Improving knowledge management in animal resources to facilitate informed and timely decision-making.
To collate, analyse and make available in a timely manner, reliable and up-to-date data, information and knowledge on animal resources to support planning and decision-making.
1. The context
African agricultural innovation systems are constrained by poor access to knowledge and technologies. In many instances data, information and knowledge from elsewhere have had to be used as proxies in making decisions on Africa. Ironically, a significant amount of data and information on Africa is available from sources located outside the continent. End-users, such as rural smallholders, have even greater difficulty accessing the information and knowledge they require to address their many challenges – from production to markets. Information is required in the right format, 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 and knowledge of animal production, health, marketing and trade are needed for: influencing policy-making at continental, regional and national levels; making investment decisions; monitoring impact of interventions; capacity building; and day-to-day management by producers and operators along the production to market chain.
A lot of data and information have been generated in AU-IBAR through various projects. These need to be transformed into knowledge and made accessible to clients. The overall aim of this programme is to empower technical personnel in AU-IBAR and African partner institutions, and other end-users seeking to design and facilitate interventions, by ensuring access to information, decision-support tools and by learning about new approaches and technologies. This will be achieved by developing formal mechanisms for collecting and collating information and facilitating their transformation into knowledge products for innovation. Activities in this programme will also seek to strengthen the capacity of stakeholders with regard to learning skills and acquiring experiences needed to up-scale localized successful technologies derived from formal research and livestockproducer innovation across the continent. While the primary focus of this programme will be to enhance access to knowledge by AUIBAR's clients, deliberate efforts will be made to use the knowledge management platform to inculcate internal learning practices, thus helping transform AU-IBAR into a true learning organization. The aim of this will be to improve performance, comparative advantage, innovation and the sharing of lessons learned, and ensure continuous improvement of AU-IBAR's overall functioning as a provider of knowledge.
2. Main challenges
Lack of reliable information on animal resources remains a major challenge for planning large-scale interventions or formulation of policies and strategies for the sector at all levels. Decision making and monitoring of on-going activities require timely, complete and reliable information. With the growing trend of competitiveness, timely provision of science-based evidence for complying with global standards is mandatory for African animal products to penetrate
and retain access to markets. Although the situation is gradually improving, awareness of the importance of information and knowledge management as a cross-cutting tool and the need for investment is often neglected. Some the specific challenges include:
- How to facilitate the gathering of useful data and improve quality of data coming from ongoing and planned projects and programmes, as well as from clients and partners.
- How to improve relevance of data and coherence between sources.
- How to determine Africa's ongoing knowledge needs.
- How to select the relevant and reliable data and information to collect (that meet Africa's needs).
- How to gather, analyse (including disaggregation) and disseminate the existing data, information and knowledge.
- How to interconnect different international and regional animal resources information systems to enable efficient ways of data sharing.
Authorities at national, regional and international levels now increasingly recognize the pivotal role of information in prioritising, planning and decision making. It is hoped that the level of recognition will be accompanied by similar level of investment in information and knowledge management. Important steps in this regard were taken by the AUC through its Africa Statistics Project to provide information to its Member States. In the animal resources sector, AU-IBAR started modernizing its information management capacity through one of its earlier projects (PACE) by introducing ICT infrastructure, systems and, more importantly, the Animal Resources Information System (ARIS). The wealth of data and information AU-IBAR has collected over the years through its programmes and projects are available for further analysis and knowledge creation. With additional investment, AU-IBAR can up-scale its information and knowledge management and achieve the status of a centre of excellence for African animal resources. The existence of various international and regional information systems is an opportunity for sharing data, provided that the interconnectivity challenge is resolved.
4. Key Results Areas
The key results areas include:
- Increased competitiveness of African animal products on domestic and international markets through improved production and productivity as well as compliance with global standards. The availability of information on best practices (i.e. management, production, health, feed, processing etc) packaged in the right format for the right target groups will assist producers in making production decisions. Likewise, the efficient management of information on markets (local or international), knowledge of consumer preferences and market requirements, and compliance with these, will improve market access (national, regional and international) for African animal products.
