To facilitate access by livestock stakeholders to reliable and up-to-date information and knowledge to inform timely decision-making.
Poor access to information is one of the biggest bottlenecks to agricultural innovation in Africa. The livestock sub-sector is worse-off in this regard than crop agriculture. While some attempts are being made at national levels, the challenge remains: West Africa is one of the most poorly endowed regions in terms of knowledge development and sharing platforms. Data, information and knowledge from outside of the continent are often used to serve as proxies in making decisions on Africa and, ironically, a significant amount of data and information on Africa is accessed from sources located outside the continent.
End-users, especially livestock keepers, have limited access to the critical information they need for decision-making. The information has to be up to date, in the right format, the right language at the right time and in the right place. End users also need support in learning how to adapt new information to their own unique contexts. Information is needed for policy-making and investment decisions, for monitoring the impact of interventions, for capacity building as well as for day-to-day management by producers and actors along the value chain.
A lot of data and information have been and continue to be generated at local, national, regional and international levels by a range of stakeholders. Much of this information remains in raw form or has been processed for elite audiences and hence is not useful or accessible to the people who need it most. Moreover, significant amounts of data are of little value because their integrity has not been tested through analysis and use.
Ensuring that data is available to stakeholders for validation and use will help to discourage wasteful duplication of efforts. Currently, livestock keepers may be repeatedly subjected to surveys by researchers asking the same or similar questions because previously collected data is not readily accessible to them.
Higher-level regional analyses that compile national data could add significant value to data collection efforts. In addition, collecting and analyzing data from multiple countries could allow for more robust prediction and forecasting capacities that would permit long-term decision-making and investments at national and regional levels. The results of such analyses could be used to generate knowledge products and could be made accessible to livestock stakeholders in appropriate formats.
The overall aim of this thematic area is to empower livestock stakeholders with information and knowledge to inform the design of interventions. Unrestricted access to information coming out of publicly-funded R&D initiatives is a critical prerequisite for success in the livestock sector.
WALIC will work with donors/investors to advocate for, and explore ways through which livestock data and information can more successfully be placed in the public domain. The Centre will facilitate the development of formal mechanisms for collecting and collating information and for transforming it into knowledge products. While the primary focus of the thematic area will be on enhancing access to knowledge by stakeholders, deliberate efforts will be made to use knowledge management platforms to stimulate internal learning practices, thus helping to transform WALIC into a true learning organization, a knowledge broker on livestock, and the place to go for data, information and knowledge on livestock issues relevant to West Africa.
The emergence of ICT in the last two decades has established knowledge management as a tool for addressing the challenges related to collecting, analyzing and disseminating information. Mobile telephony is a major breakthrough in this regard.
Stakeholders at all levels now increasingly recognize the pivotal role of information in priority-setting, planning and decision-making. This recognition is beginning to translate into significant investments in information and knowledge management.
The AU Commission, through its Africa Statistics Project, is already taking steps to provide information to its member states. In the animal resources sector, AU-IBAR started modernizing its information management capacity through one of its projects (PACE) by introducing an ICT infrastructure, including the Animal Resources Information System (ARIS). The wealth of data and information that IBAR has collected over the years through its programmes and projects are available for further analysis and knowledge creation.
There are several other initiatives with important knowledge management components: the Livestock Information Management System for managing livestock statistics and sharing information in the SADC region; the LINKS project developed through the GL-CRSP Livestock Early Warning System (LEWS) project. LINKS, which was established in 1997, is placing LEWS technology inside a broader livestock information and analysis system designed to improve livestock markets and trade, with a focus on pastoral systems in eastern Africa. Additional initiatives include the AU-IBAR/FAO/ILRI/World Bank Livestock Data in Africa – Improving data for better policies
, funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, and a recent Livestock Data Initiative currently under development by the East African Community.
WALIC will be well placed to facilitate a process through which these and other initiatives such as the PROGEBE can be leveraged to serve the information and knowledge demand for West Africa, adding value to these existing initiatives and avoiding duplication of efforts.
