Collaborative Decision Making and Food Security: Digitizing Indigenous Knowledge of Rural Farmers in Uganda.

paper, specified "long paper"
  1. 1. Robert Tweheyo

    Kyambogo University

Work text
This plain text was ingested for the purpose of full-text search, not to preserve original formatting or readability. For the most complete copy, refer to the original conference program.

This paper discusses the value of
indigenous knowledge and practices providing sustainable food security. Indigenous knowledge and practices play a crucial role in maintaining and enhancing genetic diversity, reduce environmental damage and boost resilience to climate change. Innovations based on traditional knowledge provide climate smart alternatives that can significantly increase food productivity and incomes of local communities, while ensuring sustainability and maintaining genetic diversity, as required by SDG2

. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) acknowledges the breakdown of traditional systems and how this has affected environmental degradation, undermining the long-term viability of pastoral livelihoods.
Access to adequate food is a basic human right. It is a catalyst to the realization of all other human rights, such as the right to education and good health, to mention only two

(FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO, 2017)
. Therefore, attaining national and household food security is of fundamental importance. However, achieving food security and making it sustainable, remains a global challenge.

Although Uganda is well known as an agricultural-based economy, sustaining food security has become challenging, owing to the poor economic status of the country. The current situation is that of low productivity, persistent hunger and malnutrition. This leads to much human suffering and substantial low productivity


USAID, 2016

(Tugume, 2017


argues that, while indigenous knowledge is gaining recognition, the need for ICT must also go high to capture, manage and disseminate indigenous knowledge. It is also needed to enable, control and share indigenous knowledge within the local context and according to unique and specific local needs. Peoples’ experiences, competences, talents, ideas, practices, intuitions, skills, wisdom and capabilities need to documented and codified

. He argues that a number of countries are using IT to develop digital libraries of indigenous knowledge in various local languages to prevent it from misuse through commercial patents. Managing and digitalizing indigenous knowledge is meant to develop cost effective and sustainable survival strategies for food security, poverty alleviation and income generation for poor rural communities. Digitizing indigenous knowledge makes it more resilient in the face of new threats such as those posed by climate change and genetically modified organisms (GMOs)

. ICT can play major roles in improving the availability of indigenous knowledge systems and enhancing its blending with the “modern/ scientific and technical knowledge”


Digitizing indigenous knowledge bridges the geographical and perceptual gap between communities

. Mark and Rensselaer (no date) argue that ICT is vital in sustaining and stimulating communities’ traditional ways of knowing. According to

, ICT could indeed act as a source of empowerment and knowledge exchange by enabling young people, old, employed and unemployed to exchange traditional and modern knowledge. It creates a platform for interaction among members of the community in form of collaborative processes


Due to the complexity of decision making processes, collaborative decision-making plays an essential role in the design and communication at all levels in problem solving processes. Collaborative decision-making refers to a situation where different people working together toward achieving a common goal come together to exchange ideas on how to achieve the stated goal. It is defined by

as a joint effort toward a common goal; a process in which stakeholders with different perspectives of a problem, can constructively explore the differences and can search for solutions that go beyond their own limited visions. It ideally involves a free exchange of ideas to allow creation of most innovative and strategic decisions

. Within collaborative decision making, there are many processes and best practices that can be employed and shared to ensure the best outcomes. A collaboration process provides a mechanism for engaging stakeholders in an effort to identify and address food security problems

. In the case of rural food insecurity, relevant stakeholders need to be involved to appropriately brainstorm, i.e. share their experiences on how they apply indigenous knowledge


Following a design science research philosophy in an engaged scholarship research paradigm,

a digital platform for managing and sharing indigenous knowledge that enhance food security is developed as an intervention base. This study was conducted in the selected areas of rural Uganda where agriculture is predominantly the major source of livelihood. A literature review was carried out to gain a generic understanding from different stakeholders’ perspectives and to get deeper insights of the challenges rural farmers face and decisions they take to overcome the challenges. In the exploration phase, it was observed that rural farmers operate in complex circumstances characterised by poor coordination and collaboration, lack of information and knowledge sharing to learn about what other farmers do in order to resolve food security decision making challenges. The exploratory study findings also revealed that the context in which rural farmers make food security decisions was complex and unstructured.

The platform enables farmers and stakeholders to share knowledge and experiences regarding household food security. The platform provides a collaboration suite that offers an interactive environment for knowledge sharing and decision-making.

It provides steps for engaging farmers and stakeholders in food security decision-making. The collaboration suite describes steps that are crucial for collaborative decision-making. The artifact offers an environment for collaborative decision-making among farmers and stakeholders. It is a platform where farmers and stakeholders freely exchange ideas on food security improvement and come up with innovative and strategic decisions. Collaborative decision-making enables farmers and stakeholders to share knowledge and information on best and worst practices as experienced by farmers. The initiator of the topic for discussion can invite people of his choice to the chartroom to discuss about the proposed topic by giving their views in the brainstorming session.

