There’s a buzz in the air at the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW), here in Accra. “Everyone’s talking about it,” said a friend from FAO. Something is happening and it’s getting people excited. But this time it’s not a new seed variety or scalable technology; this time it’s the Africa Agriculture Technology Platform.
The Africa Agriculture Technology Platform is a follow-through on the 2012 G8 commitments to develop a platform to support the scaling up adoption of agricultural technologies, to contribute to the goal of raising 50 million people in Africa out of poverty in the next 10 years.
The “platform” is an approach that includes clear face-to-face country-focused services to support the development and implementation of plans to scale up sustainable agriculture, starting in four New Alliance countries. It also includes a “virtual” web-based component, which will provide key data, information, and knowledge to help countries with decision-making and prioritization.
Yesterday, I attended a side event at the AASW called “African Agriculture Technology Platform: Visioning and Next Steps Meeting”. The purpose was to convene a high-level group of stakeholders who have an interest in, and could contribute to, the development of this Technology Platform, with a focus on the so-called “virtual platform”.
Refreshing was the fact that instead of kicking off with a slick presentation about what this virtual platform might deliver as a solution, the meeting focused on what is already working, particularly through the work of FARA and their Sub-Regional Organisations on their ‘innovation platforms’.
These ‘innovation platforms’ rely much more on face-to-face, on the ground collaboration of a broad range of stakeholders. “The key for this virtual platform is trying to answer the question ‘how can this virtual platform support our face-to-face work?’” said Adewale Adekunle, FARA’s leader for the platform. The meeting also included short presentations from different CGIAR Centers and programs of virtual tools that could be considered for the virtual platform.
And then we listened. Some call it “user-centric design”; others call it “a focus group”. It doesn’t really matter; the point is that we were able to get input from some of the people who might actually use this virtual platform. The team charged with leading the development of this platform – FARA and the CGIAR Consortium, along with key partners – were able to listen to ideas, thoughts, concerns and input from a broad range of stakeholders including scientists, donors, extensionists, and implementers.
But buzz doesn’t mean anything if there isn’t any follow-through. I look forward to working with FARA and other committed partners to develop a clear workplan to move this project forward so that it can start to meet the expectations that have left the halls of this conference buzzing.
Blogpost by Piers Bocock, Director of Knowledge Management and Communication (CGIAR Consortium)
Picture courtesy Neil Palmer/CIAT