The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), through the Market Intelligence Initiative (MII), conducted a successful online training titled "Knowledge transfer on survey app building and implementation” among IRRI’s network of National Agricultural Research and Extension Systems (NARES) partners in the East African region. Two half-day online sessions were given on the 22nd and 24th of March 2023, participated by 118 participants from the region.
The activity aimed to share the operations and lessons of the CORIGAP project on digital survey building and implementation using the CommCare platform. The knowledge transfer sessions were adapted to the backgrounds and baseline experiences of the participants in the field.
The training initially set out to train colleagues from CGIAR centers collaborating with MII and partner institutions, such as the Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization (KALRO). After initial requests from different groups, the participation was extended to all IRRI Africa country offices and their networks. Participants came from various institutions, including Africa Rice, CIMMYT, Mozambique Institute of Agricultural Research (IIAM), Agro Tanzania, Tanzania Livestock Research (TALIRI), National Irrigation Agency (NIA)-Kenya, Tanzania Agricultural Research Institute (TARI), Kenya Agricultural and Livestock Research Organization ( KALRO), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), University of Nairobi, and National Agricultural Research and Development Institute (NARDI) of Botswana. Staff from IRRI country offices in Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and Madagascar were also present. Participants came from various scientific areas, including the social and natural sciences.
The training was organized by Dr. Melanie Connor (Senior Scientist - Market Intelligence and Product Profiling) and her team, with Anna H. de Guia (CORIGAP Associate Social Scientist from IRRI HQ) as the resource speaker, Zephaniah Mayaka (Assistant Scientist - IRRI Kenya Office) as the facilitator, and Arelene Julia Malabayabas (CORIGAP - Associate Scientist Agricultural Economist) from IRRI HQ as a co-facilitator).
During the two half-day sessions, participants were given an overview of data-based research and how essential it is to maintain an organized data collection system to generate knowledge, especially in the development sector. They also learned how field survey has transformed from traditional paper-based to digital. Aside from time and labor efficiencies, digital survey minimizes human errors in data collection and encoding. This undertaking further ensures that quality data will be translated into more accurate insights on time.
The first session covered the conceptual, experiential, and practical aspects of implementing a farmer field survey, focusing on the basics of a questionnaire and protocol building. The second training day concentrated on app building and the functions embedded when creating a survey app. Exercises on survey app deployment and data preparation were done toward the end.
The knowledge transfer sessions were part of the CORIGAP project’s effort to reflect on the lessons gained in its 10-year run in Southeast Asia. More than the tool, which is the CommCare platform, Anna de Guia emphasized that it is imperative to advocate for the digital process when collecting field data and choosing the most suitable platform within a team’s capacity and resources.
Overall, participants were engaged and eager to learn more about app building and the application of digital data collection tools in agricultural research. Most participants were grateful to learn new digital data collection methods, appreciated the seamless flow and discussions, and are looking forward to more training of similar nature that includes analysis and reporting of results.
Dikungwa Ketumie, a Botswana NARES partner, expressed his gratitude for the opportunity to participate in one of IRRI's capacity development initiatives. He hopes there will be continued engagement about the use and relevance of digital surveys in enhancing overall agricultural productivity.
“It is always great when you learn a new skill every day. You know a lady's power, so I am grateful for this training. We learned new skills of collecting data in the field, and looking forward to more skills and easier ways of collecting data in the field,” said Everlyne Nganga from the IRRI Kenya Office.
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