Tracking local activities and keeping daily updates does not just enable communities to practise what they preach.
eMKAMBO: CHARLES DHEWA
It also helps them increase awareness and value for the wider society.
When farming and fishing communities are able to track local activities, they build their own capacity to analyse what is going on as well as identify the next steps towards positive outcomes.
The ability to analyse what is happening at local level clarifies the nature and size of the local economy and helps shore up progressive ideas.
Inability to track activities limits the capacity of many communities in developing countries with regards to how they may improve themselves.
Once they are able to track their work, they will know about their situation, behaviour and clean up their future plans.
Another key benefit of consistently tracking what is happening is heightened awareness, leading to pattern recognition.
For instance, communities that track their production and consumption practices long enough are able to limit damaging practices like land degradation and maximise positive practices like water harvesting.
Community intentions and opportunities become more tangible when tracked, leading to positive reinforcement.
This does not just speed up change, but enables communities to move from old agricultural models to new digitally-enabled ones.
Unfortunately, in most African communities, there is no one tasked with tracking collective incomes and expenditures.
Tracking can also reveal circumstances under which focusing on local activities can be too small to be viable and how an international focus can be too disconnected to local reality due to diverse interests.
It is through tracking changes in the local environment that communities can embark on activities that enable them to get local rivers flowing again and creating a local movement to improve natural resources management.
Without tracking, it can be easy for farmers and other value chain actors to focus on crops and forget about grass, livestock and wildlife.
The contribution of each farming community to national food security can also be made visible through tracking volumes, seasons and other critical factors.
For instance, in Zimbabwe, tracking commodity supplies into informal agricultural markets has made it possible for eMKambo (www.emkambo.co.zw) to persistently notice that more than 70% of commodities flowing into informal markets come from communal areas, except potatoes, oranges, bananas and cabbages, which require bigger pieces of land for profitability.
The charts (above) show that Manicaland province has remained a major source and supplier of sugar beans in the Mbare, Harare market over the past three years (50%), followed by Mashonaland East (26%), then Mashonland Central (18%) and lastly, Mashonaland West (6%).
More evidence shows that this trend has been driven by sustained investments in irrigation facilities by government and its development partners in Manicaland as well as suitable climatic conditions.
The trends also reveal the potential of sugar beans to be a key agro-economic driver that can influence rural industrialisation in Manicaland province.
Assimilating local experiences into mainstream views
Tracking and gathering local evidence can empower farming communities to influence change and get their world views assimilated into mainstream national decision-making processes.
This can happen if these communities have skilled people who can recognise and capture strategic opportunities.
A community that tracks its activities can establish a stronger foundation for scaffolding growth and setting achievable targets.
New grounds for interpreting local knowledge can be inspired through persistent tracking and updating local evidence.
Some of the most important insights that can be generated include existing food supply networks, driving forces, adaptability of food systems to dynamic environments and relationships between food and identity.