An evolving story on MSC-PV in Zanzibar

 Monday 27th July

 The story begins to unfold….

A few women, a few men, they wait patiently for the rest to arrive. Some have travelled long distances from the nearby island of Pemba. Others are already at home. The Programme Coordinator arrives, the workshop can begin. The story starts to unfold…..

 “Introduce yourself by telling us your story about your experience with stories” turns into a real storytelling competition. One story tells us about a lion that marries and finally eats a donkey.  In another story the lion gets trapped into a well by a rabbit. Another person tells us that one night she saw someone in the room holding a snake and letting it crawl over her body. Scared she called for her father to come. He lit the torch but did not see anything, even when being called the second time. She allowed herself not to be scared anymore and to let the snake crawl over her body….. Every story is different. Every story is unique. Story telling takes time, to develop, to share, translate and to listen to.

 The next stories people tell each other are about the most significant change that they have observed over the last 2 years in the lives of farmers involved in the programme. The five stories finally selected were mainly about how knowledge about improved farming practices led to higher production, be it bananas, vegetables or chickens. The one story selected out of these five was selected as the most significant of the five not only because of increased production, but also because of spill over effect to other farmers who learned from their fellow farmers.

 The last stories today were captured on video. Each person held the video camera, briefly interviewed one colleague and captured the response. This was a story about people learning to hold a camera and to use it, some for the first time. It was a story full of laughter.


Tuesday’28th July 2009

Confidence is growing

The day starts with reviewing the shots taken by participants the previous day. For some, this was the first time ever they held a video camera. Others were more experienced. Still, one never stops learning.

More exercises during the day were meant to build participants’ capacity to work with the most significant change (MSC) technique and to work with a video camera. We had the ‘show and tell’ exercise, where participants were requested to make a movie of an object they choose. Reviewing this led to a lot of learning about video making, such as ‘use a tripod’, ‘avoid zooming’, the ‘rule of thirds’ and the ‘180 degrees rule’.

The next exercise further developed participants’ capacity in MSC, now in combination with the video camera and with the use of a story board. In groups of five they developed a story board, they told and captured the MSC stories on video, selected the most significant of these and reviewed some of the footage taken. For the selected SC story they developed a story board and took cutaway shots for editing purposes. Again there was a steep learning curve, both in the MSC technique, as well as in movie making. Participants learned fast!

Editing was more difficult and time was really too limited to ‘master’ it. As we needed time to prepare for the field work we decided that editing skills would be further enhance after the field work. And that editing was not going to be part of the field work process, as we originally intended: to edit, together with farmers, the SC story with cutaway shots.

During these two days we have seen people grow very fast in their capacity to work with MSC and with video. Those who were shaking all over their body the previous day when holding the camera, were now confident and knew what to do. We were looking forward to see whether all these effort would bear fruit when working with farmers the next day.


Wednesday 29th July 2009

Field work starts and ends with laughter….and farmers share their stories!

We are all excited. We are going to the field! Now it’s time to practice the knowledge and skills that we have gained over the last 2 days. Some last minute arrangements, some last minute adaptations of the process (yes, we are going to film all the stories and not document the full story on paper!) and we are ready to take off. The bus departs and inside the air is trembling.

When everybody is cheerfully chatting away, the ‘mzungu’ is trying to catch up on some Swahili. Let’s start with counting. One, two, three, four…… moja, mbili, tatu, nne … Oh dear, that’s not easy. When trying to say the Swahili word for ‘five’ the whole bus is killing itself laughing… A minor mistake can lead to a word that really you don’t want to be using! Ok., let’s try again, counting up to ten…. Again the bus is in tears! Another minor mistake in ‘ten’ leads to an even more serious disaster! The ‘mzungu’ stops trying Swahili, feeling very embarrassed….. The group is in a top mood!

We have arrived, the real work begins. Workshop participants are collaborating very smoothly in their teams. They each work with one group of some eight farmers. In total there are four groups, two of which have been engaged in a chicken project, the other two groups have been working on cassava. To get people in the mood, some groups get the camera out and ask farmers to hold it, and to interview their fellow farmers using it! There is excitement all over. The ice is broken.

Then farmers are requested to draw a ‘story board’: to draw pictures on cards that symbolize key issues they would like to share in their story. This can assist them in developing and telling their story. The story they are requested to tell is about what they consider to be the most significant change in their life as a result of being engaged in the project. It doesn’t take long before chickens and stick people appear on the cards. The storytelling begins, and so does the video making. As real professionals the farmer field school facilitators work with the camera, some assisted by the real professional film makers from the communication department of the ministry of agriculture, livestock and environment. Some farmers need a little encouragement, others are proud to tell their most significant change story on video. All have a story to tell. And every story is different.

