Researchers from Viet Nam and Lao PDR learn how to use the Agroecological Knowledge Toolkit
To better understand how farmers manage landscapes in their countries, natural resources researchers from Viet Nam and Lao PDR learned how to use a specially designed knowledge-gathering method and computer software.
‘I like this course very much. It was very helpful because I have to work and communicate with the farmers. Now I know an effective way to collect and organize the information into an electronic database’, Pham Huu Thuong answered when he was asked his opinion after attending a training course on the Agroecological Knowledge Toolkit (AKT) held in Viet Nam in June, 2015.
Thuong is a field worker with the World Agroforestry Centre Viet Nam. He is responsible for field work in eight communes that collaborate with the Agroforestry for Livelihoods of Smallholder Farmers in Northwest Vietnam (AFLI) project, funded by the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research and the CGIAR research programs on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, and on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics.
The training course was held over two weeks, 1–12 June 2015, by Bangor University, UK and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF). The course was organized by Fergus Sinclair and led by Genevieve Lamond and Tim Pagella from the School of Environment, Natural Resources and Geography at Bangor University. Bangor University is a leading institution in the development of a knowledge-based systems methodology to acquire and use local knowledge in research and development. ICRAF has collaborated closely with Bangor University on the development of the AKT.
The class of nine was drawn from Bangor University, ICRAF and national research institutes in Viet Nam and Lao PDR. The objective of the course was to learn how to use AKT, a methodology and software developed at Bangor University, to explore local knowledge about tree cover and functions, farming systems and soil-erosion prevention in a given landscape. The course also aimed to improve the skills of participants in conducting focus-group discussions, key-informant interviews and other ways of gathering knowledge with farmers.
The AKT system is primarily concerned with gathering local ecological knowledge, that is, what people know about their natural environment, based primarily on their own experience and observation. Where management has a large impact on the natural resource base, it is useful to refer to it as agroecological knowledge, to emphasise the management component.
The training was conducted in two villages of Co Noi Commune, Mai Son District, Son La Province, where the AFLI project has demonstration trials of various agroforestry systems.
‘Since the project works with smallholders in the northwestern provinces of Viet Nam’, said Dr Delia Catacutan, country representative of ICRAF Viet Nam, ‘understanding local knowledge, practices and opinions are important for achieving the objective of improving smallholders’ livelihoods while also enhancing environmental services, hence, the AKT training will prove invaluable’.
This work is supported by the CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry