Technology at Kenya Agriculture and Livestock Research Organisation (KARLO), shared best practices for addressing the gaps identified in R2E. He said KARLO uses digital apps to reach the farmers innovatively. It does this by incorporating evidence-driven data showing farmers how to produce more with less rainfall and less fertilizer and providing personal, contextually relevant, and location-based information. He highlighted innovative ways of information packaging and a proper database to keep all their farmer’s details as well as how they always get feedback from the farmers instead of having a one-way system. He also shared how effectively interoperability can be done for the consortium’s full benefit, among other things.
In her closing remarks, Ms. Peace Mutukwa, the African Union Commission (AUC) Knowledge Management and Communication Officer in the Department of Agriculture and Food Security, said that the meeting would improve how the AUC will work with other organizations. She was also grateful to the CAADP-XP4 consortium for the established working relations in knowledge management. She advised that this should also scale to other thematic areas. Ms. Mutukwa reiterated that the meeting was a good starting point as it would improve linkages and help harmonize how we do things. This is an excellent opportunity for AUC, and we look forward to taking the Research to Extension agenda forward for Africa.
In closing the meeting, Mr. Max Oloput, speaking on behalf of the Executive Director, thanked all for attending the workshop. He said the meeting unveiled what was there and is now being overlooked and that the discussion was timely. There is need to get research and extension working together mainly to benefit the farmers and everyone in the food chain. He intimated that when the farmer produces, it leads to better production, environment and life and makes everyone happy and healthy. Mr. Oloput emphasized that technologies should be available, accessible, usable and affordable for the farmer’s benefit and, ultimately, the entire continent.
In her official closing remarks, Mrs. Maria Kamau, the AFAAS Board Member, said that disseminating Technologies, Innovations and Management Practices (TIMPs) relies on donor support. However, Africa must think of sustainable processes that will allow it to stand on its own to have food and nutritional security. She stressed the great opportunities available to improve the lives of farmers, as evidenced by the many research organizations that have come on board. She urged the CAADP-XP4 Consortium to support research that will benefit all the stakeholders at the country level, regional and continental levels and to work towards developing an inventory of all the TIMPs that show the status of dissemination.
Mrs. Kamau appealed to AUC to encourage the Member states to develop a basket fund that can meet the needs of nationals. She also stressed the need to build the capacity of the extension workers so that they can disseminate the TIMPs to the farmers. “Let us do an inventory that will show where the TIMPs are, which ones have been disseminated and those in the pipeline”, she concluded.
The KMC also strategized to weave knowledge management into the R2E Agenda as it is a critical component which, if left out, the gap will continue to exist. They also sought to respond to whether Agricultural Research is driven by grassroots demand. The following questions were raised; are agricultural technologies and innovations adapted (affordable, replicable, flexible enough) for the supposed targets? Are research results well disseminated, increasing the knowledge and know-how of farmers and triggering changes in their livelihoods?
The participants developed a R2E Manzooni Declaration, which outlined what the CAADP-XP4 will do to bridge the gap between Research and Extension.
The CAADP-XP4 Consortium, representatives from KeFAAS, KARLO, AUC and the AFAAS Board Chair attended this meeting.
By the end of the workshop, it became clear that increasing investment in Agricultural Research is not enough to End Hunger and Malnutrition in Africa. But that it should be accompanied by the two professional bodies, Researchers and Extension officers, urgently working together to bring research results to the farmers and make a real impact. The KMC technical working group resolved that they would pursue Agricultural Research for impactful outcomes, including putting the farmers first!