Towards better impact for the AVISA project – partners meet to chart pan-African communication activities

IITA, CIAT, Syngenta and ICRISAT communication specialists at the
workshop. Photo: ICRISAT

Three days of intense brainstorming helped chart out the communication activities for the AVISA project, that works across seven African countries.  Launched in Feb 2019, the AVISA project funded by the Gates Foundation, works on the broad agenda of modernizing breeding and increasing incomes for smallholder farmers in Africa for six crops. Held in Nairobi during May 2019, the workshop on communications involved specialists from ICRISAT, CIAT, IITA and Syngenta Foundation. The project’s coordinator, Dr Chris Ojiewo and ICRISAT’s Global Head of Breeding, Jan Debaene, provided strategic insights into the communication workshop. A series of key strategic actions for better impact, were the key outcomes of this workshop.

The communications strategy is guided by four outputs from the AVISA project, focusing on:

  • Increase of new communication tools and approaches to facilitate better adoption rates and build advocates from within the community and stakeholders for increased impact
  • Effective advocacy and innovative communication approaches by project partners and other stakeholders
  • Behavior change interventions to incentivize the choice of improved varieties in place of ‘informal sources’ among rural women users
  • Client-oriented channels leveraged to create awareness and generate demand for good quality seed, and
  • Effective communication of project progress, achievements and impact.

To standardize action points for partners, a detailed planning process took into account every communication aspect of AVISA to work in consistency. Key agenda items included branding and stakeholder communication, periodic engagement with partners on communications support and communicating impact. Discussions focused on the important role of the private sector in the implementation of the project, particularly seed companies and distributors. Identifying opportunities to work with key stakeholders, periodic review and participation from all partners and stakeholders were planned.

The agenda was supported by Dr Esther Njuguna-Mungai, a gender scientist from ICRISAT ESA, on communication models for behaviour change. Supporting online were Mr Satish Nagaraji on integrating MEASURE, Mr Vengala Reddy on branding, Mr Chandrashekara Srinivas and Mr Muralidhar Budumuru on repositories to provide insights.

Dr Moses Siambi, ICRISAT ESA Regional Director speaking on the final day, emphasized on the importance of communication expertise in any project and shared examples of putting more human resources and budgets into this as well.

Now live: The project website www.avisaproject.org. Check out key project activities by country (Nigeria, Burkina Faso, Mali, Uganda, Ghana and Ethiopia) and by crop (Sorghum, Pearl millet, Cowpea, Common bean and Groundnut).

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