KORE - Knowledge sharing platform on Emergencies and Resilience

Translating Knowledge into Action: Webinar Recap on Agropastoral Good Practices in West Africa

Click here to access the replay of the webinar!

Not only West Africa, but the entire African continent is a fertile ground for the development and implementation of good practices. Yet all too often, knowledge is left undocumented, and therefore remains out-of-reach to other stakeholders and decision-makers—not to mention the affected communities who stand to benefit from them the most.

That was one of the points raised and repeated during the April 13th webinar, “Capitalisation, diffusion et appropriation de bonnes pratiques agropastorales en faveur de la résilience en Afrique de l’Ouest” (“Capitalisation, dissemination, and adoption of resilience-building agropastoral good practices in West Africa”), organised and hosted by KORE, the knowledge sharing platform of the Office of Emergencies and Resilience (OER). The webinar saw the participation of 112 experts and practitioners representing 40 different countries, who came together to discuss how to facilitate the sharing and integration of evidence-based agropastoralism-related activities.

An estimated 268 million people—from the Sahel to the East Africa rangelands, down to Southern Africa—depend on pastoralism and agropastoralism for their livelihoods. Yet despite their numbers, nomadic and semi-nomadic populations have been excluded from many traditional emergency and resilience-building responses. Their mobile lifestyles and dependence on natural resources mean that pastoralists and agropastoralists remain uniquely vulnerable to food insecurity. They face overlapping risks, including climate variability and change, disputes around land rights and access, conflict and displacement, land degradation and reduced water sources, and animal and zoonotic disease.

Sharing knowledge and resources can have a transformational impact on their lives and livelihoods, helping build upon the fortitude and resilience that pastoralist and agropastoralist groups are already known for.

Here are some key insights and takeaways from the discussion:


Context is Key: Adapt the Intervention to Local People and Places

It is often observed that there is no “one size fits all” approach to humanitarian interventions. This is especially pertinent in the context of agropastoral communities, whose reach extends through multiple climactic zones and spans diverse social and political contexts.  These nuanced factors need to be considered even ahead of incorporating a resilience-building good practice into programming.

Several webinar participants noted that a sound diagnostic process and evaluation to understand the existing vulnerabilities and their triggers is crucial. That way, decision-makers can devise or refine the practice most adapted to local needs. Prioritizing community perspectives is key. As one participant succinctly noted, “Good practices must respond to the needs of beneficiaries.” That means incorporating a structured combination of relevant and evidence-based good practices.

Contextualizationtakes into account the range of characteristics within a particular place or community and translates and adapts them as needed. This work must be done not only between continents, but within continents and countries as well. For example, as one webinar discussant explained, just as a good practice first developed in India would need to be adapted to a West African context, a good practice implemented for a rainy and forested zone within Africa would also need to be adjusted to suit the Sahelian drylands.


“Il faut travailler ensemble!”: Make the Process Participatory

When it comes to resilience-building activities, the target community should not only be informed, but involved. Beneficiaries must be consulted from the earliest stages—even before it is decided to integrate a good practice. This also means having tools and chains of communication that remain open and accessible to community makers.

Here too, context is key: a participatory and inclusive process must respect the sociocultural context of the community. Affected populations must ideally understand the activity being implemented and feel a sense of ownership and inclusion. This requires direct and sustained contact between implementing partners, technical partners, and other actors in field, as well as opportunities for community dialogue.

To build a holistic approach, multi-sectoral coordination is encouraged. There should be coherence and synergy at every level of role and involvement. And local populations should be kept informed and engaged beyond the initial stages of implementation. This requires making sure that documentation and the methodologies being used are available and comprehensible to community members. Information should be accessible in local languages, not only French and English, as multiple webinar participants noted. And outreach should also be designed for communities with lower literacy rates.


Tailored Messages: Refine and Localize your Dissemination Plan

Knowledge shared is knowledge translated into actionable steps. One insight that emerged from the webinar discussion is the importance of dissemination. Documentation alone is never enough; essential to the adoption, adaptation, and replication of good practices is a defined communication plan. Both the content and the format need to be adapted to target audiences. This means that technical concepts and components should be simple enough for non-specialists to understand. Think about who is reading or watching your knowledge products. Is the message clear? What are the main takeaways? Avoid bombarding audiences with information. Instead, be judicious in how you craft and curate your communications. Know how to effectively transmit a message without causing confusion.

Here, too, context is key. This means that not only the content needs to be tailored to target audiences, but also the medium of communication. For example, if you want to reach a community where smartphones are prevalent, then take advantage of new technologies and digital platforms. However, if internet is known to be scarce in another region, then take your message off-line by using other available communication tools (e.g. radio broadcast, Information, Education, and Communication (IEC) materials such as posters and brochures, or even theater groups).

As one keynote speaker noted, it is wise to refrain from making blanket generalizations (e.g. “Youth get their information via video”) and take into account local characteristics and nuances instead. Build a communications strategy, not an information free-for-all. This can involve combining outlets and platforms to boost reach and engagement, such as using a mix of video documentation, technical factsheets, and other multimedia tools.


Living Practices: Understand Interventions as Dynamic, Not Static

A good practice shouldn’t be set in stone. As one discussant put it, Il ne faut jamais graver une bonne pratique dans le marbre (“One should never sculpt a good practice into marble.“) Although an initial evaluation is essential, the evaluative work shouldn’t end with implementation. There needs to be continual follow-up and a frequent reconsideration of the activities in question. Is the good practice still meeting community needs?  What kind of feedback is being gathered from people in the field? As another participant suggested, “Know when a good practice is obsolete.”

As observed above, adaptation is essential when replicating a good practice from one context or region to another. But what if the context changes? It is no less essential to refine or adapt a good practice to potential changes brought about by time. Socio-political factors can shift rapidly, especially in fluid security situations; even climate-related changes are occurring at a faster rate than ever before. Vital contextual factors identified at the outset of a good practice implementation might now have waning relevance. If an update is needed, then be prepared to refine the good practice activities. That means having devices at your disposal to adapt it to a changing context, and a means of adding new documentation if and as needed.

Tap into a network of good practice users quickly and efficiently to get the refined message across. Here again, we see the importance of a sound communication strategy. If you already have a dissemination structure in place, then you can leverage it once you need to send up-to-date information. But before reaching that step, how do you first determine if the activities are due for an update? There is one obvious way to answer that question, recalling perhaps the most fundamental piece of advice underlined throughout the two-hour webinar: Talk to local communities. And come prepared to listen.


Click here to access the replay of the webinar!

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