Reflection, Learning, and Vision: The KT Managers Meeting
Every year, we hold an internal meeting for country-level Knowledge Transfer Managers and other EWS-KT leaders, who gather together to reflect on EWS-KT’s progress, to learn from each other and from outside experts, and to plan for the future. While the KT Managers Meeting usually takes place in Asia or Africa, this year’s 3-day meeting was held in Amsterdam to provide more opportunities for learning from and connecting with current and prospective partners.
Growth & Expansion
East-West Seed Knowledge Transfer Foundation has grown exponentially in the last 5 years, and the 2022 KT Managers Meeting was a chance to look back on accomplishments and look forward to further development and expansion. As we have grown, we have tested different knowledge transfer and knowledge management methods and have broadened our approach to take better advantage of digital tools, both for tracking data and conveying the latest agronomic knowledge to farmers.
Our expansion from Asia to three countries in Africa—Tanzania, Uganda, and Nigeria—was a big step for us, and we are taking another step forward this year by establishing a Knowledge Transfer team in Ghana, as well as sharing our expertise with the University of Juba in South Sudan.
Country Teams in the Lead
In both Africa and Asia, we know that people make the difference in agricultural extension. Even with the best systems, the people in the field are the ones making decisions.
Our country teams know best what works and does not work locally, and so it is important that our Knowledge Transfer Managers lead the strategy and project implementation for knowledge transfer in their country. In light of this, the first day of the meeting focused on staff management and ensuring that EWS-KT cultivates a working environment that builds the capacity of KT Managers and encourages staff growth and involvement throughout the organisation.
Recognizing the need to increase the visibility of our work contributed to our decision to meet in Amsterdam and to connect with partners in new ways. At the end of the first day, we hosted partners and potential partners at a cocktail event on the canal to cement relationships and build new ones. Effectively communicating what we do and raising our capacity in this area are key to future partnerships and to reaching our goal of training 1 million farmers by 2025.
Learning for the Future
Two highlights of the meeting were forward-looking learning sessions led by our longtime partner Wageningen University & Research (WUR) and sustainable-agriculture company Koppert, both of which are based in the Netherlands.
WUR focused on the growing threat of biodiversity loss and on regenerative, or nature-inclusive, production techniques that could bring solutions. Regenerative techniques focus on how agriculture can work with nature and contribute to increased biodiversity and healthy soil.
EWS-KT will work with WUR to set up action research on protecting soil in the areas where we are training farmers. One such approach is the use of green manure—a technique where a cover crop is mixed into the soil while still green—to provide nutrients and organic matter and restore soil health. We will also look at the economics of regenerative agriculture techniques to sustain healthy vegetable production.
Koppert spoke about the environmental impact of chemical pesticides and about using biological controls to protect crops from pests. Koppert has developed some biological control products that could potentially be used by small-scale tropical vegetable producers, and the company is active in some of the countries where we are operating. One takeaway from the visit to Koppert was the high level of knowledge about pests and diseases that is needed to find the best natural solutions.
Potential opportunities for collaboration with Koppert might lie in training of trainers, to further build the capacity of EWS-KT staff in this area, and in setting up action research with Koppert’s biological control and soil health products.
We already have extensive print and online resources that enable farmers to identify pests and implement natural prevention, management, and control methods. Helping farmers to understand how biological control products work, and learning from farmers’ experience with using them, would be a further step toward a more sustainable future for vegetable farming.
These prospects for collaborating on action research with WUR and Koppert highlight the cutting-edge nature of our country teams in sharing advanced knowledge and techniques for sustainable agriculture to smallholder farmers.