Feed the Future
This project is part of the U.S. Government's global hunger and food security initiative.

Michael Victor (CGIAR), Local Communication and KM Strategies

At the 2014 Scaling Up Adoption and Use of Agricultural Technologies GLEE in Bangkok, Thailand, participants got a chance to attend an innovative session that focused on "Decision-Making to Define and Select Effective Pathways." The session was organized using a "bus stop" approach, which was designed to be lively and interactive, and provided maximum space for discussions and networking. Below is a recorded bus stop and a set of questions and answers from the presenter.

What decision does the tool support in designing a scaling-up pathway?

Farmers throughout SE Asia are quickly moving from a relatively enclosed subsistence farming system to one that is focused on producing for the market.


For farmers to make informed decisions that address their household needs, they need to be aware of the range of agricultural options available to them, with corresponding technical and market information that addresses costs, risks and benefits associated with decisions.
In this context, farmers need more than simple recommendations; telling them what to plant and how to plant it will not help them make the complex decisions that are required in a commercial farming system. New ways of approaching communications with farmers are needed. The strategic communication process can assist organizations working with farmers and extension agents to produce more effective and useful information.


In this situation, there are two challenges. The first is how to provide appropriate information to farmers so they can adapt to these changes. The second is how to meet the information needs of an ethnically diverse country.

What is the tool and briefly, how does it work?

Communication for Development is generally defined as “intentional strategies designed to benefit the public good, where in terms of material, political or social needs” (Wilkins 2008). There are also many elements that are common to these terms including: 1) centrality of power 2) the integration of top down and bottom up approaches 3) use of a 'tool-kit' approach for communication 4) the integration of interpersonal and mass communication methods 5) incorporation of personal and contextual factors 6) the importance of knowledge generation amongst stakeholders rather than just knowledge transfer.

The main steps are briefly described:

  1. Identify communication needs with enough detail to develop a meaningful and effective intervention including use of surveys to inform the activity.
  2. Create a plan describing what it will take to complete the work.
  3. Develop, pre-test and adapt the messages and content for the product or event.
  4. Produce and disseminate materials to end users.
  5. Monitor and evaluate and decide to continue, stop, modify, or expand.

What are the strengths and weaknesses, and tradeoffs in using this tool?

Strengths Weaknesses
Bringing together multi-disciplinary teams which can develop specific materials for farmers Takes time and resources committed to develop         context specific campaigns
Monitoring and evaluation tools for communication are readily available Need to devote resources to changing attitudes and behaviour of extension staff to recognize different   knowledge and ways (no magic bullet)
Acknowledges and builds upon local knowledge  

 What does this tool tell you about the potential for scaling up or setting targets?

Scaling up is not only about the number and targets of people reached but also the quality of the process. In Asia, scaling up requires farmers to understand both the opportunities of the market economy and the risks. Ensuring that farmers have access to the right information in the appropriate formats is important to ensure quality of development.

What is the approximate cost and time needed to use this tool?

For each campaign at least 1 year is needed 3-8 months to design, develop and implement a communication campaign and then 2 months for evaluating the effectiveness. The methodology is scalable in terms of being able to be adapted to large-scale campaigns or small-scale cost effective campaigns.

What can the tool indicate about the sustainability of adoption or the likelihood of sustained long-term use of the technology?

The tool is focused on developing the adaptive capacity of farmers. In a rapidly changing context like SE Asia, improving the adaptive capacity of farmer may be a more important goal than the adoption of any specific packages of technology. Adaptive Capacity is the ability of a system to adjust to change so as to limit potential damage, take advantage of opportunities, or otherwise cope with the consequences. The concept has gained widespread attention as part of the debate on climate change, but is equally relevant with respect to economic change.

 


Michael Victor (m.victor@cgiar.org) is global coordinator for the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems. He has worked in Southeast Asia for more than 20 years focused on research-extension linkages, policy communication, knowledge management, capacity development, and project design in the agriculture and natural resource management sector.