ASSP


The NBDC sent five representatives including two local innovation platform (IP) members to a special session on ‘engagement platforms’ at the sixth Africa Agricultural Science Week (AASW) organised by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), 15-19 July.

The session was organised as a Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) event and featured representatives from the three African basins: Limpopo, Nile and Volta.

Andenet Deresse (instructor at Ambo University) and Dr. Mussie Haile Melekot (professor at Bahir Dar University) represented the Nile Basin Innovation platforms in a talk show hosted by Dr. Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chief Executive Officer of the Food Agriculture and Natural Resource Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN).

Watch the video: Harnessing innovations for food security – innovation platforms in Ethiopia’s Nile Basin Development Challenge

With additional support from Zelalem Lema, research officer at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) in Addis Ababa, the Nile delegation also shared some lessons and hopes regarding engagement platforms:

  • Incentives are key! It is difficult for IP members to remain motivated but capacity development on research, networking etc. really helps. Unforeseen incentives that appear along the way also strengthen members buy in and IP teams should pay attention to these.
  • Financial incentives give a hint about sustainability. Will IP members still come to the meetings and remain engaged in the process if we stop paying them? We have to ask these questions early on and find out if people are ready to invest in IPs by themselves. This says a lot about the potential sustainability of these platforms.
  • Formalising IPs is a great way to clarify roles and responsibilities and limit problems of participation. The NBDC developed terms of reference and a legal structure which explained who should be part of it, when and how to meet etc. Despite this, membership turnover did hamper progress and some discussions that had been dealt with in the past kept resurfacing.
  • Balancing long term natural resource management with short term value chain benefits: As an overall take home message, the NBDC team learned that a value chain approach brings short term results and perhaps they should use this approach – around fodder interventions for example – to create good impact and incentives for all IP members.

The session also featured presentations by Dr. Alain Vidal (Director of the Challenge Program for Water and Food) and Dr. Olufunke Coffie (Basin Leader for the Volta Basin Development Challenge). After the IP talk show, participants zoomed in on five different topics: how to set up IPs, how to engage with policy (using IPs), how to scale them up, how to deal with power and representation and finally how to ensure they are working?

These group discussions generated additional insights on issues of purpose, engagement, sustainability and impact:

A thorough analysis upfront paves the way for a good engagement process: a strong situation and stakeholder analysis, assessing social networks and alliances in presence, understanding the local cultural context are all helpful to limit marginalisation of certain groups and ensure their proper involvement in engagement platforms.

The sustainability issue is also sensitive but some measures of connecting ongoing IPs with other networks and platforms, organising field tours, farmer field days, exchange visits etc. offer ways to progressively embed an engagement platform in a wider social environment. On the other hand, as these platforms are multi-functional and dynamic, they may cease to exist once they have fulfilled their purpose. Or they may morph into another type of platform that fills other gaps in the wider system.

Finally, measuring the impact of engagement platforms remains a difficult undertaking, all the more so for IPs that focus on natural resource management (with long term tradeoffs and benefits) as opposed to value chain-focused IPs.

The CPWF morning side event built on a series of 12 draft ‘practice briefs‘ on innovation platforms developed with funding by the CGIAR research program on Humidtropics and harnessing experiences and insights from several years of work with such platforms.

Six months before its formal end as a project, the Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC) hosted a science meeting to share ongoing and finalised research results.

Bedasa Eba introducing his paper60 participants met on 9 and 10 July 2013 and reviewed presentations organised around four main themes:

  • Livestock and irrigation
  • Water productivity, hydrological and erosion modeling
  • Rainwater, land and water resources management
  • Institutions, adoption and marketing

In addition, 10 posters were also featured in the science meeting, mainly from PhD and MSc students working in the NBDC. Presentations and posters are online.

Key lessons and conclusions emerging were:

  • The research for development approach adopted by the NBDC and other basins in the Challenge Program for Water and Food (CPWF) is valuable but it has not been able to go as far as planned, especially in terms of getting beyond research outputs towards development outcomes. See more about this in the presentation by Doug Merrey.
  • The Development Agents’ (DA) system has been somewhat left behind but have a crucial role to play and could be revitalised by actors like NBDC to involve DA staff in transdisciplinary research projects that can help move research outputs to outcomes.
  • NBDC research tends to focus on individual or household benefits of certain rainwater management interventions but less attention has been given to collective benefits and tradeoffs between upstream and downstream communities. The debate about on-site and off-site benefits and the link with ecosystem services at landscape level remains open.
  • Similarly, competition for water resources puts the stress on a new phenomenon: it is traditionally easier to promote individual technologies rather than collectively managed schemes (with their high transaction costs). However, adding too many individual pumps in the watershed stresses water resources.

The participants also highlighted a series of research gaps that ought to be taken up by future initiatives focusing on land and rainwater management (RWM). These included: appropriate land use planning, strengthening local agencies to deal with RWM and to plan land use, identifying suitable scalable solutions that are appropriate for a given context or focusing on scalable practices and methods or approaches; improving biomass production.

Finally, they noted that NBDC science remains somewhat scattered but the evidence base collected is an important asset to carry into other initiatives that will build on the NBDC legacy.

The presentations and individual papers featured in the NBDC science meeting will be individually featured on this website – watch this space!

Read conversation notes and links to outputs from the meeting

Discover the presentations and the posters shared at the science meeting

Download the meeting proceedings.

