Pilot Sites and Knowledge Sharing Centres
MANY small farmers in Africa struggle to access knowledge on new technologies and innovative farming techniques. While commercial farmers here often have access to some of the latest technological innovations through local and international agricultural trade shows, small farmers on the continent are often not exposed to these innovations. However, even if they were exposed to these technologies, they are unlikely to have the financial means to acquire the technology. Moreover, few can afford the risk of adopting new technologies that have not been trialled before.
By involving research institutions across Africa and Europe, the DIVAGRI project is trialling innovative technologies first at identified pilot sites in Africa and then they are involving small farmers in adapting these technologies so that they do not have to take the risk themselves. DIVAGRI currently has twelve (12) pilot sites in the five African countries.
Like all farmers, small farmers will need to regularly adapt their practices. One of the primary ways of achieving this is through increasing their access to information and training at tertiary institutions. However, in many African countries small farmers do not meet the criteria to access tertiary education and even if they do, they do not always have the financial resources to pay for this education.
The DIVAGRI research project aims to assist in bridging this gap in the five African countries on the DIVAGRI project by establishing Knowledge Sharing Centres (KSCs) that will enable the continuous learning of small farmers, even after the research project is completed in 2025.
The KSCs will serve as a platform between scientists and end users to facilitate collaboration for technology improvement and provide training for the agricultural industry. They will provide technological input and know-how on production, installation, operation and maintenance of DIVAGRI bio-based technologies (BBTs). Fully equipped production workshops will be used for hands-on training and prototyping.
The objectives of Knowledge Learning Centres are:
- To enable continuous learning and facilitate regular feedback on the use of the BBTs.
- Serve as a connector between scientists and end users of the technologies.
- Contribute to sound knowledge base for capacity building and replication.
- Serve as a platform to gain first-hand experience in the technologies.
- A platform for beneficiaries (farmers) to return for refresher courses on the use of the technologies.
- Serve as a centre for innovation and dissemination of research findings and entrepreneurship.
The Knowledge Sharing Centres will take on different forms in different countries. Some of them will be more formal and will be linked to existing institutions such as a satellite campus of an existing university or vocational centre. In this instance, students will be mentored to take up research subjects on a particular BBT and undertake trials as part of their thesis or qualification. The centres will also be able to offer subject specific short-courses and workshops to farmers and entrepreneurs.
Other centres will be less formal and will emerge from the Communities of Practice and Learning Practice Alliances that are vehicles for mutual learning between the community and the researchers on the DIVAGRI project. Ideally all the KSCs should be equipped with virtual platforms to be able to deliver the training interventions via virtual technologies.