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Partnerships and innovative ways of approaching research

There are ways to formulate research so that the needs of a multitude of stakeholders are taken into account (© Neil Palmer (CIAT))
There are ways to formulate research so that the needs of a multitude of stakeholders are taken into account
© Neil Palmer (CIAT)

From pre-conference meetings, to opening ceremony and plenary sessions, it was clear from the speakers and participants at the second Global Conference for Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2) that partnership is one of the key factors to be considered if we want to improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers and increase food production by 70 per cent to feed a population of 9 billion in 2050.

In 2010, 'True and effective partnership between research and those it serves' was identified in the GCARD Roadmap as one transformative measure required to enhance the contribution of agricultural research and innovation towards development outcomes. During the discussions at GCARD2, stakeholders agreed that research is important for food security, but the time has come to increasingly innovate and involve more stakeholders in the process so that research and innovation programmes are able to address the magnitude of this century's new challenges and deliver effective outputs for development.

Research and capacity-building platforms

Representing national agricultural research systems (NARS) in 22 countries, the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD) works to strengthen the capacity in, and coordinate agricultural research for, development activities of NARS and their partners. This vision is closely aligned to the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme's (CAADP) Pillar IV: to revitalise, expand and reform Africa's agricultural research and technology dissemination.

CORAF/WECARD is developing research and capacity building platforms as tools for implementing CAADP's strategies and priorities. Two examples of these collaborative research platforms and their achievements - involving the Centre de coopération internationale en recherche agronomique pour le développement (CIRAD) and the Institut de recherche pour le développement (IRD) - were presented at GCARD2. The Dry Zone Pastoral Pole (PPZS), created in 2001, has contributed to the publication of 58 scientific articles, 44 book chapters and 83 conference papers. Training activities have benefited 82 Msc and 14 PhD and doctorate students in the last ten years. About 120 hours of courses are also offered yearly to universities by researchers.

PPZS aims to understand and develop pastoral systems and their integration into national economies (© Rechner Daina/IRD)
PPZS aims to understand and develop pastoral systems and their integration into national economies
© Rechner Daina/IRD

The more recently established International Joint Laboratory Ecological Intensification of Cultivated Soil in West Africa (LMI IESOL) - resulting from a long-standing partnership between the Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA), the Institut de l'Environnement et de Recherches Agricoles (INERA), the Universities of Dakar and Ouagadougou, and IRD - provides common and shared laboratory platforms for advanced research in soil ecology and production capacity. LMI IESOL also offers courses on ecology to Universities, mentors young scientists and contributes to research grants for PhD and post-doctorate students working on topics of strategic importance to the region.

The platforms are formalised partnerships between CORAF/WECARD and a wide range of partners in order to mobilise national, bilateral and multi-lateral capacities - including CGIAR Research Programs, networks and other large-scale initiatives - to better respond to local, national and regional needs, establishing long-term collective collaboration with a strong capacity development objective.

At GCARD2, CORAF/WECARD called for more support to implement similar platforms in other areas, including research prioritisation, research implementation and development of competencies, to consolidate and sustainably develop and implement priority research for development programmes and projects under CAADP Pillar IV. This support could be sourced from partner institutions through South-South and South-North collaborations.

North-South partnership

Supporting the CORAF/WECARD approach, CIRAD and IRD have built large-scale interdisciplinary regional research and development platforms (consortiums, observatories, laboratories) with strong links to Higher Education institutions. Some of these have led to the creation of Regional Centres of Excellence, such as the African Research Centre on Banana and Plantain (CARBAP), the Centre international de recherche-développement sur l'elevage en zone subhumide (CIRDES), the Pôle régional de recherche appliquée au développement des savanes d'Afn'que centrale (PRASAC), and the Centre d'étude régional pour l'amélioration de l'adaptation à la sécheresse (CERAAS).

Partnerships are relevant and efficient research and development tools (© CORAF/WECARD)
Partnerships are relevant and efficient research and development tools

Stakeholders are involved in the governance of these centres, from planning and coordination to monitoring and evaluation. These centres carry out research projects and programmes on a long term basis, oriented towards scientific capacity building, knowledge generation, technology development, innovations and valorisation of results for the interest of West and Central Africa. Using different tools such as periodic calls for proposals - open to research teams from the South and the North and the establishment of partnership associations - these platforms are reaching out to establish strong collaborative linkages with researchers, and Higher Education and development institutions from around the world.

The establishment of innovative research and capacity building platforms by CORAF/WECARD helps increase the efficiency and effectiveness of countries' actions to implement CAADP, building on North-South partnerships. This has ensured quality of scientific research and provided spill-over effects across West and Central Africa. Such partnerships are relevant and efficient research and development tools that contribute to sustainable economic and social development. At the same time, they streamline South and North partners' programmes, ensuring their relevance to the CAADP process.

Written by: Harold Roy-Macauley and Aboubakar Njoya, Executive Director and Director of Programmes, CORAF/WECARD

Date published: January 2013


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