Tag Archives: Sourcebook

Sourcebook Writeshop: Good articles come at a cost

Mobilising participants for the Uganda national writeshop on the sourcebook on Water Smart Agriculture was one of the most challenging experiences. I imagined disorder and confusion in the meeting room as accomplished authors, field level implementers and journalists interacted. I worried about the participants’ perception of added value from the process. Perhaps more terrifying, was the fact that facilitation fees for participants was a paltry sum for five working days! Would they stick it out or would they walk out on the process?Sourcebook

My fears soon dissipated as positive feedback trickled in from the participants who were enthusiastic to be a part of this noble cause. Even the intermittent wifi connectivity and humble hotel in Iganga, in eastern Uganda, did not dampen the mood.

Sixteen of the anticipated 18 participants turned up! On the first day, facilitators explained the purpose and process of the writeshop. Within two hours, everyone was on board and the ball had been set rolling, thanks to my colleague, Liz, for whom engaging people flows naturally. Dr. Onesmus Semalulu started the team off with the first presentation and for 10 minutes, you could have tried, unsuccessfully, to distract anyone. Everyone was attentive and focused on the presentation. The discussions thereafter were a storm! The rich diversity of perspectives was motivating, the openness of every one encouraging and, most importantly, the positive outlook of the writers to improve their pieces was not only humbling, but also rewarding. While I convinced myself that this was so because of day one, I was deceived, the team maintained their energy levels throughout; by the end of the second day we were begging them to break off for tea or food and this went on until the last day. Never before had I worked with a team so dedicated. It was a huge learning experience for me.

The power of the ‘second eye’ was so strong and well meaning. Each one of us will remember this lesson. Articles were transformed, field level experiences profiled to a level that anyone can relate with, scholarly work balanced and toned downSourcebook1 for the public’s consumption and finally the prize achieved, nine articles produced by the Uganda team. All said and done, each one of us went home different, with broadened perspectives, new friends and definitely better writing skills.
Some participants shared their thoughts on the process.

Eriah Byaruhanga, a staff from Joint Efforts to Save the Environment, said, “I’m impressed with the level of organisation and planning. I have learnt that organisations can produce better products using the writeshop approach. I will encourage my colleagues at office to adopt the approach when writing annual reports.”
Dr. Basil Mugonola, a lecturer at Gulu University noted, “This is a great opportunity for me; my paper was previously produced in a journal in Europe, now it is being repackaged for home consumption. I’m glad to have been part of this process.”

Juliet Katusiime, from Ecological Christian Organisation said, “It is very difficult to self critic; it is easier to see mistakes in other people’s work. This process has enabled me appreciate the importance of the ‘other eye’, I’m more analytical and it has been an experience worth the time.”

Henry Kaweesi said: “Good articles come at a cost; the other eye has been the most important lesson for me.”

Violet Alinda,
GWI EA, Uganda

Repackaging material for sourcebook on Water Smart Agriculture

I have recently returned from Ethiopia, where I supported a national level writeshop to repackage materials for a sourcebook on Water Smart Agriculture. A writeshop is a participatory way of producing different types of publications. In our case the objective was to generate information from local experience (based on case studies from Ethiopia, Tanzania and Uganda) and in the shortest time possible. This would then be widely disseminated to national, regional and global audiences.

Our subject matter was Water Smart Agriculture. This rapidly-evolving concept was developed by CARE to help smallholder farmers overcome vulnerability to climate variability and achieve greater food security. It entails making more efficient and effective use of available water and in a more sustainable way, particularly in rural communities.

This writeshop, organised by CARE International’s Global Water Initiative East Africa (GWI EA), in conjunction with the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) and the Water, Land and Ecosystems Programme (WLE) brought 14 authors, one illustrator, four editors and two facilitators together in a secluded lodge in Wolliso town, two-hour’s drive from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia’s capital.

For five days, participants critiqued each other’s papers, defended content, rewrote and revised it to the satisfaction of resident editors, who in turn, ensured that authors followed correct content structure, sentence construction and grammar – and that topics discussed were relevant to the overall theme of Water Smart Agriculture.

writeshopThe process was both rigorous and effective. By the end of the writeshop, all authors had agreed that their papers had undergone a positive transformation, that they read much better and that technical jargon – the bane of development literature more generally – had been simplified. Time is of the essence during such an event and the facilitators ensured that authors presented their papers, received feedback and allowed for brief discussions within allotted time limits.

The first discussant, Dr. Melesse Temesgen, presented a paper on reversing the negative impacts of water on smallholder farming. In his paper, focused on the Ethiopian highlands where there is moderate to high rainfall, he noted that waterlogging is a major constraint to crop production, a problem which prevails areas covered by vertisols. The latter, he said, are finely textured soils characterised by poor infiltration. Due to waterlogging, farmers frequently resorted to abandoning fields or late planting, which required repeated tillage to control weeds.

Another participant, Kahsai Gebremariam, narrated the story of the Abreha we Atsebeha Watershed, a successful case of watershed management in Tigray region. Here communities had transformed a once highly degraded landscape, restoring soil and vegetation and making water available, and thereby saving the community from future relocation and resettlement.

After Ethiopia, Uganda and Tanzania will each have similar processes to generate data for the sourcebook. At the end of the day, we hope that the sourcebook will provide a reference point on water smart agriculture, a set of practical suggestions for farmers and those working with farmers and a useful overview of some key water management practice in East African smallholder farming.

While it was mainly business, the writeshop venue also enabled some serious communing with nature! The lodge is snug in the middle of an oasis of nature, trees and animals alike. Sipping on a cup of coffee at break, a vervet monkey might sprint across the lawn, jump onto your table and snatch an unattended cookie, or when taking an evening stroll, a dik dik might saunter across your path, nibbling leaves before disappearing into the darkness. The tranquillity of such a location undoubtedly adds to the success of such an intellectually-rigorous event!

All participants

Elizabeth Agiro
GWI EA, Uganda