As noted by

, collaboration promotes sharing of experiences and practices in a specific context. During collaboration decision-making, farmers are encouraged to brainstorm ideas, tell their stories on indigenous knowledge experiences from which the best ideas are agreed upon by consensus and shared understanding. The purpose of sharing indigenous knowledge experiences by farmers is to learn from each other the best practices. Domain experts like extension workers and agriculture officers can provide technical advice by joining discussions on the platform. Collaboration stimulates comprehensive thinking and is a means of identifying best practices for addressing food security problems

. In the digital platform, CDWs take the role of intervention facilitators. The role of intervention facilitator is to provide support to rural farmers with no or low education background on how to use the platform. A facilitator gives assistance to farmers by using the intervention schemata to provide technical assistance to farmers and stakeholders who may want to participate in the discussions.

A screen shot of the collaborative decision-making

The digital interface provides collaborative platform for farmers and stakeholders engaged in a discussion about food security issues in a brainstorming manner. Every registered farmer can post his/her opinions suggesting ways in which food security could be made better using indigenous knowledge. The link allows any registered user to initiate a topic of discussion and to invite the views of other farmers and stakeholders. It represents a decision-making style in a way of brainstorming by instant messaging. It offers an opportunity for engaging farmers as domain practitioners in food security and key stakeholders in a group discussion. Collaboration builds teamwork and enables knowledge and experience sharing as a means of identifying alternative ways for addressing food security problems, see


. The digital interface has a provision for farmers to give their views regarding issues of their concern and also to participate in a discussion by chatting using the chat room that is provided on the dropdown menu bar. Upon clicking the farmers’ views icon, one is able to see the views of others and can join the discussion by scrolling down and writing his/her views in “give your comments” space provided at the bottom of the page. In the chartroom, any registered user can initiate a topic for discussion and can invite people of his/her choice to chat with in a way of sharing knowledge. In the interface, CDWs take the role of facilitator. Their role as intervention facilitators is to guide farmers and stakeholders on how to collaborate in decision-making process

. They give instructions on how to brainstorm, generating alternative ways for improving food security.

The platform was instantiated and evaluated by the users and domain experts in the field of food security and information systems. It was perceived as a usable and useful ICT interface for sharing indigenous knowledge among farmers. This study provides both descriptive and prescriptive solutions to the problem of food insecurity in rural communities. Furthermore, it contributes to digitized and contextualized interventions to solving food insecurity in developing countries.

Eseryel, Y., 2014. IT-Enabled Knowledge Creation for Open Innovation. JAIS, Journal of the Association for Information Systems. 15, 805–834.
FAO, IFAD, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO, 2017. The State of Food Insecurity in the World.
Hunter, J., 2013. The role of Information Technologies in Indigenous Knowledge Management.
Kamwendo and Kamwendo, 2014. Indigenous Knowledge Systems and Food Security: Some examples from Malawi. J Hum Ecol 48, 97–101.
Kolfschoten, G. Lukosch, S. and Seek, M., 2011. Simulating Collaboration Processes to Understand and Predict Group Performance in: Proceedings of the 44th Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences. Presented at the Hawaii International Conference on Systems Sciences, IEEE, Hawaii.
Konate, J. Sahraoni, A. and Kolfschoten, G., 2014. Collaboration requirements elicitation: A process Centred Approach.
Lasker, R. Weiss, E. and Miller, R. 2001. Partnership Synergy: A practical framework for studying and strengthening the collaborative advantage.
Lishan, A., 1998. ICT, Knowledge Management and Indigenous Knowledge: Implications to livelihood of Communities in Ethiopia.
Lodhi, S. and Mikulecky, P., 2010. Management of Indigenous Knowledge for Developing Countries, in: Communication and Management of Technological Innovation and Academic Globalisation. Presented at the elibrary Conference, Comatia, pp. 94–98.

Mwantimwa, K., 2008. The Relationship of Indigenous Knowledge and Technological Innovation to Poverty Alleviation in Tanzania, in: Proceedings of VI Globelics Conference. Presented at the VI Globelics Conference, Mexico.

Nonaka I., Reinmoeller, P. and Senoo, D., 1998. The Art of Knowledge. Europeam Management Journal. Vol.16 (6) 673-684: Organisational Sciences 5, 14–37.
Tugume, 2017. Starving People in Kanungu resort to eating spear grass. Chimp Rep.
Tweheyo, R., 2018. Indigenous Knowledge and Food Security: Enhancing Decisions of Rural Farmers. (PhD Thesis). Groningen, Groningen, The Netherlands.
UBOS, 2016. Uganda National Household Survey: Social economic model (Abridged Report). Uganda Bureau of Statistics, Kampala.
USAID, 2016. Uganda Nutritional Profile: Ending preventable child and maternal death. USAID, Kampala, Uganda.
World Bank, 2005. Indigenous Knowledge: Cross-regional distance learning course (India, Sri-Lank, Uganda, and Tanzania) (World Bank Report).

If this content appears in violation of your intellectual property rights, or you see errors or omissions, please reach out to Scott B. Weingart to discuss removing or amending the materials.