Although most developing countries are investing in formal education, the biggest challenge remains translating that investment into a key driver of the knowledge economy.
BY CHARLES DHEWA
The major component of a knowledge economy is a greater reliance on intellectual capabilities than on natural resources.
Given how developing countries still lag behind on the knowledge exploitation front, unlocking people’s intellectual capacity should go beyond formal education.
If African countries continue confusing formal education with knowledge, they will not fully benefit from all forms of learning that happen outside formal education systems.
While the knowledge economy is being associated with information communication technologies (ICTs) and closing the digital divide, little attention has gone into understanding people as the major generators and holders of knowledge.
In as much as developing countries are worried about the digital divide, a fundamental issue is the cognitive divide because inequalities are often reproduced in the cognitive dimension (how people think and make decisions).
Changing farmers’ mindsets implies understanding their thinking patterns and their notions of knowledge.
This is important if farmers can be enabled to participate in the knowledge economy.
Climate change is already showing the limit beyond which African smallholder farmers can continue depending on natural resources.
Towards a personal knowledge index
Realising the importance of knowledge in the knowledge economy, eMKambo has designed a personal knowledge index (PKI) that can help farmers determine where they are in terms of knowledge and its exploitation in the agriculture sector.
The PKI is a matrix or scorecard with parameters against which an individual farmer can rate himself or herself.
Focusing on an individual is important because how an individual farmer seeks knowledge, makes sense of it and shares it has a bearing on participation in the knowledge economy.
The PKI is a valuation matrix that looks at the person, making it possible to answer a question like: Who is a farmer?
Currently, such a question is rarely answered in an informative way. Is a farmer anyone with a piece of land or someone with knowledge about farming or someone with a passion for farming? Like any other career, farming can be a calling.
If a farmer is to stay on the land all the time, which additional attributes contribute to his/her success?
Approaching the issue from a knowledge perspective, the PKI looks at the following set of factors:
Education — This aspect looks at the formal/academic education level of a farmer to figure out the relevance of formal education in agriculture and other value chain stages such as processing, preservation and marketing.
Some of the questions to be answered here include: How does your ability or inability to document your activities influence your agriculture production? How relevant is formal education, for example a marketing degree, to agriculture? How relevant is the same qualification in agriculture markets?
Skills — How have you acquired your skills? Is it through hands-on, on the job, courses attended, etc?
Knowledge and experience — Here, the emphasis is on skills transfer outside formal learning, where learning takes place through practice and from others.
It goes with some inventions as well as both good and bad practices.
How have you been able to cope with drought and other challenges like the outbreak of diseases for either crops or livestock?
This question speaks to mitigation strategies. How you resolve farming challenges is an important risk factor. Have you ever applied for a loan? If not, why? If yes, what were the results? What collateral did you use? What were the repayments? What else followed?
This is also an important risk factor which goes with your own investment — how much you have invested and how much do you plan to invest?
What is the opportunity cost of selling your vehicle to buy an irrigation unit including a pump and pipes?
Networks — How networked are you? What are your agriculture-related networks? What about other networks? How do you think these networks are relevant to your line of business?
The network revolution is already reshaping farmers’ basic common sense expectations of the world around them.
Networks show that farmers are a social species linked to one another by a far-reaching network.
These networks constitute direct and indirect links.
Diversity in the agricultural enterprise — How diverse is your agricultural activities? There are pros and cons of diversity just as a single line of business has its own advantages and disadvantages?
Although often influenced by natural resources, some of these are personal decision traits.
Succession plan — Is your succession plan within the family or along business lines?
There are pros and cons of each choice. You can’t just leave a farming business in the hands of people you don’t know.
On the other hand, leaving your business in the hands of unwilling or unable relatives can be the end of your dream.
Emails: Charles@knowledgetransafrica.com; email@example.com; firstname.lastname@example.org
Website: www.emkambo.co.zw; www.knowledgetransafrica.com
eMkambo Call Centre: 0771 859 000-5/ 0716 331 140-5 / 0739 866 343-6