Strong African partnerships point to a brighter future for the continent

CGIAR in Africa

CGIAR: “We are already engaging with a large number of partners in Africa. And we are determined to make sure we continue to align our research with the priorities of these development partners”

Africa is a hugely important region for CGIAR. It is no coincidence that at least 50 percent of our research budget is invested in projects on the African continent. So it was with particular pleasure that I followed progress at the High Level Meeting of African and International Leaders meeting in Addis-Ababa earlier this week (July 1st).

African leaders at the meeting, which was organized by the African Union (AU), the New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) amongst others, unanimously adopted a declaration to end hunger in Africa by 2025. They also reaffirmed their determination to speed up implementation of the Maputo Declaration, which calls for African countries to devote ten percent of their budget to agricultural development.

But almost as exciting as this firm commitment to pursue food security for the African continent were some of the results outlined at the meeting, showing that several African countries are reaching – and sometimes exceeding – development goals in the agriculture sector.

Ten of the 54 AU member states have already reached the target of allocating at least ten percent of public investment in agriculture. Among them are Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guinea, Malawi, Mali, Niger and Senegal, which have all surpassed the target.

Ten countries (Angola, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Burkina Faso, the Republic of the Congo, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Nigeria, Senegal and Tanzania) have exceeded the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) objective of 6 percent growth in agricultural production. And another four have achieved growth of between 5 and 6 percent.

The meeting in Addis-Ababa stressed that the roadmap for agricultural development should be based on the continent’s own resources, and that is only right and proper. There is massive potential for African agricultural development. The continent has a growing population of young people and large land and water resources for crop, livestock, fishery and forestry production. But the meeting also recognized that it will need technical assistance and called upon development partners to strengthen their alliances.

That is something that strikes a real chord here at CGIAR, where we firmly believe in the value of working together, on a whole range of different levels. The potential for cross-fertilization is at the heart of CGIAR’s focus on partnerships. Whereas once, research organizations worked on their own, we now see the value of conferring with partners, to exchange information about where the real needs are, what kind of technologies can best help small-scale farmers produce more food and market it more effectively, and how those interventions can best be scaled up. That determination has been reflected in a number of strategic alliances formed between CGIAR and international development organizations. These include many of the main players at the High Level Meeting in Addis-Ababa this week.

Aligning research priorities

In late 2011, as a result of what has become known as the Dublin Process, CAADP and CGIAR started working together to harmonize their agendas and identify where the greatest value addition can be generated. The idea was to bring together the research strengths and networks of the CGIAR Research Programs (CRPs) with agricultural development needs and opportunities identified by national agricultural Investment Plans (IPs) spearheaded by CAADP.

That marked something of a milestone for CGIAR involvement in agricultural development for Africa. Before, both CGIAR and CAADP had tended to pursue mostly separate paths, aside from occasional link-ups between CCADP and individual CGIAR Research Centers.

In January 2012, this partnership was formalized through a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between CGIAR and the African Union Commission (AUC) for a strategic partnership under CAADP.

This powerful partnership process continues to move ahead, producing dividends in terms of jointly focused investments and expertise. An important feature of the agreement has been more coordination in priority setting and programming between CGIAR and CAADP institutions. One concrete example of how that works in practice is the involvement of CAADP institutions in the development of the intermediate development outcomes (IDOs) for each of the CRPs.

Mutual benefits

For decades, CGIAR has collaborated on agricultural development with FAO. But that relationship moved a step closer in February this year when we signed an MoU with FAO, formally pledging to engage in a strategic partnership.

Basically, the agreement is a tit-for-tat that benefits both partners. FAO promises to provide the CGIAR Consortium with advice on priorities for agricultural research, as well as information on priority programs or activities that FAO is implementing. And CGIAR advises FAO on the potential for scaling up innovation in agriculture. We are also giving FAO regular updates on the activities of our CRPs. And again, there are practical outcomes. Through the partnership, FAO will be making new technologies developed by CGIAR and others available to small-scale farmers on the ground.

The IDOs will play a pivotal role in CGIAR’s move towards an effective results-based performance management system. These are the building blocks of the CGIAR research agenda and are innovative in the way they involve key stakeholders in their design – like CAADP — and the fact that they are integrated across CRPs where possible – underscoring the new CGIAR approach of cutting across research sectors that were once considered entirely separate.

As was reiterated during our recent meeting to shape the future research agenda, CGIAR plans for bringing about real improvements in addressing poverty, food insecurity, poor nutrition and environmental degradation depend largely on the extent to which we work with development partners, be they governments, international agencies, NGOs or others. Nowhere is this truer than in Africa – a continent with daunting challenges, but also massive potential.

We are already engaging with a large number of partners in Africa. And we are determined to make sure we continue to align our research with the priorities of these development partners. That way, we can be sure that the research we carry out answers the real needs of smallholder farmers and their families, and the African people whose future depends on them.

Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW)

CGIAR will participate in the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week (AASW), convened by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and hosted by the government of Ghana. From July 15 to 20, the AASW will gather all major stakeholders involved in Africa agriculture, under the theme “Africa Feeding Africa through Agricultural Science and Innovation”.

CGIAR will be keeping track of news relating to this event including blogs and social media from the event itself. For updates visit the Africa Agriculture Science Week 2013 events page on cgiar.org.

For more information:
United Behind the African agenda to Eradicate Hunger
African Union Commission and CGIAR Consortium form new strategic partnership (CGIAR Consortium)
FAO and CGIAR Consortium form strategic partnership (CGIAR Consortium)
“Dublin Process” Aligning Agendas for Agricultural Transformation in Africa (CGIAR Consortium)
Donors and partners tell CGIAR program leaders to “Show us the impact” (CGIAR Consortium)
CGIAR Research Programs join forces with partners and donors to shape targets and impacts (CGIAR Consortium)

Photo credit: ILRI/Stevie Mann

Blogpost by Dr.Frank Rijsberman, CEO CGIAR Consortium, originally published on CGIAR.org

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