A webinar on capacity development, organized on 1 March 2017 by GFAR and the Tropical Agriculture Platform (TAP) in collaboration with the Platform for African European Partnership on Agricultural Research for Development (PAEPARD), discussed the role of facilitators as agents of change for agricultural innovation.
During the webinar, entitled “Agents of Change in Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation: The Value of Facilitators”, facilitators involved in the PAEPARD project and the EU-funded CDAIS initiative shared their hands-on experience in assessing capacities and capacity development needs in Benin, Burkina Faso, Honduras and Rwanda. 50 webinar participants, from research institutions, universities, extension services, and organizations working on capacity development, learned just how these facilitators are acting as “agents of change” in their respective countries
The participants discovered that facilitators must do more than just link actors to information sources and knowledge. In order to be an agent of change, a facilitator must be able to create trust among actors involved in the learning process and support them in tracking and reflecting on the process of developing their capacity to innovate.
Facilitation is essential
A common thread that emerged through the discussion was the idea that no single actor alone can tackle the issues agriculture faces today and that innovation, a pre-condition to enable agriculture to meet the challenges of achieving food and nutrition security, requires collective thinking and action.
Which is why facilitation is essential: it helps get the multiple actors involved – researchers, extension agents, producers, agribusiness and others – together in a constructive dialogue and learning process.
Facilitation is particularly relevant for the agricultural innovation system approach, a relatively new concept that will require time to be widely recognized by all relevant actors.
Farmers and innovation
Other aspects from the experiences shared by the facilitators and discussed during the webinar included the active role that farmers can play in agricultural innovation, provided they are encouraged to share their knowledge and see themselves as innovation actors and not recipients of knowledge created elsewhere to address their challenges. That is, the facilitator should make farmers or any other specific group feel that they have a lot to teach their peers. Most farmers usually believe that they are behind and that solutions need to come from an external source. It is therefore important to give them the possibility to express their opinions and make them understand that the facilitators have a common interest with them.
At the same time, it was stressed that proper training of facilitators themselves and collaboration with institutions are key to establishing partnerships capable of implementing the innovations.
More information about facilitation and the available tools can be found in the Common Framework on Capacity Development for Agricultural Innovation Systems, one of the TAP’s key components designed to promote better coherence and greater impact of capacity development in support of agricultural innovation systems, which recognizes the central role of facilitation in the process of innovation.
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