During the recent NBDC science meeting, associate consultant – and former staff member of the International Water Management Institute – Doug Merrey took stock of a number of interviews carried out to map the Nile Basin’s ‘institutional history‘ (1). The presentation focused on what the NBDC has done to implement a research for development (R4D) approach that brings research activities out of the scientific silo and into communities’ landscapes, as well as the figurative landscape of development outcomes.

In his presentation ‘Is research for development a good investment? Reflections on lessons from NBDC’, Merrey pointed to a number of interesting aspects.

Historically, CGIAR is a collective of research institutes and its scientists have been assessed against the amount of peer-reviewed papers published every year, but the CGIAR reform is pushing CGIAR scientists to ensure their research brings about development outcomes. These scientists are increasingly involved in processes of facilitation of innovation and action-research activities verging on development work.

The question is whether these efforts are worthwhile. Such efforts are long-term, resource-intensive, require strong process skills that CGIAR scientists have not necessarily had to develop and nurture until now. In addition, the NBDC experience shows that R4D means different things to different people. In his presentation, Merrey noted that despite some shortcomings, the NBDC did promote one authentic innovation: to bring together a large and diverse group of partners, which gave more thrust to the collective capacity to innovate.

Merrey concluded with the four main recommendations from the Nile BDC’s experience with R4D:

  • Effective partnerships – empowered demand-side institutions;
  • Strong linkages to existing development investment programs;
  • Long-term commitment by funding agencies as well as scientists;
  • A foundation in excellent science.

As the project comes to an end and folds into the CGIAR Research Program on Water, land and ecosystems, these lessons are increasingly relevant.

Note:

(1) Institutional histories are a documentation and monitoring approach followed throughout the Challenge Program for Water and Food to better understand how the program’s dedicated R4D approach was implemented across the six basins (Andes, Ganges, Limpopo, Mekong, Nile and Volta).

The NBDC recently organized a capacity building workshop (8-10 May 2013) to address feed resource needs identified by local NBDC partners and beneficiaries.

Innovation platforms (IP) established by the Nile Basin Development Challenge Program (NBDC) have identified fodder as an important intervention for soil and water conservation efforts in the Blue Nile Basin. In all three NBDC sites (Diga, Fogera, Jeldu) platforms decided to introduce fodder varieties to improve the supply of livestock feed, control gazing and support current government soil and water conservation interventions.  IP members began piloting fodder interventions during 2012. Improved forages were chosen by experts to suit local agro-ecologies: rhodes grass and elephant grass in Diga, desho grass, elephant grass and tree lucerne in Jeldu and elephant grass, vetch and sesbania in Fogera. Different approaches were applied in each to explore factors influencing the adoption and effectiveness of interventions:

  • Backyard fodder development by individuals at household level;
  • Planting of fodder on SWC structures;
  • Enclosure of communal grazing areas through collective action. In the first year 40 farmers participated in Diga, 96 in Jeldu and 13 in Fogera.

After the first year of pilot interventions the innovation platform members evaluated their activities and identified some gaps in knowledge and skills related to the design of fodder interventions. To assist this process, NBDC researchers organized a capacity building workshop (8-10 May 2013) to train local partners in the use of tools that would enable the assessment of the existing feed situation in their area, current livestock management practices and farmer needs. This was followed by practical fieldwork so that IP members could experience implementing the tools first-hand.

The tools

FEAST training - group picture The Feed Assessment Tool (FEAST) which was developed by ILRI’s Alan Duncan and colleagues is a systematic method to assess local feed resource availability and use. It helps in the design of intervention strategies aiming to optimize feed utilization and animal production. It comprises two parts: PRA part which aids group discussion with groups of farmers and individual questionnaire interview part which captures information at house hold level.

The Farmers’ Need Assessment (FNA) tool is complementary to the FEAST and helps list the possible existing problems/needs and prioritizing by pair-wise ranking.

The combined FEAST and FNA produces complementing information which can be used to identify possible interventions.

The training

FEAST CD training 2 Fifteen innovation platform technical group members from the three NBDC sites attended the three day training at Beshale Hotel in Addis Ababa. These included representatives of local research institutions, universities, NGOs and experts from woreda agricultural offices.

The training was given by Professor Adugna Tolera of Hawassa University who has provided similar training to stakeholders in other ILRI projects, and Ato Adissu Mulugeta, a private consultant who introduced the data entry software. ILRI-NBDC staff (Zelalem Lema, Gerba Leta, Tsehay Regassa and Aberra Adie) assisted the training in facilitating group works and field survey exercises.  Zelalem Lema led the overall facilitation process during the training period. Beth Cullen (ILRI) who coordinated the training event made the opening speech on the first day and emphasized the importance of the training to assist the ongoing action research at the NBDC sites.  Kindu Mekonnen (ILRI) made technical contributions to the FNA format development and other issues discussed during the training.

The first day of the training oriented the participants about the background and contents of the tools, including familiarization with the software. Holeta Agricultural Research Centre facilitated the practical field testing of the tools which included a data collection exercise with farmers in the village of Wolmera Woreda in the Holeta area. During the third day the trainees practiced data entry and reporting using software.

FEAST CD training3 During the reflection session at the end of the training, the participants appreciated the usefulness and user-friendliness of the tools.  Finally, the trainees expressed their ambition to implement the knowledge they acquired during the training and generate baseline information to contribute to the action research at their respective sites. They soon developed an action plan to collect and analyze data and produce a report in order to gather information before the commencement of the cropping season.

The aim will be to build the local research capacity of key IP members and to use the results to tailor the innovation platform pilot fodder interventions to the local needs and situations.

By Aberra Adie, Beth Cullen and Zelalem Lema

« Previous Page