Training needs assessment

A training needs assessment was conducted at the beginning of the project during February to April 2014. Read below a summary of the main findings. The full report is available  here (1.7 MB).

A SurveyMonkey questionnaire about capacities in in situ conservation and use of CWR was administered at national level to stakeholders in Mauritius, South Africa and Zambia and at regional level to stakeholders in the SADC region. Some main findings based on the 63 responses received are the following:

Work on CWR is a part-time job

Of the 54 respondents who indicated how much of their working time they dedicated to work relating to CWR only seven reported that they work full time, or nearly full-time on CWR. By contrast, 63% of them spent 20% or less of their time on CWR issues. CWR-related work is a part-time occupation. Any capacity development actions will need to take this into account: the objective would be to integrate CWR competence into a range of existing jobs, rather than creating CWR specialists.

Further study on CWR capacity in the context of protected area management recommended
Although the survey was designed to cover the domains of both plant genetic resources and conservation area management, there was a strong bias towards the former. The sample may be, therefore, too small to draw conclusions regarding capacity development needs among conservation/protected area management organizations. To develop comprehensive national and regional capacity to conserve CWR in situ, a follow up study specifically targeting such organizations may be desirable.

An emerging pattern of capacity constraints is hindering CWR in situ conservation
The surveys from South Africa, Zambia and the regional surveys revealed a recurring pattern of capacity constraints (data from Mauritius were sparse). At the individual level, the most frequently reported constraints were the capacity to identify CWR, and to undertake eco-geographic surveys. A specific problem was also to deal with physiological constraints such as seed dormancy and germination. At the organizational level, capacity constraints included financial constraints, lack or shortage of human resources, and poor availability of or access to crop wild relative seed and germplasm. Incomplete or out-dated data sets were also a constraint. Finally, at the institutional level (enabling environment) respondents frequently reported constraints were lack of information on and awareness of CWR, legislative constraints, and issues related to infrastructure and access to areas of importance to CWR.

Data quantity and quality on CWR are poor and accessing data within the SADC region difficult
Most available data on CWR are found for ex situ collections, and there are gaps in information from field surveys, such as species distribution maps. Data quantity and quality on CWR were rated as very poor or poor by the majority of respondents. Accessing data from within the SADC region was perceived more difficult than accessing national data. Efforts to improve data sharing capacity could therefore pay dividends. Most respondents use Excel to manage data, implying a training need in using a broader range of software.

Individual training needs identified
Training on in situ conservation strategies (including assessing species distribution and threats) was by far the most cited need at the national level. Other frequently mentioned training needs were: use of CWR in crop improvement (Mauritius); data management and analysis (most countries); GIS tools (most countries); climate change and CWR (South Africa and SADC region), and policy dimensions (Mauritius and South Africa). Use of appropriate statistical analysis tools is also a priority theme for training in Mauritius. Species distribution modelling was mentioned as a training need at the SADC level.

Organizational capacity: both strengths and weaknesses
There was great variation between and within countries in organizational capacity for undertaking work on CWR. But some trends emerged. Access to scientific literature and Internet connectivity were good or adequate in most cases. There was great variation regarding the availability of facilities (e.g. labs, research fields) as well as materials and equipment for CWR related work. In Zambia, for example, such availability was poor or inadequate. Funding for CWR work was rated as poor in most countries; efforts to increase financial resources for CWR may be the single most important capacity enhancement mechanism available. Team work is an important aspect of capacity, and most respondents reported working in teams of two to five people. But many also reported gaps in their team’s capacity. South African respondents, for example, reported gaps such as human resources, need for capacity building, training on CWR, technical and research assistance support, and capacity for molecular genetics/molecular characterization. Finally, collaboration and networking outside of their own institutions and within the SADC region could be strengthened. The Zambian survey found that networking in the SADC region in the area of conservation and use of CWR was in most cases weak and inadequate. The EU-ACP CWR project has a good opportunity to strengthen this dimension in the coming years.

Institutional capacity (enabling policy environment): leverage existing national and regional policy mechanisms to better address CWR
The project countries and SADC respondents pointed out that, although specific CWR policies are lacking, there are policies that in principle support CWR conservation. These include the CBD and the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture as well as policies for conservation of important diversity and protected areas. The promotion of indigenous knowledge can also be advantageous to CWR. The political will for mitigation and adaptation to climate change is an enabling factor as well. This project can play a role in improving the awareness and recognition of CWR in the agricultural and environmental sectors in the SADC region.