As the imGoats project enters its final six months, the whole team gathered in Udaipur, India from 2-6 July 2012 to participate in a learning and reflection workshop on the activities completed so far and the work still remaining.
At the close of the workshop, I asked Ramkumar Bendapudi, postdoctoral scientist at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and coordinator of imGoats in India, to share some of his reflections on the workshop and the project activities in India.
TL: What is your role in the imGoats project and what are some of your experiences so far with the project?
RB: I joined the project to provide research support in its implementation with BAIF. In India, the project is in two sites: one is in Udaipur and the other is in Dumka in Jharkhand. Although my role is mainly to provide research support, I also act as a coordinator between BAIF and ILRI. This particular project is not the standard development project. It has a very dynamic research component. It’s quite an interesting process to see the results of your research analysis being put into use in the project with flexibility to again make changes in your strategy and then get back to implementation in the field. Even the Outcome Mapping tool we are using…the indicators are not static where you have a baseline and then you wait until the end of the project. So in this way, the imGoats project is quite innovative because it allows for a lot of engagement and close coordination with the field staff.
TL: What are some of your reflections on the just ended learning and reflection workshop?
RB: This workshop has been very helpful for me personally as well as professionally. To bring all the different partner agencies together has been useful because there are different capacities within the different levels of staff in an NGO like BAIF, for example. So bringing us all in one place to plan our outputs together makes it easy to put whatever we have planned into action. Thus, there is a higher chance of reaching our outputs because everybody is aware of what is expected of them. We have well defined indicators and nothing is left in an abstract manner so now we are expected to deliver these outputs.
The workshop is also a great motivator. It has allowed for cross-country exchange so you know what is happening in Mozambique, Rajasthan and Jharkhand and each team wants to learn from the others and even match their achievements. It’s not really competition but it motivates people to do more or do things differently.
The third component is the way the presentations have been done. They have been very engaging and participatory and not what we expected in the beginning. Maybe if we could even learn and adopt some of the facilitation methods and use them in our regular field group meetings and internal staff meetings, I think there would be a very big change in the way we do things.
TL: As the project moves into its final six months, what do you see as the priority activities and what legacy do you hope the project will have?
RB: I’m not very emphatic about saying that the project will have a legacy because the innovation platform process is just nine months old and we still have six more months to go. A lot depends on how we deliver in the next three months because we have to go through the goat life cycle. We started some activities that have to reach the market in order for us to complete the cycle. A lot depends on the level of trust and confidence that the communities have in the innovation platform process. And we hope that the community will take it up in their interest.
In Rajasthan, BAIF has been working in the area for the past so many years and will continue to do so. Therefore, I hope that BAIF will keep supporting the field guides (who are also part of the community) as much as possible post-project. It’s not that just because the project is over you cut off links. If I were part of the BAIF team, then I would continue the rapport I have with the community and build on the relationship with the field staff…it’s the person in the field not the project, and whether the project is there or not, the person is still there. So to me, it makes logical sense that you maintain the relationship with the community.
Financial resources and other priorities of the organization would be a factor but if it works out as planned in the next three months and the community sees value in the process, I don’t see any reason why it should not work thereafter with minimum support. For Jharkhand the situation may be different but seeing what has happened in this workshop I think the Jharkhand team is quite motivated and they can even build some kind of energy level towards what we are doing in Mozambique and Udaipur. I think that’s a positive thing.
The imGoats project seeks to investigate how best goat value chains can be used to increase food security and reduce poverty among smallholders in India and Mozambique. Funded by the International Fund for Agricultural Research (IFAD), the project is led by researchers from ILRI in collaboration with the BAIF Development Research Foundation in India and CARE International in Mozambique.