The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Knowledge Management and Gender (KMG) programme organised a Knowledge Share Fair in Niamey, Niger in June 2010. The objective of the fair was to promote knowledge sharing and dissemination of good practices, particularly in support of food security and for the empowerment of rural populations. The event made use of participatory tools and sessions to facilitated knowledge-sharing and participation amongst all who attended, especially women.
The Knowledge Share Fair was chosen (as opposed to a conference or forum) to highlight the use of a participatory approach for knowledge exchange on technical topics of common interest to the Knowledge Management and Gender programme partners in West Africa. The Fair brought together producers’ organisations, non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and development projects, organisations interested in the topics covered by the KMG programme, technical services and United Nations agencies, students and researchers from universities or specialised agricultural training centres, and representatives of financial and technical partners of FAO. The topics addressed were: management of agricultural inputs, good agricultural practices and innovations (eg. micro-gardens, and information and communication for the rural world, such as community listeners clubs, crank and solar radios, and cellular phones with solar chargers.
According to the organisers, knowledge sharing entails more than just sharing. It implies working together and helping one another, while at the same time drawing on creativity, collaboration, and participation. Each session was facilitated using a specific knowledge-sharing method or tool. This methodology enabled the participants to discover what can be done in a participatory way and to share experiences. Examples of tools used were: maquis mondial (a French-language and African version of the "world café"); the carrousel, a variant of the maquis mondial; chat shows; proverbs; tree of knowledge; exchange visits; and presentations with debates. The formats of the various sessions included plenary sessions to open and close each day; workshop-debates on specific themes; roundtable discussions and demonstrations to question, discuss, and debate a particular experience, activity, or practice presented by an organisation; and video documentary screenings by individuals or organisations followed by a discussion.
Women from different rural areas of Niger were invited to present their experiences with radio listeners’ clubs and explain how their lives had been changed by them. The majority of these women had never owned or even listened to a radio before. Following their first presentation, they held an additional session to explain how each group has organised its community listeners’ club – in line with their specific needs and desires, how they work better both among themselves and with men, how much their self-confidence has grown, and how they visualise the future.
During the Knowledge Share Fair, an interactive ShareFair website (in French) was launched where many participants registered to keep in touch with one another after the event. Minutes of the sessions, notes, files, and articles written specially for the fair plus other documents collected by the organisers to support the topics covered were put online. A CD-ROM compiling all materials was produced and distributed to all the participants.
Running from 2008 to 2011, the Knowledge Management and Gender programme is a collaboration between Dimitra, Hortivar, the Capitalisation of Good Practices in Support of Agricultural Production and Food Security project, and the Rural Finance Learning Centre (RFLC). The KMG programme is working to: make knowledge dissemination more efficient; promote knowledge sharing; promote and disseminate good practices, especially with respect to supporting food security and the empowerment of rural populations; and facilitate collaboration and synergies between as many development actors as possible.
Dimitra, Hortivar, the Capitalisation of Good Practices in Support of Agricultural Production and Food Security project, and the Rural Finance Learning Centre.