Programas Regionales Rutas de Aprendizaje para Latinoamérica, África y Asia-Pacífico
Corporación Regional PROCASUR

The Problem

One of the most serious obstacles for scaling up rural development processes is the lack of effective mechanisms for capacity building to generate and further innovative solutions in the struggle against poverty. National development agencies and international donors have designed conceptual and methodological approaches for the implementation of projects aimed at combating poverty seeking to increase their effectiveness and efficiency and obtain better results and impacts. Despite the magnitude of efforts and resources committed in many instances results did not meet expectations. Often it was difficult to link results and impacts achieved to the provision of training with the changes in poverty and destitution. In general, training services offered by government institutions have had considerable weaknesses in (i) responding to training demands, (ii) narrowing the gap between the training needs of users and the relevance of the supply of available knowledge, (iii) attaching limited value to the knowledge arising from the actual practice of implementing development investments, (iii) relying on formal and traditional methods of training with little inclusion of talented providers and specialists in with local knowledge, (iv) lacking the use of approaches that privileged of an approach that privileged national solutions.
This problematic situation is compounded by the dynamic conditions of social, economic, political and institutional contexts in which development projects operate. It requires continuous updating and training of human resources involved in implementing projects to meet the new challenges facing society and particularly the most disadvantaged social groups (peasants, indigenous peoples, small-scale farmers, women, rural youth and populations of African descent especially in Latin America
There is a renewed interest in developing and testing new learning tools, for disseminating knowledge that may lead to adoption of innovations. This interest is not limited to replication of specific initiatives included in rural development projects but furthering the development of social and institutional environments with the networked participation of multiple players.
The experience developed by PROCASUR through regional programs in Latin America, Africa and Asia supported by IFAD is addressing the situation earlier described by facilitating the establishment of a cooperation and knowledge management network, designed to extend the capabilities of innovative action by the main actors in rural development. Networking is based on a process of exchange and learning among actors with different interests, yet with distinctive capabilities to contribute to development of poor rural by a learning by visiting methodology to relevant experiences on specific issues. Participants exchange ideas and approaches but, above all, reflect on their own reality and address the possibility of scaling up what was learned.

Solution and Key Benefits

 What is the initiative about? (the solution)
Learning Routes are a kind of management tool for recognising local knowledge and capacity building, organized thematically around experiences, cases and best practices. Through workshops, interviews, discussions and field activities the Learning Route approach provides for multiple opportunities for exchange, analysis and reflection, individually and in groups, based on the testimony and knowledge accumulated by local practitioners or talents, in order to achieve a comprehensive, systemic and dynamic understanding of problems and solutions.
The Learning Routes approach is essentially a roadmap for building knowledge based on learning, by having particpants visit various experiences relevant to their own development projects. In this sense, the impact of the Learning Routes is evaluated by the contribution to positive change management practices and implementation by participants in their organizations, institutions and projects. The Learning Routes are of high value to direct users as they expand analytical capacity and knowledge management of participants leading to improved efficiency and effectiveness of public investment in development.
The impact has been measured quantitatively by keeping a comprehensive record of participants, their organizations and consolidating information on their professional profiles, gender and other socio cultural dimensions. As of June 2011 47 Routes have been carried out with 793 participants under seven subject matters including: (i) cultural assets, (ii) gender policies , (iii) development innovations, (iv) rural youth, (v) rural micro enterprises, (vi) micro finances, and (vii land and natural resources. Records indicate that 46% of all participants had a postgraduate degree, 56% were men and 48 % were between 31 and 40 years old.
Evaluations of the initiative have indicated that it has been highly successful and its impact has been greater than expected by IFAD and PROCASUR. The evaluations have concluded that from a qualitative point of view this has been: (a) an effective methodology for training and education focused on the exchange of experiences, knowledge and practice, combining theoretical training with visits to innovative case studies that can be replicated through the creation of innovation plans tailored to the needs of each participant; (b) a flexible mechanism that allows for developing new management skills among various actors involved in rural development initiatives (farmers, rural operators, technicians, professional staff working in projects) and in a wide range of thematic domains; and, (d) a relevant approach to allow local talents and development practitioners to systematically organize their knowledge, experiences and processes of innovation. Learning Routes mobilize partners and stakeholders, leveraging additional resources and furthering replication as many other international organizations have adopted the methodology in their strategies for capacity building, as well as government agencies.
A survey of participants in the initiative indicated that they were highly satisfied with the concept and the training methodology. They had acquired new skills and knowledge and had improved professionally as a result of their participation. They indicated that they had acquired better theoretical and practical knowledge to implement new projects in their organizations, becoming agents of change.

