How to be a catalyst for better agricultural outcomes in 2017

Developing countries which embrace a business – as – usual approach to agricultural development will take more than a century to eradicate food insecurity. Continuing with 2016 patterns implies 2017 will not be an improvement of what happened in the past years. It is no longer enough to be an agricultural change agent. All value chain actor, including consumers, should become full participants in agricultural transformation.


While there is a temptation to continue conducting workshops and the same style of field days, 2017 should see more emphasis on combining dialogue with documentation.  Some people think that reading is a less efficient way of gaining knowledge than conversations and dialogue. How much of the content from agricultural conversations conducted in 2016 can you remember? That is where documentation becomes critical. There are many cases where documenting agricultural patterns is safer in the long run than storing knowledge in memories.


Many agricultural value chain actors can identify with the following memory flaws:

  • Memories fade over time.  How many farmers or traders can trust ideas that they stored in their memory in June 2016?
  • There are many false memories as shown by how some value chain actors may clearly remember things which never happened.
  • Many agricultural value chain actors selectively remember information which support their existing opinions. Such a bias distorts memory.
  • Farming communities and groups of traders can form their own knowledge bubbles which filter out contrary views and knowledge that may turn out to be correct.

Although human memory is rich and nuanced, it can suffer from numerous false opinions, bias and prejudice. On the other hand, although documented knowledge can lack important contextual details, it can be a powerful memory aid.


The power of documentation

It is through documentation that value chain actors can be able to gather knowledge from the following questions:

  • What was expected to happen in our agricultural initiatives in 2016?
  • What actually happened?
  • Why was there a difference?
  • What is the learning for the future?
  • What action should we take to embed these lessons?

In 2017, all lessons should be documented in such a way that each becomes a stand-alone document which can be read and understood in isolation at the end of the year.  / /

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