- Effective and timely response to disease outbreaks; transparency and adherence to international standards. The collection, swift transfer, collation and analysis of disease surveillance data supported by laboratory evidence are the basis for early warning and early reaction. Efficient management of this component enables veterinary authorities to take appropriate measures in a timely manner in the face of emerging or reemerging TADs and zoonoses. Furthermore, the sharing of surveillance information with international organizations and trading partners enhances transparency and builds confidence, opening up markets for African animal products.
- Increased awareness of the contribution of animal resources to livelihoods and GDP resulting in improving investments in the sector. Although the contribution of the animal resources sector to food security, employment, wealth-creation and foreign currency earning is well understood in many African countries, the quantification and packaging of the information for the right audience at the right time has always been a challenge. Availability and use of credible and quality information has the potential to influence policy makers and to increase investment in the sector. Compelling data on the contribution of animal resources to GDPs, as well as current investments in the sector by Member States, are major gaps.
- Evidence-based policy formulation at all levels. Formulation of policies and strategies in the African animal resources sector often lack the necessary scientific evidence. The availability of reliable, complete and timely information will guide the development of policies and strategies at national, regional and continental levels.
- Capacity building of African experts involved in the sector. AU-IBAR has the responsibility of educating and creating awareness among the general public and providing information to other users. In order to provide adequate service to its main clients, i.e. animal resources professionals in Member States, AU-IBAR will, through this programme, provide data, information and knowledge which will form a basis for critical analyses, feeding into professional development and training programmes.
Outcomes and impacts
When delivered, the outcomes of activities in this programme will include: evidence-based policy formulation at country, regional and continental levels; more effective and timely response to disease outbreaks; increased awareness of the contribution of animal resources to livelihoods and GDP resulting in increased investments in the sector; and increased competitiveness of African animal products on domestic, regional and international markets.
5. AU-IBAR's roles and strategies to achieve desired goals
The unique institutional position of AU-IBAR, as a technical arm of the AUC with a mandate for animal resources and responsibility as knowledge broker, gives it a significant comparative advantage. AU-IBAR will use this strategic advantage to mobilize resources needed to facilitate the collation of information from various sources. It will further use its extensive networks with organizations and entities hosting repositories of relevant information within and outside the continent to gather information. AU-IBAR will use its technical capacity and access to expertise within and outside the continent to analyse, synthesize and optimise the value of data in order to enhance their relevance and utility as knowledge products. Through RECs and Member States, AU-IBAR has the necessary channels to obtain data and to disseminate information and knowledge to endusers.
The strategies AU-IBAR will use to achieve desired goals are:
- Upgrade ARIS and re-introduce it at AU-IBAR and to Member States.
- Collaborate with regional and international organisations (i.e. OIE, FAO, ILRI and RECs) to establish interconnectivity between databases to encourage sharing of data and easing Member States' burden of regular reporting.
- Stimulate existing and identify new reporting networks, tools (e.g. hand-held devices) and other means of collecting animal resources data, including from non-traditional but critical sources of important information (such as customs authorities, ministries of trade, chambers of commerce, commodity associations etc).
- Build clients' (Member States, RECs, field staff) capacity and awareness to improve the quality and timeliness of data gathering and reporting.
- Develop analytical tools to generate quality information on disease situation, animal production, marketing and trade, contribution of animal resources to livelihoods and GDP, as well as to track the level of investments by Member States and the private sector.
- Develop a framework and system capable of packaging animal resources information for different audience in order to create awareness, influence policy and conduct advocacy work.
- Establish the AU-IBAR Portal, revamping the Animal Health Yearbook and the Bulletin of Animal Health and Production in Africa, as well as modernizing the AU-IBAR library.
- Create a platform for African experts and volunteers from elsewhere to discuss and suggest solutions to animal resources challenges in Africa (discussion groups).
- Enhance the capacity of AU-IBAR (e.g. upgrading information management and communication tools and methods) for efficient and effective knowledge management.
- Collect best practices from relevant partners through information sharing platforms, forums and networks (e.g. ALive, UNCCD-TPN3, etc).