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Thursday, 18 December 2014

Enhancing knowledge sharing through Laikipia Rural Voices

By Bob Aston
The Laikipia Rural Voices (LRV) was started by Arid Lands Information Network (ALIN) in 2011. This was an initiative aimed at promoting citizen journalism by training young people in basic Journalism skills such as photojournalism, news writing, creative writing, feature writing, Interviewing, blogging and media laws and ethics.
ALIN’s initiative of training local communities on citizen journalism and blogging has also led the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) grantees from Laikipia County to adopt the initiative as a way of sharing their project experiences.
This is expected to not only enhance their online visibility but also help in closing knowledge gaps, improving accessibility of indigenous knowledge as well as ensuring that communities are better informed about Sustainable Land Management (SLM).
3 members of Upper Ewaso Narok WRUA being trained on blogging
Improving communities’ access to knowledge and skills is one of the activities that ALIN has carried out for years with a strong focus on small-scale sustainable agriculture, climate change adaptation, natural resources management (NRM) and other livelihood issues.
ALIN has been involved in knowledge sharing for more than 22 years now using various platforms that include use of videos documentation, exchange visits, open learning days and articles aimed at farmers and pastoralists. The organization has also been using two publications namely Baobab which features small scale sustainable agriculture and Joto Africa, a climate change briefing highlighting case studies on adaptation.
Many youths have been encouraged to join farming through the various LRV blog posts. They have been able to learn from what their peers are doing as well as gathering information about different crops and farming practices.
James Mwangi, 20, had his story featured in LRV and since then many youths were encouraged with his passion for farming and some even decided to start farming.
“Many youths read the article and some who had never thought about farming were encouraged to venture into farming. I was told that I am an inspiration to them,” said James.
On his part, James Mwai, 26, resigned from his teaching job to start farming after reading a lot of information about farming through LRV.
“I had gathered a lot of information about farming from ALIN and through the various blog posts that I read from LRV. This contributed to the reason why I decided to start farming,” said Mwai.
LRV has been at the forefront of promoting SOKO+ which is a digital commodity trading and information system linking small scale farmers to end retailers and Farm Records Management Information System (FARMIS-Kenya) which is a farm management and diagnostic tool based on the use of farm records.
The two products are dear to LRV as they help to empower farmers. Seeing farmers improve their livelihood is an issue that ALIN has always been keen on.
Blogging capacity building training by ALIN
LRV has now gone a step further and is now documenting ALIN’s project which seeks to strengthen community resilience to impacts of climate change and stewardship of natural resources in Baringo, Kajiado and Laikipia counties. The project which is being supported by Act! Change! Transform! (ACT) seeks to promote Climate Smart Agriculture (CSA).
Blogging on agriculture and particularly on successes and issues faced by youths engaged in agriculture, highlighting the role and importance of family farming as well as issues pertaining to climate change, environment conservation and NRM enabled ALIN through LRV to emerge the best in East Africa region in the Institution category of Youth in Agriculture Blog Competition (YoBloco Awards).
The award enabled ALIN to be represented at the Fin4Ag Conference: revolutionising finance for agri-value chains that had brought together decision makers from both public and private sectors with an aim of building a modern and high performing agricultural financing system. The conference provided an opportunity for ALIN representatives to learn more about the increasing importance of agricultural value chain finance, create new partnership and improve current project on working with farmers.
The knowledge gathered during the conference has now enabled LRV to document and disseminate information about agricultural value chain finance. Prior and during the conference ALIN representative who also volunteered as a social reporter managed to write a total of 8 articles that were shared in CTA blogs.
To date, ALIN has trained 188 community members on basic journalism skills and blogging and also helped community members to start their own blogs. LRV has so far registered more than 68,000 visitors while number of articles posted now stands at 401.
Other partners have also started using articles from the blog in disseminating information about farming. The work of LRV has also been replicated by ALIN across its Maarifa centres.
LRV has also been increasing awareness and understanding of the challenges faced by smallholders as well as raising their profile by focusing attention on its role in alleviating hunger, poverty, providing food security and improving livelihoods, while protecting the environment and biodiversity.

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