When all stories have been captured, the selection process begins. One facilitator gets participants to draw symbols for themselves – no one could do a better job than the farmers themselves. Then they vote for the one they consider to be the most significant of all stories heard. A discussion around their reasons for choice takes place to learn from each other. Then story which has been selected as the most significant of all gets reviewed: what can be improved in story telling, what additional cutaway shots can be taken? They storyteller again tells the MSC story, now with more information, taking advice from their colleagues on board.

It’s time for prayer. People leave the scene. When they come back lunch is being served. As there is no time left to capture the cutaway shots we decide to go ahead with showing the selected videos to the farmers. That means having lunch and capturing the movies on laptop at the same time! Storytelling takes time, so does capturing them on a computer. Editing is a step too far away – we don’t have the skills yet and time is beating us.

The sun outside is getting very hot, but luckily the nursery rooms are cool. Here the farmers can view the first selected change movies. Meanwhile, we are working hard to capture the other movies on laptop. It just works out fine in the end. Everybody gets a chance to see the 4 stories, and there is a discussion about each movie. Then the selection process begins, through voting on cards. Each of the four selected farmers gets a big clap for their efforts: Yolanda, Hamisi, Vuai and Shami. The last one is selected as the most significant of the four. Like the stories varied, the claps also did, from rain to thunder…..We all go home tired but satisfied.

The day ends with another blunder of the ‘mzungu’ trying the numbers in Swahili. She gives up when the whole bus bursts out in laughter again. The day ends like it began…..


Thursday 30th July 2009

Reflecting on and learning from the field work process

The day is settling in, and so is the tiredness of the field work. There is still a lot to do so we do more warming up exercises. We start reflecting on the field work. Some of the feedback of farmers is really encouraging. Even though initially they were a bit hesitant, in the end farmers liked and were even proud to be filmed! And they wanted to see all the movies as each farmer was filmed during their story telling! We agree to go back and also to share the other change movies with them. Feedback is critical for learning and success.

We discuss the whole field work process. The importance of documenting essential information is a big lesson. Another big lesson is that people should not select the story as the most significant one because they know the storyteller very well, because he or she has an important role to play in the group, or because he or she is involved in the same enterprise as them. Facilitation of the selection process is really crucial so that people know how to select. Also getting each person to explain their reasons for choice is important. It is not a tick and go exercise. Also it is not a competition…..

We also learned important lessons about significant changes in farmers’ lives. Such as the woman whose story was selected not because she increased her chicken production a lot (she didn’t), but because she was able to practice the appropriate skills and she set an example to other farmers. Sharing these reasons for choice with other farmers is very important for the learning process. Another farmer explained a negative change as a result of being engaged in the program. He did not have land but could use some land of his brother in law. However, as the farmer and his brother got trained in improved farming practices, the brother in law wanted his piece of land back to practice his newly gained knowledge and skills. As a result of the program, the storyteller gained knowledge but he lost the land he was using for agricultural production. After reflecting on this story, the farmers’ group decided they needed to assist this farmer. Capturing negative change stories is also important for managing impact.

It’s important to be open to unexpected change, as we learned in the process. Whilst many farmers indicated increased production as a result of being engaged in the program, the result of this was different for different farmers.  Some mentioned that now they were able to eat chickens whenever they wanted to, another mentioned many changes but the indicated the ability to build a house as the most significant of all changes.

When participants were asked to review each others’ formats for story collection and for documenting the selection process, they realized the importance of good documentation. There were many gaps, such as not documenting the most significant change or why this was chosen as their most significant change. Practice, review and adapted practice is essential for proper learning.

 The day ended with some looking forward – thinking through system for MSC-PV in the program. We realized that in a program that targets some 7000 farmers it is impossible to capture all stories. We agreed on a pilot. As each of then nine districts in Zanzibar and Pemba had sent one representative farmer field school (FFS) facilitator to this workshop, we agreed to start working with these trained people in the pilot phase. The other trained participants would support them in their efforts, either in terms of facilitation or in documenting the selected stories on video. Particularly the trained participants from the communication department of the ministry of agriculture, livestock and environment would be useful in the filming and editing process. Each facilitator would be working with 6 groups of 5 farmers, selected from the 3 FFS groups they are working with. The SC stories would be captured on paper, and the selected stories would be captured on video.. one story per farmers’ group. This design process was continued the next day…..


 Friday 31st July 2009

Ending with inspirations for the future, beginning the story of implementation ….

