Global consultation reinforces CIARD in making agricultural knowledge accessible and useful for smallholders

Representatives of national, regional and global organisations met for the CIARD (Coherence in Information for Agricultural Research for Development) Global Consultation from 6-8 May 2013 at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) campus in Addis Ababa. The meeting was hosted by the CGIAR, and it was co-organised with CTA, FAO and GFAR. The consultation participants endorsed the CIARD movement and set a new focus in supporting innovation in smallholder agriculture. The partners reaffirmed their commitment to enlarge the movement to reinforce efforts to open agricultural knowledge and to enhance its appropriation and use in support of smallholders.

The participants reviewed progress and achievements since the inception of CIARD in 2008. CIARD, since then, has enabled a wide range of actors to pool their experiences and tools to improve access to agricultural data, information, and knowledge. Participants reported on relevant actions that have been taken at several national, regional and global levels. A key achievement has been the global registry of agricultural information resources and services, the CIARD.RING, which continues to grow and is expected to pass 500 organizational contributors shortly. Participants established that greater coherence in interventions of partner organisations had also been achieved and that this form of collaboration will spread as the movement expands.

The CIARD movement is harnessing the increasing worldwide interest in opening access to agricultural knowledge. This was most recently manifested in the G20 Meeting of Agricultural Chief Scientists and the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2) in 2012, as well as the G8 Open Data Conference in April 2013. Governments and international organizations have highlighted the need to provide accessible quality information to all actors involved in achieving food security and supporting rural development, with a specific focus on small producers.

The Consultation drew on findings of partner meetings in 2011 and 2012 as well as visioning exercises during this meeting to identify priority areas of action for the next two years and key elements of a programme of work for the next two years were defined. A key decision was to simplify the principal message in relation to advocacy around CIARD, to focus on the openness, appropriateness, and integration of knowledge, as the basis of a new communication strategy for CIARD. Advocacy for broader involvement in CIARD was also given a high priority for which resource materials developed collaboratively would be for adaptation and use by the partners.

A high priority was also given to collection and dissemination of evidence across two dimensions, namely evidence of the effectiveness of the CIARD movement itself, and evidence that ‘Openness’ in agricultural information and knowledge brings benefits to agricultural and rural communities. The latter is also important in terms of demonstrating use of the Pathways and achievement of the Checklist. In addition, the CIARD website will be redesigned to present the major elements of content to reflect the collaborative nature of the CIARD movement and its impact. For example, the joint development of learning resources among members, such as the Information Management Resource Kit (IMARK), and the revised CIARD.RING interface will continue to be major capacity development initiatives in CIARD. In addition, the use of “open” information for value added services with applications will be demonstrated.

The self-assessment “Checklist” for its members and the associated “Pathways” towards opening access to agricultural knowledge were re-examined. These resources will now be revised to fit an expanded scope to encompass more fully “Organizational culture and capacity”, and “Sharing of knowledge” in support of innovation systems aimed at smallholder producers. A mechanism will be established for the continued collaborative development of the Pathways and associated good practices and tools for sharing knowledge, including a set of indicators for monitoring and evaluation of progress in their implementation.

Three Task forces were originally created to coordinate activities in the CIARD movement in advocacy, capacity development and content management. The Agricultural Information Management Standards (AIMS) community will continue to play a major role in delivering the products and services conceptualised by the Content Management Task Force, given that it has grown to embrace all the relevant topics and already has a wide range of members. It was agreed to further examine the need for a more formal governance mechanism for the CIARD movement especially to mobilize resources for activities to be implemented by members of the movement at regional and national levels. Complementary communities already supported by CIARD partners will leveraged to enhance collaboration towards opening access to agricultural knowledge.