Honing in on Dissemination and Delivery (D&D) as a research theme

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The recent leadership team and steering committee in Nairobi (October 2012) was a pivotal one. As N2Africa heads into its fourth year, pressing issues revolve around a) ensuring key research questions have been addressed comprehensively; and b) accelerating delivery and dissemination—so that farmers can make informed decisions and reap the benefits of improved legume technology.

In terms of the latter—delivery and dissemination (D &D)—N2Africa has been structuring what is usually considered an implementation theme into a strategic research one. An inventory D+D of models used in the project was synthesized at the October 2012 meeting. It distinguishes among ‘inputs’ to which N2Africa is facilitating farmer access: that is, inoculant, seed, mineral fertilizer, and also separates out the production phases and delivery phases. For instance, for inoculant alone, N2Africa is assessing five different production models and seven delivery ones.

This explicit synthesis of ‘lessons learned’ from using the varied D&D approaches is an unusual one. It aims to help partners decide what approaches to promote in the future , and where (in which contexts). In some cases, quantitative cost-effectiveness analysis will be effected; in other instances, a strong qualitative assessment will add insight. Issues, of scale, speed, type of farmer served/engaged, type of knowledge imparted, sustainability will all be key. Some of the lessons might be ‘positive’ ones; some negative. In all cases, the project will gain some learning into what has potential to serve as a good dissemination mechanism’ and how the actual implementation affected the relative success.

This pioneering spirit of N2Africa to ‘compare and contrast to find the best fit’ pervades the project. Farming systems are variable, as are those of market and service delivery. Research has to address this variability head on—and systematically!

Louise Sperling

Country representatives of "old" and "new" N2Africa countries, steering committee members, camera team and research team leaders attending the meeting looking at raw video footage that will be used for films on the website