25 March 2007

Targeting learning and knowledge sharing in natural resource management

"Central to the process of development are the concepts of learning to learn and sharing knowledge."

IFAD recently published a short report on 'Community-based natural resource management' - that explores and shows how knowledge has been "managed, disseminated and used" in various of its projects in recent years.

It argues that planners and implementers of natural resource development projects need to 'target learnng.' In the past they have not always profited from the lessons learned – either information is lost or it is not easily accessible or changing circumstances may limit its value. "Whatever the reason, learning from the past still makes sense. Knowledge does not wear out – although it is sometimes difficult to find, synthesize and use."

The report brings twelve case studies that show how knowledge is managed, disseminated and effectively used by others. "They show that people can learn to learn and that learning is crucial to reducing poverty and to meeting the development challenges ahead."

The cases - from Niger, Peru, Cameroon, India, The Gambia, Bangladesh, Tanzania, Morocco, China, West Africa, Venezuela and Madagascar - are complemented by a short article bringing together some of the lessons on learning that are brought to the fore by the projects.

On 'Learning to learn':

Learning by doing is widely accepted as the most effective way of learning. However, it is a process and not a blue-print.

With the right inputs and stimulus, people can and do learn from each other.

People learn when they are motivated to learn, and empowerment can help create this condition.

On 'Lessons in learning':

Learning can take many forms, often several approaches are pursued simultaneously in order to achieve results.

‘Reinventing the wheel’ is is often seen as a failure to take advantage of what has gone before, it can also be an asset. Learning in this way can take people back to the fundamental principles of what they are doing, and this helps build stronger foundations, ownership and empowerment.

A long-term commitment, often slow, with setbacks, helps create the most favourable conditions for sustained learning.

Often, an outside stimulus provides the catalyst for development. It is important to recognize that many other ingredients are needed to create the right recipe: Identifying the ingredients, knowing how to mix them and then adding the outside stimulus are the keys to sustaining the learning and development process.

The circumstances must be right if people and institutions are to learn and to benefit from learning. People must have the desire to take up new ideas and learn new skills; organizations must be ready and willing to reform their institutional structures; poicies must be shaped to create an enabling environment.


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