Actors and Stakeholders

 Who proposed the solution, who implemented it and who were the stakeholders?
The solution to the identified problems was proposed as part of an assessment of the efficiency and effectiveness of training programmes of IFAD funded projects in Latin America.
The initiative was and is being implemented by PROCASUR, a non-governmental non-profit organization established in Chile in 1996 with the support of IFAD. Although initially involved in programs and projects in the Latin America region PROCASUR now has an office in Nairobi, Kenya for East and Southern Africa and in 2012 will open a new office in the Asia and the Pacific Region. PROCASUR provides capacity building services with the purpose of increase the innovation capacities of Governments, development projects and farmers’ organizations through the exchange of best practices and solutions. During the last fifteen years PROCASUR has consolidated a network of South- South Cooperation partners, including international cooperation agencies such as IFAD, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), UN-WOMEN, the Ford Foundation and the International Land Coalition
Through experience gained in sharing experience in implementing successful rural development interventions in Peru the IFAD Country Programme Manager in collaboration with PROCASUR came up with the idea of the Learning Routes as a natural outcome of the numerous visits to IFAF funded projects in Peru that had been considered successful. Implementation of the initiative has benefited from the contribution of staff within different IFAD Divisions and in organizations outside of IFAD. Project Directors of IFAD funded projects in the regions have contributed significantly. Those in Colombia and Peru have been actively involved in furthering implementation of the initiative and have been actively involved during Learning Routes undertaken in the geographical areas of intervention of their projects. Several Country Programme Managers and Knowledge Management officers within IFAD have participated in distinct Learning Routes and contributed to sharing their experience in the IFAD social media.
Other stakeholders outside of the IFAD circle include civil servants in the ministries responsible for implementing projects and programmes and or initiatives visited and within those projects all the stakeholders involved in their implementation. This includes municipal authorities, technical assistance providers, small-scale farmers and rural entrepreneurs and above all citizen organizations and women’s groups.

(a) Strategies

 Describe how and when the initiative was implemented by answering these questions
 a.      What were the strategies used to implement the initiative? In no more than 500 words, provide a summary of the main objectives and strategies of the initiative, how they were established and by whom.
Objectives. The main objectives of the initiative are to: i) address the knowledge needs of development practitioners faced with problems associated with rural poverty and, ii) identify relevant experiences in which local actors have tackled similar problems in innovative ways, with successful results and accumulated knowledge which, is potentially useful to others. Based on these objectives it is possible to implement an experiential encounter between travellers and hosts, both having mutually useful experiences and knowledge. At this meeting point, participants acquire meaningful learning and confront their experiences and prior knowledge. The aim is to develop the ability to identify potentially useful innovations, aimed at adapting and applying them in the participant’s organizations and contexts of origin.

Strategies. Implementation is built under the following strategic considerations a) recognition that in rural areas it is possible to find successful solutions to existing problems, which can be adapted and multiplied in other contexts, (b) targeting interventions on practitioners, designers and public and private decision makers of public and private investments in favour of the rural poor at the national, regional and locals, (c) developing mechanisms for supporting, monitoring and evaluation of adaptation and adoption of innovations, particularly through networking activities and partnerships between users and rural talents as service providers for training and technical assistance, (d) multiplying the number of stakeholders intersected in incorporating the mechanism as part of their regular activities for capacity building and (e).improving and enhancing the positioning of rural talents in the rural knowledge market through the sale of training services and technical assistance

(b) Implementation

 b.      What were the key development and implementation steps and the chronology? No more than 500 words
The implementation of the Learning Routes methodology has been an iterative process whose origins can be traced back for nearly two decades when IFAD's Latin America and Caribbean Division, acknowledged the fact that much was needed in terms of furthering training of project staff that implemented IFAD funded government programmes in the region. in 1996 IFAD’s Executive Board approved a technical assistance grant in favour of the Group for Agricultural Research (GIA) for the creation of a regional rural development training institution in order to support implementation of IFAD projects in Latin America. The regional institution was established in August 1999 under the name of PROCASUR. Based on the positive results of the initial grant to GIA a second grant now to PROCASUR was approved by the Executive Board in December 1999.
It is in 2006 that a first grant was awarded to PROCASUR for the specific purpose of implementing the Learning Routes methodology. it stated that through a replicable “see and learn” methodology, IFAD-funded projects in Peru, and more recently in Bolivia, had received hundreds of visitors from other countries and projects including some not directly related to IFAD region-wide. These “study tours” had been organized, carried out and evaluated using a constantly evolving methodology called “Learning Routes”. Learning Routes had proved useful in fostering innovation, and should now be organized systematically, consolidated and replicated in other development initiatives in the LAC region. A second grant to PROCASUR was considered by the Executive Board in 2009 with the purpose of fostering the establishment and strengthening of networks for pro-poor knowledge generation and exchange, which in turn would enhance the Fund’s own capacity to establish long-term strategic linkages with its development partners and to multiply the effect of its grant-financed research and capacity building programmes. A third grant was approved by the Executive Board in December 2010 aimed at increasing knowledge and capacity for adopting and scaling up best practices and innovations among IFAD stakeholders in the ESA region. The overall goal of this specific Programme is to increase knowledge and capacity for adopting and scaling up best practices and innovations among IFAD stakeholders in the ESA region along the same lines as the previous grants.
A fourth grant, which covers implementation of the methodology in the Asia and Pacific Region has been approved in 2011 aimed at supporting innovations that reducing risks and vulnerability of poor rural men and women, strengthen institutions and policies that promote their interests and management systems while increasing productivity and sustainability of small holder agriculture. It will support a demand-driven approach focused on broad based direct know how exchanges aimed at accelerating the use of the Learning Routes approach and methodology. The grant also addresses South-South cooperation as a two-way process that allows for the fluid and direct interchange of ideas, technologies and goods, between people, within and across regions. A last small grant was also granted by the North Africa Division.

