|GATE - 4/92 - Networking: Lessons and Hopes (GTZ GATE, 1992, 56 p.)|
The West Africa Animal Traction Network is an open network of people from various backgrounds interested in animal traction. An informal to semi-formal structure has been found to be most effective, without a permanent secretariat or even a newsletter. Although networking takes place in various forms, workshops are a key activity.
The workshops of the West Africa Network are organized every two years. The number of participants increased from 73 in 1988 to 93 in 1990. To date, network workshops have been attended by over 200 people. Furthermore, the workshops have directly stimulated the preparation and publication of over 140 papers covering a wide variety of issues and experiences concerning animal traction in different farming systems and related research, development, extension, training.
The workshops have proved extremely popular, and participants have considered them interesting, helpful and professionally valuable. Participation is always open to all those working in the field of animal traction, in West Africa and elsewhere. This open approach has encouraged a broad range of people to attend. The workshops have been thoroughly multidisciplinary with agricultural engineers, economists, animal scientists, agronomists, sociologists and other professions all coming together. Diversity has also been achieved in terms of participants' professional fields, with researchers, extensionists, administrators, producers and donor representatives all closely interacting.
Without doubt, the most popular elements of each workshop have been the field visits. People who have been to conferences where the field visits have involved large groups slowly straggling around research sites may be surprised at this. But these popular network field visits were in small groups of 5-8 people from different countries, who went to villages to watch work animals in use and to discuss directly with farmers. Such in-depth talking with farmers has often been a new experience for participants. They have often felt free to ask farmers questions they would never dare to ask in their own countries, for fear that their juniors would laugh at them. In the day following the field visits, the small groups sat down to discuss in detail their observations and findings, and to discuss also specific workshop themes highlighted in the lead papers. The groups then reported back to all the other participants, in preparation for open discussion on the key issues raised. The small group discussions have proved almost as popular as the field visits.
The workshops also provided an opportunity for a network business meeting, to discuss plans for the network, and elect a new steering committee to supervise the forthcoming programme. The proceedings of each workshop have subsequently been attractively published to act as regional resource documents on animal traction.
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