ASHC new website launched
George Oduor, who leads the team at ASHC, answers questions about the new ASHC website
Why was a new website needed?
ASHC has changed since it was launched in 2011. In 2013 ASHC took on the management of a major AGRA-funded development program looking at optimizing fertilizer recommendations in 13 sub-Saharan countries. We are also changing the way we work with partners and our plans to work more closely with the country-level soil health consortia means our old website just did not work any more.
Does the new website have a different address?
You can access the site from africasoilhealth.cabi.org
All of the pages have moved however and so if other websites are linked to the ASHC website the links will need to changed. The team at ASHC will help you find any material you need on the new site.
What can the new website do that the old website could not?
The new website is primarily about providing a one-stop library to access ISFM materials. It has a strong focus on easy search function for the materials that have been developed in phase 1. The ISFM library includes a large number of manuals looking at ISFM principles and applying them to five cropping systems (rice, coffee- banana, sorghum & millet with legumes, maize with legumes, and cassava) and around 140 exemplar materials for smallholder farmers or extension audiences and a host of other materials.
The new website is also about building a platform for not only ASHC materials but all ISFM materials. It will be more flexible and accessible. Our partners can be given access to upload their own development communications materials to the ISFM library. Genuine partnership work requires a different mindset and a different toolbox and the website developer have helped us to make this a reality.
One immediate change people will see is that when they search for one resource the ASHC team will have made other recommendations of other similar materials. We are also encouraging people to comment on the materials on the website to help grow our knowledge of what works and what doesn’t.
The new site also highlights resources in French and Portuguese.
The website now utilizes WordPress. This has been a big hit with the development team looking after website. It is much quicker to make and upload pages to the website and so we have gained massive efficiency gains. Jobs that had taken hours can now be completed in a matter of minutes.
Is everything that was on the old site now available on the new site?
Yes the vast majority of the old content is on the new website. A few things may no longer be relevant and not make the cut, but our intention is to have anything useful from the old site fully available.
The materials section has also been extended and now has over 100 different ISFM information products.
How does OFRA fit into the new website?
Optimising Fertilizer Recommendations in Africa is lead by ASHC in partnership with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and the 13 participating national research teams. This program will create a great deal of data and materials that set out radically different approaches to fertilizer recommendations based on empowered smallholders deciding on crop choices and fertilizer application based on profit maximization. This could have had its own website, but AGRA was keen to exploit the potential for cross-fertilization between ASHC and OFRA outputs. OFRA is presenting fertilizer choices informed by integrated soil fertility management techniques and approaches so it makes sense to hold this information together.
There are other synergies too like with a strong cross-over in the delivery team and a shared technical advisory group. ASHC will be looking to bring in other suitable funding streams to extend this resource and approach still further.
How does the new website support the push for Creative Commons?
Many organisations say this material is published under a Creative Commons license but you look at it and it is a locked PDF or book. This isn’t what we want to offer in terms of open access. We know from our own experience that a lack of a photo, or a data table can derail the production of ISFM material. So, over the coming months we will be stripping down the ASHC materials to make file that will contain text and photos and illustrations so they can be accessed easily.
How will the new site support the capacity building needed for this approach?
Whenever ASHC works in new areas of communication we produce a ‘How to…’ guide. These guides will be easier to access on the new website and they will be linked to examples of good practice in the area of communication covered.
In addition we are looking at new features such as a range of templates that will be available for any organization to customize with locally adapted ISFM messages. By making these templates in PowerPoint, we hope this will be taking away another technological barrier.
Our vision for the future anyone can:
* Read a How to guide on making a poster
* Read a How to guide on farmer-friendly language
* Check the ISFM content in the cropping guides
* Select some images and text from our library
* Choose a template
* Then drop in their own text, their own images or use upload these from the ASHC materials library
This will be a unique development tool, which will set the bar for open access and open source. ASHC is currently raising the funds to make this possible.
The ASHC project is looking at new communications approaches so we anticipate that the website will keep evolving.
I would like to thank the ASHC delivery team and Electric Studio for all their hard work to get the new website up and working.