(c) Overcoming Obstacles

 c.      What were the main obstacles encountered? How were they overcome? No more than 500 words
Throughout implementation of the initiative a number of issues or obstacles have emerged among which: (a) recognition of local knowledge or tacit knowledge of local practitioners is not always the norm and this knowledge is not systematized or valued sufficiently by development project implementers. (b) public sector institutions implementing development projects at national, regional and local levels have limited opportunities to adjust and scale up lessons learned from innovations and learning routes, as they lack flexibility to introduce design changes, to approaches and strategies of programs and projects to combat poverty, (c) linkages between beneficiaries (farmers and indigenous communities, rural micro entrepreneurs and those responsible for implementing public investment projects is not always explicit and adequate to achieve the design and formulation of policies for combating poverty, and; (d) the incorporation of the Learning Routes tool as part of a training strategy is often not clearly visible as an useful tool for the management and enhancement of knowledge assets generated by project operators implementers.

In order to overcome these obstacles PROCASUR has promoted various activities, including: (i) working closely with public investment programs that have included the Routes methodology in their training components in order to introduce methodological flexibility and adaptation to the processes and institutional contexts while respecting the basic elements of the methodology in a given institutional, social and geographical context , (ii) working on the promotion and dissemination of programme impacts on the design, validation and scaling up of innovative solutions to combat poverty in Latin America, Africa and Asia, in the context of an IFAD International Development Research Centre joint programme on campesino innovations, (iii) initiating a processes of expansion of the methodology through training teams in different institutional and territories so as to deepen the strategic alliances in the territories covered by the Programmes at present and (iv) furthering the use of information and communications technologies in order to reach a larger number of indirect beneficiaries and the promotion of Routes as a knowledge management tool.

(d) Use of Resources

 d.      What resources were used for the initiative and what were its key benefits? In no more than 500 words, specify what were the financial, technical and human resources’ costs associated with this initiative. Describe how resources were mobilized
PROCASUR has mobilized financial resources from different partners, the most important being IFAD who has granted five consecutive grants to PROCASUR in order to develop Learning Routes in Latin America and the Caribbean (2 phases), East and Southern Africa, Asia and the Pacific and North of Africa and Middle East. Since 2006 IFAD has contributed with US$ 5 million for the implementation and scaling up of the methodology. The Ford Foundation has funded an interregional Learning Programme on Microfinance Rural Innovations (2007- 2009) and on the impact of Extractive Industries (2010-2011), for a total of US$ 1 million. Other partners, such as the International Land Coalition, UN-WOMEN and FAO have contributed on average US$ 500.000.Participants in the Learning Route have contributed in sharing costs of the initiative in an amount estimated in US$ 700.000 as their participation fee.
As the initiative has progressed and taken hold, different human and technical resources have been required. At the outset operations were coordinated and implemented from a central unit based in Santiago, Chile working with national consultants. As the demand increased PROCASUR has trained new human resources based on the territories of intervention. As part of the expansion of the initiative it has opened local representation offices in locations including Bolivia, Colombia and Kenya, using different flexible implementation mechanisms and set ups. The present implementation stage over a much larger territory than originally envisaged requires contracting human resources that are capable to transfer the methodologies to local governments, nationally and internationally funded rural development projects and building the capacity of private service providers who can became operators of the Learning Routes approach. As a knowledge broker PROCASUR has also mobilized external specialized human resources by partnering with thematically focuses organizations, such as the Centre for Microfinance in Pretoria, South Africa, the Rural Development with Cultural Identity programme of RIMISP, the Political Participation of Women in Local Spaces Programme, the Rural Municipalities Network of Peru, the Peruvian Research Institute and the Regional Capacity-building and Knowledge Management for Gender Equality Programme.
Within IFAD, resources were mobilized by engaging Country Programme Managers from different Divisions in actual Learning Routes and by participation of PROCASUR staff in seminars and workshops on knowledge management and innovations. Equally PROCASUR has consistently involved programme officers from other international donor agencies in its activities which has resulted in better knowledge and understanding of the initiative and of its merits.

