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Learning from sharing knowledge - TECA exchange group in Uganda

By sharing knowlegde about proven technologies, TECA aims to enhance their adoption (© FAO/Jon Spaull)
By sharing knowlegde about proven technologies, TECA aims to enhance their adoption
© FAO/Jon Spaull

Sharing information and good practices is essential to promoting knowledge-based policy and national capacity to improve the livelihoods of smallholder producers. This was recognised by the L'Aquila Joint Statement on Global Food Security and the TECA initiative* specifically addresses access to and sharing of technologies at a rural level, where the majority of poor and food insecure people live. With the purpose of testing the TECA platform among rural users, a pilot project was launched in 2010 in Uganda with the support of AGRIDEA** in the form of "Exchange Groups".

TECA is an FAO initiative that aims at improving access to information and knowledge sharing about proven technologies for small-producers in order to enhance their adoption thus addressing food security, climate change, poverty alleviation and sustainable development. The TECA platform is based on an open-source content management system (Drupal) that allows the use of different web tools (exchange groups, comments, rating, forum, videos, audios, etc.). Besides the web tools, the platform also hosts an online repository with more than 800 technologies from FAO field projects and 20 international partners. Although there are a number of existing online platforms to exchange information, what makes TECA different is that the material is not academically oriented and therefore is easy to interpret for those who work directly with small-producers in rural areas.

Exchange Groups consist of representatives of farmer groups, organisations, research institutions, NGOs and individuals who are willing and prepared to share knowledge, experiences, or any kind of information relevant to smallholder producers. Information can be shared through group discussion forums, by uploading audio and video recordings or through interacting with experts. Groups are moderated by a group administrator (facilitator), and access is free and open to everyone.

Off to a good start

Today more than 230 members have registered in the TECA Uganda Exchange Group to discuss topics ranging from seed quality to problems with counterfeited agro inputs, difficulties with market access and a potato disease outbreak in the Bukeda region.

Two halves of a hollowed out piece of wood, when put back together, form a log hive for beekeeping (© Charlotte Lietaer)
Two halves of a hollowed out piece of wood, when put back together, form a log hive for beekeeping
© Charlotte Lietaer

Even if farmers are not familiar with the internet, they are not isolated; they interact with different partners who are members of the Exchange Group and through this network even remote smallholder producers can gain access to available technologies and good practices. Furthermore, the network also allows for local knowledge to be shared within a wider community and provides opportunities to encourage 'informal' networks to form within the group, beyond the immediate scope of the online platform.

Students have been shown to be a very important and active group of the TECA platform. Although not initially targeted as a priority, they have proved to be eager to learn about new technologies and are keen to maximise the use of the TECA platform. Giving them an opportunity to exchange with different players, and introducing them to the idea of knowledge management, is a key asset for their future work in the field of agriculture.

Major experiences from TECA in Uganda

Eleven months since its establishment, the TECA Uganda Exchange Group has had very positive feedback from the more than 260 group members. Members have been able to share their experiences and create informal network relations between different partners and, throughout the set-up procedure, four key processes were recognised. First, the Uganda pilot revealed the importance of an active group facilitator. Their task is to bring individuals together, identify the common interests of the group, initiate discussions among them, motivate members to contribute, foster interaction, identify experts and provide technical assistance.

TECA members have been able to discuss topics ranging from seed quality to problems with counterfeited agro inputs (© Ahmed Kamara)
TECA members have been able to discuss topics ranging from seed quality to problems with counterfeited agro inputs
© Ahmed Kamara

Then, although TECA is designed as an online forum, personal gatherings have proved to be essential for establishing a vibrant online community, strengthening the relationship and trust among group members. The third experience of the process is that bringing different actors together from the production, research, extension and development sector helps them to realise the importance of knowledge management. In the long term it is hoped that this will lead to a more proactive attitude to information sharing. Fourth, commitment: the success of the exchange group largely depends on the commitment of individual members to actively participate in a discussion forum and to be being willing to share their knowledge with others.

TECA - adding value to innovation by community validation

One of the most important lessons learned through the implementation of the TECA project in Uganda is that while there are a many potentially useful technologies and good practices, they should be validated by different users before recommending them for scaling up. The TECA forum offers the perfect structure to provide transparent and constructive discussion about technologies because members can contribute to their improvement with their own professional and technical feedback. As a student of Makerere University, Andrew Nsamba, observed, "I took TECA technologies down to the farmers and some have worked for them. In the future, I think if TECA still goes on with its platform, it will be beneficial to our farmers by getting their feedback."

* TECA: Technology for Agriculture
** AGRIDEA: Swiss Association for the Development of Agriculture and Rural Areas
*** To join the Uganda Exchange Group, simply register on the TECA website

Written by: Nepomuk Wahl and Estibalitz Morras Dimas

Date published: January 2011

 

Have your say

Excelent experience. But how to cope with low tech tolerance... (posted by: Percy Young)

 

The New Agriculturist is a WRENmedia production.

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