CCARDESSA and ZimAgriHub, Inspired cooperation for a transformed Knowledge Innovation services delivery in Zimbabwe
The Zimbabwe Agriculture Growth Project (ZAGP) funded by the European Union has embarked on improving farmers economic livelihoods by supporting agricultural knowledge innovation services in Zimbabwe. The Zimbabwe Agricultural knowledge and Innovation Services (ZAKIS) under the ZAGP program seeks to strengthen working links between Agricultural Research, Education and Extension within Zimbabwe. Previously, these three elements of Zimbabwe’s innovation services have been operating in isolation to the disadvantage of all Agricultural stakeholders. To achieve this, a consortium of NGO’s led by Welthungerhilfe in partnership with the government’s Ministry of Agriculture (Department of Research and Specialist Services, the Department of Agriculture and Farmer Training and the Department of Agricultural Extension), has sought to design a knowledge portal or virtual agricultural centre of excellence, called the ZimAgriHub.
The ZimAgriHub will bring this collaboration into a reality where stakeholders from the public, private, Academia and Development sector all benefit and participate, sharing and contributing to the wealth of agricultural knowledge that exists in Zimbabwe and beyond.
A much more complex but similar initiative at a regional level of the Southern African Development Community (SADC), by the Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development of Southern Africa (CCARDESA) provided ZAKIS with the opportunity to learn from and build on the expertise and experiences formed in developing and running CCARDESA Knowledge hub. This cooperation will ensure that the ZimAgriHub is farmer-focused and enables all stakeholders who serve the farmer community to access information with ease. In July 2019, the ZAKIS project engaged with technical expertise from CCARDESSA and invited the consultants who build the CCARDESSA knowledge management portal. Simon Hughes and Zoran Nikolić travelled to Harare and completed initial research, engaging with the government and other key agricultural stakeholders in Zimbabwe. This was to have a sound articulation of the needs of the sector from a knowledge management perspective. Secondly, the consultants had the mandate to map the telecommunications infrastructure landscape in Zimbabwe at potential host centres and the support service provision companies. Their recommendations will mean ZAKIS and the ZimAgriHub will benefit from the learnings from the CCARDESA experience and the valuable insights of the CCARDESA consultants.
The head of ZAKIS Project Waddilove Sansole applauded the collaboration stating “ We want to create a digital repository that will best serve the Zimbabwe information needs from a knowledge management perspective in a way that is interactive, dynamic and accessible to all, building on the learnings of CCARDESA. This will point us in the right direction as we do not have to reinvent the wheel”. While the lead organisation Welthungerhilfe has built digital solutions like the Kurima Mari mobile app, interactive and multi-sector knowledge management platforms with the government being a key partner is a groundbreaking initiative. CCARDESA’s expertise will add value through its existing network of influence and technical capabilities in knowledge management. Tawanda Mthintwa Hove, the ICT4Development coordinator, stated that “the Digital platform we are creating will be the national “go-to place” for agricultural knowledge. We need to make sure that it is built in such a way that the platform will be simple to use, accessible to all for both downloading and uploading but at the same time have quality assurance and interactive features. Considering the magnitude of the task, CCARDESA provides a good reference point in bringing this into reality.”
The issue of sustainability is always a challenge for donor-funded initiatives of this nature. However, the immediate involvement of Government in design and implementation is a step in the right direction. The Communications Learning Officer Kinwell Madhazi stated that “ We have seen the importance of having a Communications and Learning Unit in government which will manage the platform and considering that CCARDESA has already developed such a working group system with country focal people in the SADC communities, it makes sense to get guidance from those that have done it before”.
ZimAgriHub plans to be in operation early 2020, and with continued collaboration with CCARDESA, the future looks very bright for Zimbabwe Knowledge and Innovation services.