It’s the last day of the MSC-PV workshop. We have gone through so much together. We have seen each other grow in confidence as we tried, reflected and put our learning into practice in the next exercise. Now it’s time to consolidate our learning and think about the future. How can we set up a system where most significant change stories can be captured? How can we use (participatory) video with this? And how can we set up the system so that it complements our current efforts in M&E? This was what the last day of the workshop was about. We developed a draft system for MSC-PV for the program. This can easily be integrated into the current M&E system. At the end the M&E officer Mr Lada indicated: ‘we feel empowered that we have developed this ourselves!’

We then had time to continue practicing our editing skills. It started with viewing a compilation of video shots, mainly from the field work. This can be viewed at (to be uploaded soon!). The groups then practiced some editing skills on the selected SC story from the farmers’ group they worked with. Even though we were not able to capture the final versions of these edited movies, you can see the unedited versions on (to be uploaded soon!). We agreed that farmers would get a chance to see all the stories as every SC story had been captured on video. In the near future the district resource centres will provide the opportunity for farmers to come and view the films of the SC stories, any time they want. And possibly editing can be done locally. As much as possible the whole process needs to be done as close as possible to farmers’ level, in collaboration with the farm field school facilitators.

The day ended with reflecting on the workshop. Workshop facilitators went outside, and participants facilitated their own evaluation, using an evaluation wheel. Generally people felt empowered to facilitate MSC and use video for this purpose. They would have liked more time: 2 or even 3 weeks! It was encouraging to see people grow in confidence. Some were interested to learn even more about participatory video. And Mr Lada said –  ‘Now we ready to implement and to train the rest of the staff in MSC-PV ourselves!’ And so their story begins here….

Deadline for application: 1st July

African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD) is a pioneering project to boost the talent pool of African women in the agricultural sciences. AWARD delivers career development fellowships to hundreds of women in agricultural institutions throughout sub-Saharan Africa.  These fellowships include mentoring by senior professionals, as well as far-reaching support and training to strengthen science and leadership skills.

Based in Nairobi (Kenya), AWARD works in partnership with the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), the 15 research Centers of the CGIAR, and an extensive network of national, regional and international implementation partners. See:

AWARD seeks to appoint an experienced Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E) Coordinator, to work with  fellows, mentors, and partners to track project progress, outcomes and impacts at individual and institutional levels. Given the specific nature of AWARD, AWARD is looking for someone with knowledge of African agricultural science systems, and an interest in the professional development of women.

For further information: AWARD_M&ECOORDINATOR

The kingdom of Lesotho is one of the smallest countries in Africa, landlocked and surrounded by South Africa, consisting of a population of approximately 2 million people. It has an interesting and colourful history, enriched by a strong Sotho culture and a beautiful mountainous landscape. The Government of Lesotho has embarked on an agricultural development programme, co- funded by IFAD to the tune of $ (?) over a period of six years (2005 to 2011), called the Sustainable Agriculture and Natural Resources Programme (SANReMP).


Khanya-aicdd, through its partnership with the SMIP, is responsible for supporting the programme from 2007 to 2009. This support has taken on a two- pronged approach- one, conducting in- house training on Managing for Impact (M4I) for programme managers and implementers, and two, providing intensive programmatic support to a range of stakeholders through the action learning site.


SANReMP’s goal is to promote sustainable livelihoods of rural household in  the three southern districts of Lesotho, namely Mafeteng, Mohale’s Hoek, and Quthing. An improvement in household food security and family nutrition will indicate to us that there has been an improvement in rural peoples’ lives. In order that this is possible SANReMP would need to ensure that the following objectives are met:

  1. agricultural productivity amongst rural household would have increased as a result of diverse and focused production activities
  2. land degradation and destruction would have been reduced through the application of appropriate land and water conservation measures, and
  3. the capacity of decentralised district administrations have been strengthened to deliver services effectively and efficiently


SANReMP as a SMIP Action Learning Site:


The SANReMP learning site initially took a while to get off the ground. This was partly due to the intense bureaucratic requirements that needed to be fulfilled in order to have the process approved. In addition to this the first phase of the roll- out co- incided with SANReMP’s agricultural months in June and July. Eventually we managed to finalise and sign the contract for supporting the learning site in December 2008, and first activity, Community Action Planning (CAP) was facilitated early this year.


SANReMP, as part of their overall planning, facilitates what they refer to as Community Action Plans. These are plans that are supposed to be jointly designed with the very community beneficiaries that the programme is targeting. However these plans are usually developed by government field officers involved in the programme without input from the communities. To ensure better planning in any programme that is supposed to develop communities it is important and crucial to involve communities in the planning process, and CBP ensures that this is achieved.


