eMKambo is increasingly meeting rural communities that have been schooled into valuing tangible assets like dams and tractors at the expense of intangible assets like knowledge on how to earn more value from those assets.
By CHARLES DHEWA
In agricultural communities where assets like irrigation schemes and roads have been built or rehabilitated, people are still unsure how they can unlock value from those assets in the absence of a market for commodities to be produced and transported to consumption zones.
This is where the ability to evaluate existing knowledge or intangible assets becomes important. Every community has intangible assets in the form of expertise, experiences, ambitions, visions and an appetite for risk.
However, such intangible assets remain difficult to evaluate and cost. On the other hand, interventions from development actors continue to provide support in the form of tangible hardware as opposed to software issues like knowledge which can turn assets into better lives.
Consequences of ignoring intangible assets are often visible in the form of under-utilised assets like dams, irrigation equipment, expensive processing equipment and roads.
If communities are empowered with formulae for assessing the value of their knowledge on using pastures and roads, they can be able to see how such assets are saving a purpose.
For instance, the value of a road can be assessed through high quality commodities that are transported to the market from the community. Gathering such details means investing in data collection.
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Informing commercial transformation
It is through consistent data collection and analysis that communities can inform their broader commercial transformation on the basis of available resources such as water, pastures, tourism potential and others.
Through collecting data on what gets out and comes into the community, it is possible to see the value of a good road network or a water source.
While some people may think this is a difficult process, many value chain actors in any community already have data and tools that can easily be integrated to provide a complete picture for the entire community.
However, unless there is consensus on what needs to be measured and understood, the purpose of collecting the data is lost. Community members have to agree and focus their data collection vision of what they want to achieve. This will be the foundation on which community data-driven muscles can be built.
Eventually data will begin to influence community business and social outcomes in ways that align all actors doing the same thing. What is the point of investing in a well-furnished house when the household continues to suffer acute malnutrition?
It is time development agencies move away from providing hardware like infrastructure to supporting the germination and application of software like knowledge and the right attitudes.
Government departments and local authorities have lots of data but such data is either outdated or inconsistent such that it is difficult to use. While some knowledge is in people’s heads, mechanisms of collecting it can be set up so that collection becomes a fluid process.
Providing a structured data collection method can ensure cleanliness of the data in ways that simplify usage. Communities can identify people responsible for cleaning and ensuring consistency in the quality and availability of data.
In addition to ensuring data is available when required, it is also important to determine different audiences for different sets of data. Decision makers may need different data from new comers into a community. Local business people like agro-dealers may be more interested in business metrics than general insights.
The power of forecasting and early warnings
Capturing data at every information and decision-making node enables communities to see opportunities ahead of everyone else.
There have been cases where outsiders see opportunities which local people do not see due to lack of a culture of collecting and analyzing data at local level.
A transparent data collection system is a foundation for more reliable decision making and accurate forecasting.
This will also assist farmers in gathering valuable insights on the behaviour of different commodity buyers, instead of relying on intermediaries who often tilt business outcomes in their favor.
Transparent pricing of diverse commodities can also be enabled through consistent flow of data about commodity volumes and prices in diverse markets.
Getting the right data in the right place is the first step in building robust commercial capabilities for farmers and agribusiness that are struggling to break through.
Better and more informed decisions can be arrived at when high quality and trackable data is available throughout the agricultural ecosystem.
It is through reliable and consistent access to customer data that value chain actors can be able to see growth opportunities and accurately meet customer needs.