Sustainable Horticulture production Dgroups. Join us !

©FAO/Makiko Taguchi. Innocent Chamisa (Hortcrops Dgroups facilitator) and Prof P.V. Vara Prasad, a University Distinguished Professor and Director, Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sustainable Intensification, Kansas State University, USA, after a Hortcrops Dgroup initiated Webinar/Seminar on Horticulture, delivered in Rome-FAO-HQ.

Interview with Mr. Innocent Chamisa  - Facilitator and Moderator : Sustainable Horticulture production Dgroups (SCPI-Hortcrops Dgroups)

  • What is your role at FAO?

Innocent Chamisa (I.C.) : I am working with the Plant Production and Protection Division in the Rural and Urban Crop Systems Team at FAO's headquarters in Rome. I am focused on promoting agricultural practices and technologies that help farmers produce more food, while conserving the natural resources and improving their livelihoods. I also support FAO's global knowledge where we promote, collect and disseminate information on the latest technologies and best practices for sustainable horticulture crop production. And when we talk about sharing knowledge, this is where Dgroups comes in !

  • Why did you and your team decide to use Dgroups ?

I.C. : Allow me to give you some context first. This information will help you understand why we need to have a discussion on horticulture and decided to choose to use Dgroups as a communication tool.

In 2011, FAO published Save and Grow – A policymaker’s guide to the sustainable intensification of smallholder crop production”. This document presents a new paradigm shift in agriculture, advocating for producing more from the same area of land while conserving resources, reducing negative impacts on the environment and enhancing natural capital and the flow of ecosystem services. Moreover, further guides have been developed to illustrate how Save and Grow principles and related policies have been successfully applied in an integrated manner in many countries.

Due to the huge success of the previous publications, FAO with AGPML Team (that provides advice, technical support and guidance aimed at maintaining and enhancing ecosystem services as essential components of sustainable farming systems) - leading in “the cockpit” and in collaboration with CIRAD - are envisaging a follow-up guide focusing on sustainability in horticulture cropping systems.

In this scenario, it is very important to be aware of the world in which FAO operates, which is undoubtedly getting more and more complex and connected. The challenges in front of the Organization are bigger than ever, and require collaboration and inputs from a variety of partners and stakeholders, both within and outside of FAO.

Therefore, the aim of this discussion forum - enabled through Dgroups - is to bring together global experts at all levels, from scientists who study the potential of sustainable crop production to the practitioners who apply sustainable horticultural practices, - to exchange their experiences, new findings and to discuss limitations and challenges encountered.

Lastly, with sustainability in mind, we thought of a platform that can be more like a melting pot, easily accessible, user friendly, environmentally sustainable, more inclusive, more transparent and cost effective, - this is when we turned to the Dgroups platform !

  • What would you like to achieve using Dgroups?

I.C. : Through this user friendly, cost effective and participatory tool we aim to build a global community of practice on sustainable horticulture production, where people can share the same interests and mandates within and across organizations and virtually meet. The group promotes open dialogue, peer-to-peer learning, advancing knowledge sharing and sharing and uptake of good and promising practices on sustainable intensification of horticulture crop production.

We also use the Dgroups to work on the outline of a new Save and Grow Horticulture book tool allows us to do this through and informed and participatory approach and reflect the views and inputs of key experts and practitioners from all over the world, including smallholder farmers and large-scale farmers.

Last but by no means least, we also collect field experiences from the participants to receive information on how they produce more horticulture crops with less in their localities and, hence, showcase existing localized-farmer solutions to the sustainable intensification of horticulture crops that can be replicated beyond borders.

  • Have you faced any challenges when using Dgroups?

I.C. :  Yes, of course. Communities of practices grow and with growth we are also facing challenges. With the great amount of information shared in the group we would almost need a fully operational platform to be able to share all the information in an organized way. We receive case studies, field experiences, links, videos, pictures and need to find a way to store all the information, which is not always easy with the basic functionalities the Dgroups online website platform provides.  This is a technical issue we hope Dgroups will address.

On the non-technical side of things, a Dgroups online community can be created within just a few clicks of the mouse. However, this is not sufficient; experience has taught that keeping active participation and motivating members is not an easy task. People are often busy and finding time out of their days to participate in communities can be difficult, so it takes time, skills and dedication to keep it running.

  • Would you recommend Dgroups to other FAO colleagues?

I.C. :  Dgroups online communities of practice play an important instrumental role in raising awareness, enhancing understanding and co-learning, and building new partnerships to support the 2030 Agenda, ending hunger, poverty and ensuring food security, leaving no one behind. Dgroups communities of practice can serve as an efficient and easily accessible way for information sharing and learning.

From my experiences, establishing an online community of practice helps bridge geographical distances and brings together different stakeholders with reduced hierarchy and cost.  In this “information/ digital era” we found ourselves in almost everyone has an e-mail, making it one of the easiest and efficient way of reaching the once marginalized societies. Even though some societies are still lagging in terms of internet availability, for now the Dgroups is helping in cutting short the digital divide.

I started using Dgroups late 2016, with one member…

Now we have over 300 members from over 66 countries and territories and we have had a very broad and interesting discussion, spearheaded by the members and facilitated by us as FAO. In addition, we have had 3- Dgroups initiated seminars/ webinars widely attended, received over 50 write-ups of “case studies/ individual farmer field experiences” on sustainable intensification of horticulture crops.

It is to this background, I am recommending it to other colleagues who might want to have similar global discussions, through a user friendly, cheap and sustainable platform !

The views and opinions expressed above are those of the interviewee and
do not necessarily reflect the views of 

the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)



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