A key issue facing this thematic area relates to poor mechanisms, infrastructure and incentives for collecting, analyzing and sharing the knowledge generated from agricultural research at national and regional levels. Many wheels are being reinvented, in part due to a lack of data/information capture and sharing mechanisms. Ironically, many R&D practitioners can more easily gain access to information in international journals and conferences than to locally generated research as reported in local journals, conferences, theses and technical reports.
Specific challenges include:
- How to systematically collect and collate existing data/information from various sources and make them available for use now and in the future.
- How to facilitate improvement in the quality, relevance and coherence of data coming from projects and programmes.
- How to develop efficient linkages among different national, regional and international databases or information systems to enable efficient ways of data collection, analysis and sharing
- How to establish systems for capturing and storing data in readily accessible formats for analysis/use in different ways for different purposes.
- How to determine and consistently respond to Africa’s ongoing data, information and knowledge needs.
Key result areas
The knowledge management strategy of WALIC aims to strengthen livestock-related knowledge sharing and learning processes at local/community, national and regional levels in West Africa. This will foster systematic learning from the experiences gained in previous and ongoing livestock R&D programmes across the region. Such learning will underpin the development of new and innovative ways of improving livestock development and the formulation and implementation of effective policies.
The availability of information on best practices (i.e. on management, production, health, feed and processing) and early warning systems (e.g. on droughts, floods and disease outbreaks), packaged in the right format and languages for their target groups, will assist producers in making good management decisions. Likewise, the efficient management of information on markets (local, national, regional and global) will improve market access for livestock and livestock products.
WALIC will position itself to be the place to go for information/data and knowledge that is relevant to the livestock industry and other stakeholders, including investors, educators, students, media and others in West Africa.
3.1 Facilitating testing of a range of options on the use of ICT to improve the efficiency and transparency of livestock value chains
ICT, including mobile telephones, can provide value chain actors with a solid basis from which to do business. For example, up-to-date market information, obtained through a simple SMS system, can be posted on information boards in towns and villages, effectively linking small producers to an Internet-trading platform. e.g. a regional server or portal on livestock data, including market information. These could in turn be relayed through radios to reach more remote rural communities. The technology is already here; the challenge is to come up with an economically viable, self-sustaining system for livestock keepers and other stakeholders.
3.2 Development of specific knowledge products, including databases and multimedia
Such products can be used to inform decision-making at various levels:
- Databases on specific aspects of animal health, animal feeding and breeding that can be summarized and made accessible to producers and traders – e.g. through national radio stations.
- Compiled and synthesized data/information on livestock and climate change, including both the contribution of livestock to climate change and the impact of climate change on animal production, to inform policy-making and public education.
- Success stories on the pilot use of new technologies and approaches that are suitable for scaling up and out. Such success stories will strengthen the interaction between target clients and innovators.
- Livestock market information systems that build on existing efforts to improve the quality, availability and use of market information by producers and other livestock value chain actors in the region.
3.3 Facilitating the development of weather and climate databases to support decision-making by livestock keepers
This will be achieved through strategic investment in quality weather data, which can be used to help livestock keepers better manage risks. The databases will link to other early warning systems in the region and elsewhere as well as to indigenous early warning systems. This activity links to the capacity building thematic area; producers will need training in how to use forecasts to improve their preparedness, including through breeding and feeding strategies. Given the diverse uses of weather data, this thematic area has the potential to attract significant partnerships, including public and private partnerships, to further improve the quality of data collection and analysis.
3.4 Economic and policy analysis
Linked to the advocacy theme, the aim of this activity is to provide data and information that support economic arguments for investing in livestock health, nutrition and breeding. The activity will be carried out in collaboration with AU-IBAR, GALVmed, ILRI, and other partners. It will involve compiling lessons from the field as well as modelling the effects of different policies on livestock development and the overall economy as basis for generating policy briefs for use in advocacy.
Operationally, the work involving the synthesis of existing information and developing models, and knowledge products will be, to the extent possible, outsourced or done through commissioned assignments, e.g. with universities and private sector practitioners.