As it turns out one of Khanya’s competency areas is in Community Based Planning (for more information on CBP check The CBP is a process of participatory planning that raises awareness of communities and the facilitators of the situations they face and what would be the best way forward by building on their strengths and addressing their challenges. Unlike traditional planning approaches, the CBP process avoids a situation where communities tend to generate an unrealistic wish- list of demands. Instead, it promotes a realistic account of what is possible under situational constraints and within existing assets.


One of the key outputs of the ALS was that of building the capacity of SANReMP implementers in participatory planning. This output with its requisite set of activities would fall under the ‘Guiding the project strategy’ component of the M4I.


Overall the process could be described as a success in that it managed to raise awareness amongst the SANReMP implementers as to the importance of involving communities. The training process was facilitated over a period of two weeks, beginning with the theory, and then followed by the field process on. The training was designed specifically for the field staff for SANReMP, and the Khanya CBP manual was therefore adapted to suite the administrative processes in Lesotho.


The entire process was mostly facilitated using the local language, Sesotho. This was to ensure that the SANReMP facilitators understand the value of facilitating community based planning processes using the local language to ensure maximum participation by community members. The training was also facilitated by Basotho, from Khanya, to also ensure that it’s people who understand the cultural dynamics of the country, and to ensure the community is involved and not alienated through the planning process.


Although the objectives of the training were met, there were however challenges experienced. For instance,  some of the SANReMP facilitators did not attend several of the planned sessions. In addition to this there were challenges with logistics, as one of the venues for the training was not conducive for our purposes, especially when the weather got bad.  


Part of the community based planning process entails pre- planning. The pre-planning processes are crucial in gaining the trust and confidence of the community and also involving community leaders from the beginning of the planning process.  This therefore meant that Khanya facilitators had to work with what was presented to them to ensure that the process was effective and relevant.


It is also worth mentioning that most of the SANReMP facilitators were very participatory and eager to understand the CBP process, and in some of the districts there were other role players fro the ministries that joined the field work part of the training. This was however both and negative and a positive- positive in the sense that it showed the eagerness from the ministries to link the various processes, and a negative because these individuals had not attended the theory aspect of the training and would at times derail the process.


Process flow for the CBP theory training


  • Providing a background of the Sustainable Livelihoods Approach (SLA) and how it applies to community based planning.
  • Providing an outline of Community Based Planning process, and the importance of understanding the administrative process for effective planning process.
  • Providing the importance of involving the various stakeholders in the planning process, and also exploring the role that each of the stakeholders play both at the level of the leadership and community members.
  • Providing the SANReMP facilitators with the skills to facilitate community planning tools.



Observations from training (theory and field)


  • The pre-planning process ensured that communities turned out in large numbers, and this was made evident by the fact that even though the sessions took approximately six hours, the community members were willing to stay on right until the end.


  • Their eagerness to share information and provide the facilitators with the rich history and their experiences was astonishing. They would go into great length in explaining events that led to the current situation (poverty and unsustainable farming practices), and also providing information on what they think the government should provide them with in order for them to have sustainable livelihoods.
  • In all the three districts the main challenge that they experienced was that of lack of access to markets, where they can sell their produce. For most of them they farm for subsistence purpose, but would rather sell their produce.


  • The facilitators from SANReMP were also very comfortable facilitating the tools, and the indicated that what made it easy for them was the fact that they were facilitating in a language that they are familiar with, and that the community understands.


  • The facilitators were also very comfortable with the tools, and this was as a result of them having used the tolls before, and what they indicated was that they had never used the tools all together as presented by the CBP, and yet the CBP process assisted in the gathering data for better and relevant planning.


  • One major challenge raised by the facilitators was the fact that some of the issues that the communities raised were not relevant to the ministries of agriculture and forestry, and were concerned that they would not be in a position to respond to some of the issues.


The CBP training was the first real experience that Khanya SMIP staff had in supporting an Action Learning Site. For us, this opportunity presented several lessons which will help us move forward with subsequent activities and these are:

  1. The importance of understanding fully the context within which one is working. Without an understanding of the cultural dynamics, the vernacular, the way the bureaucracy works, the process would not have been conducted within the anticipated timeframe and with the required patience that it needs!
  2. It was an advantage that Khanya operates from Bloemfontein, which is close to Lesotho and has an office in Lesotho as this helped with initiating meetings and in maintaining constant contact.
  3. The success of the  support to SANReMP as an ALS cannot be limited to promoting M4I in the programme. SANReMP is an important programme which requires deep understanding of the politics and economics of national agricultural and rural development. This implies that SANReMP’s success as a multi departmental programme rests on factors beyond its internal capacity to implement the programme- issues of governance and the political economy (especially value chains and markets) need to come into the fold of awareness as well if it is to succeed.

Written by Keneilwe Thipe and Thevan Naidoo