Did you know that there are roughly 145 cows per square kilometer in Bangladesh? This was one of the many things I learned at a recent CLA in Action brown bag event with presenter Osagie C. Aimiuwu. After Osagie’s presentation, for reasons that I truly can’t explain, I spent an unreasonable amount of time on Google learning about the cows of the world. As a vegetarian, I’ll admit this was strange behavior. I learned that India has the highest number of cows per square kilometer (followed closely by China and Brazil) and that Uruguay has the highest ratio of cows to humans in the world.
So, why did Osagie kick off his CLA presentation with cow facts? I’m sure he didn’t intend to spark an enthusiasm for cows amongst the audience (though that certainly happened for me). The answer: he had a beef with the Bangladeshi Dairy Sector. As an Agriculture Development Officer in the USAID Bangladesh Office, Osagie discovered that the amount of milk that was being produced in Bangladesh was low despite the high number of cows in the country. Compared to China and India, which produce roughly 10 liters per cow every day, Bangladesh only produces 2-3 liters of milk per cow every day. Why? Osagie sought to find out the answer.
He started by identifying six major livestock projects in the country. He met individually with each of the six projects to better understand their existing activities and goals. He then identified areas of overlap across the six projects. He learned that despite the fact that the teams were often doing the same things and working towards similar goals, they were not collaborating or coordinating their efforts. This was leading to a duplication of effort and decreased impact across the six projects. As Osagie explained during his presentation he, “saw a need for collaboration and set out to fill it.”
Osagie went back to each individual project and outlined the direct benefits they would see if they collaborated with other projects. He “did his homework and brought the facts” in order to gain their support. With all six projects on board, Osagie formed the Bangladesh Livestock Coordination Group. The group meets quarterly to discuss methods for implementing activities and reviews lessons learned from unsuccessful and successful practices. During these meetings, the activities, goals, and donor requirements for each of the six projects were not always aligned. In those instances, Osagie identified the issue that was common amongst all players and focused on that one. Through collaboration, the six projects continue to adapt their practices based on what they learn from one another. We have yet to see what this collaboration means for milk production in Bangladesh but Osagie has high hopes that the overall impact will be positive.
Osagie credits the success of the quarterly meetings to the enabling environment in which they took place. He emphasized openness and relationship building as key success factors. Osagie explained that in order to facilitate a complicated group dynamic like this one, facilitators need to be:
Transparent about their own intentions. Osagie directly told each of the six projects what his motives for setting up the Coordination Group were. This won him the trust of the projects.
Clear about the benefits of CLA. Osagie went to each of the six projects and explained how practicing CLA would help them to better achieve their individual and collective goals. This won him the support from the projects.
Good listeners. Osagie never dictated to the group. He let everyone talk and focused on listening to them. In order to let them know he heard them, he would often repeat back what they said. Moreover, he made sure that everyone had the opportunity to speak (by asking them directly for their opinions) and treated everyone as equals. This won him the respect from the projects.
In addition to the cow facts, I learned what a CLA champion looks like by hearing how Osagie made the case for collaborating, learning, and adapting in Bangladesh. My biggest take away from the event was how essential relationship building and good facilitation skills are to integrating CLA. Take a look at the visual notes I created (below) during the presentation for more highlights.