In early August this year, I was privileged to facilitate as a mentor in a virtual course of two-week period for 25 young and enthusiastic college graduates, researchers, entrepreneurs, veterinarians from Nepal and a couple of African countries.
There were several reasons for me to choose the course- “Managing Livestock-based Community Development Projects”. For the fresh graduates of animal-agriculture or veterinary science, it is always very challenging to find practical, appropriate and need-based interventions in the livestock-based projects that caters for the interests of smallholder farmers.
The knowledge we get from universities is geared more towards theory and the skills that we learn are sophisticated and many of them are irrelevant for the smallholder farmers. I personally have experienced that gap between what we learn and what communities need in any development interventions. In general, there is so much to learn from the communities.
Being in the international development field for last 15 years especially in livestock-based community development, I thought I would be able to share my ideas, experience and expertise with young fellows. I assume I was successful to do that for the participants who really have interests and passion in this area.
The Managing Livestock-based Community Development Projects Course
When I was working to design this course, I had smallholder farmers in mind that these smallholders do not need highly sophisticated principles and practices of raising animals. This was the reason why course materials posted in the website was very basic and fundamental and at times, these basics do not excite young graduates.
Once the course was launched, this group of participants were also not so excited (I may be wrong as it was all virtual sessions). Majority of participants had a hunger to learn, interact and contribute to the sessions. That created a platform where issues were raised and practical solutions for some of the livestock raising methods were recommended.
Some of the challenges encountered while running the course was time difference, availability of power and internet sources in Nepal. In addition, there was only one webinar organized to talk about overall strategies to be taken for any livestock-based community development projects but there was expectation from the participants for more webinars and other means that connects them to the facilitator (mentor).
Despite these challenges, participants joined the course, submitted assignments, contributed to the questions raised in the discussion forum. The final wrap up went very well and i was able to share diverse source of references for further enriching the knowledge and skills on livestock development. It is very important for participants to continue having conversations with mentor, joining the networks like the Community of Practice for Pro-poor Livestock Development (CoP-PPLD), FAO’s Domestic Animal Diversity Network (DAD-Net); USAID’s Feed the Future Agrilinks and so on.
My take home message, before planning for the course, know your participant’s immediate interests, consider time zone, and also analyze how they were schooled. Not everybody in the developing world is widely exposed and experienced to online courses where the course materials are posted, quizzes are taken. Some need and expect a lot of interactions through webinar, skype, and any other appropriate means that helps to connect directly with participants.
This blogpost is a personal reflection of Mentor-Dilip Bhandari, who facilitated short online course on “Managing Livestock-based Community Development projects in EduMala platform run by YPARD Nepal.
Photo credit: Dilip Bhandari