Around mid-March 2014, I had the opportunity to help conduct an Akvo FLOW training workshop in Lusaka, Zambia with some of our Connect4Change partners. Connect4Change is a consortium lead by five organisations: Akvo, Cordaid, Edukans, ICCO and IICD. It aims to accelerate the development of people in Africa and Latin America by using information and communication technology (ICT), and operates in various sectors such as health, education and agriculture.
Most Akvo FLOW training sessions I have taken part in so far have revolved around water, sanitation and health (WASH) projects. This one, on the other hand, involved farmers and various other stakeholders in the agriculture and education sectors in Zambia.
Above and below: participants on the Akvo FLOW training course in Lusaka on 11 March 2014. Photos by Luuk Diphoorn.
Lee Muzala of Trio Consult, who was in charge of logistics, opened the workshop on a warm Tuesday morning, by inviting the participants to make formal introductions. The organisations represented included One World Africa (OWA), Agri-Business Forum (ABF), National Agriculture Information Services Zambia (NAIS), Mpelembe Secondary School, Groundnuts Industry Association of Zambia (GIAZ), National Agriculture Information Services (NAIS) and Kalingalinga Youth Resource Centre (KYRC).
A detailed explanation followed from each about what they do and the challenges they face in relation to data collection, monitoring and evaluation.
We then began the training in earnest, by digging deep into what Akvo does, with a focus on Akvo FLOW. The first day also included activities such as creating new surveys and registering devices to the FLOW dashboard.
The second day was more hands on. The participants went outside to collect dummy data and familiarise themselves with the Akvo FLOW app. This is encouraged, because at times the structure of the survey questions slightly change when fed into the dashboard. For example, participants may be used to working with questions in a grid format in paper-based surveys, but the grid layout will be lost when the survey is entered into the system, so it’s necessary to get used to a different layout.
Above: Arthur Shipekesa (left) together with his colleague Edward Mugizi, both from Agri-Business Forum (ABF), try out collecting dummy data using Akvo FLOW. Below: Map of initial test data collected by enumerators during the training.
After the field activity, a small feedback session was held. The responses were positive, particularly regarding the field survey app. There were some questions around the GPS functions however, about how they work and how they fit into the functionality of the tool overall. Questions like this are indicative of the learning curve the participants experienced, and are to be expected. With all the dynamism in technology these days, coming up with IT solutions that are easily acceptable across most demographics can be quite a challenge at times.
On the third and final day of the training, we did a recap of the practical FLOW skills learned over the previous two days and participants shared their final understanding of the tool. We selected some ‘FLOW Champions’ from the group who will be our primary contacts for communications between the field partners and our team here in Nairobi. Below you can watch some video interviews by Luuk Diphoorn with four of the course participants.
In conclusion, the training session overall was a success. Based on the responses we received on the final day, we can happily say that most of the organisations will commence data collection in the first week of May. Here at Akvo, we are also excited and looking forward to seeing the data coming in.
Andrew Molo is junior partner co-ordinator in Akvo’s East Africa hub.