Sustainability and Transferability

  Is the initiative sustainable and transferable?
Sustainability. From a financial point of view the initiative is sustainable in the long run if new development projects and government interventions come on stream and financial resources are allocated for the purpose of managing knowledge and further training of project implementers and beneficiaries In terms of the social sustainability this is assured by the inclusion of marginalized communities as target groups of development interventions. The initiative is also sustainable from a cultural point of view as cultural exchanges are an essential element of the Routes. Institutional sustainability is dependent on the permanence of organizational structures in the public and private sectors that can continue demanding and offering the methodology in the future.
The main challenges for long term sustainability relate to the process of institutionalizing the methodology within and outside IFAD. Long term sustainability can be ensured by including in project designs and in agreement with national governments the use of the methodology and create the necessary spaces for building the capacity of knowledge service providers in different contexts. Sustainability can also be ensured by establishing direct links with national governments leading to ownership of the initiative and finding associative models for organizations and knowledge providers at the local level ensuring that the learning process is socially fair and sustainable.

Replication. The Ford Foundation has co-financed a three-year learning project on best innovative rural microfinance products and services and Learning Routes in Latin America, Africa and Asia in the field of rural micro-finance and extractive industries. The United Nations Institute for the Training and Advancement of Women (INSTRAW), now UN WOMEN has co-financed three Learning Routes in Central America and the Andean Region on political participation of women in local governments and designed one for countries of the Magreb. The ILC co-funded the design and implementation of two Learning Routes in Latin America on participatory mapping and developed along with the Uganda Land Alliance a Route one women’s access to land in Africa and with RECONCOLE, another for pro-poor decentralisation of land governance in multi-use landscapes in Africa.
Africa and Latinoamerican public rural development projects and institutions show progress in the adoption of the methodology as an integral part of its knowledge management and capacity building strategy, including: the Ministry of agriculture of rural development from Colombia and Peru, the National Institute of Women of Costa Rica (INAMU) and the Young Rural Entrepreneurs of the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries of Argentina, and the Kirehe Community Based Watershed Management Project (KWAMP) and the Support Project for the Transformation of Agriculture (PAPSTA) from the Ministry of Agriculture and Animal resources of Rwanda.
Additionally, the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) Chorlavi Network has financed two Learning Routes on enabling poor rural territories to access dynamic markets. PROCASUR has also undertaken with the Rural Territorial Development with Cultural Identity Project-five different Learning Routes on rural cultural assets as a business opportunity for the rural poor.

Lessons Learned

 What are the impact of your initiative and the lessons learned?
The success of the initiative is based on (i) the explicit recognition of the existence of local knowledge and local talents who can articulate what they have been engaged in and can articulate the possibilities and constraints of a series of development interventions, (ii) the recognition by participants during and after the Route that the methodology is relevant for learning on the introduction of innovations in different institutional contexts, establishing a direct dialogue with different actors involved, (iii) braking down language and other cultural barriers that generally conspire against knowledge sharing, (iv) the use of inter pares learning and being able to develop an innovation plan which may be implemented in the participants milieu and institutional context, (v) building learning on actual situations and in real contexts, (v) the vertical and horizontal integration of the learning situations with different actors at all levels and (vi) the relevancy of the contents of learning from the theoretical to the practical and from the universal to the specificities of the experiences visited.

A phrase that summarize the key identity of this Initiative is Pro Poor South-South Cooperation. PROCASUR as a service provider has pioneered the construction of cooperation and understanding bridges between countries of the South, within different regions, but also between regions. Has been able to identify common interests among practitioners and scout for experiences, approaches and innovative mechanisms with potential for scaling, shaping heterogeneous groups of learning and practice, distinguishing from the traditional approach of cooperation focused on the public official of the Central Government thanks to an active participation of rural communities, associations and microenterprises, development projects technicians and professional, local governments and autonomous at different stages.

Contact Information

Institution Name:   Corporación Regional PROCASUR
Institution Type:   Non-Governmental Organization  
Contact Person:   Cecilia Leiva Montengro
Title:   Mrs  
Telephone/ Fax:   +56 2 3416367
Institution's / Project's Website:
Address:   Heriberto Covarrubias 21, office 705, Ñuñoa Santiago de Chile.
Postal Code:   N/A
City:   Santiago de Chile
State/Province:   Santiago
Country:   Chile

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