Taking advantage of the presence of John McIntire, Deputy Director General for Integrated Sciences on the ILRI Addis campus, a group of ILRI scientists and program managers (Iain Wright, Dirk Hoekstra, Azage Tegegne, Peter Thorne, Alan Duncan, Barry Shapiro and John McIntire) recently discussed the suite of projects that involve ILRI in Ethiopia:
- Improving the Productivity and Market Success of Ethiopian farmers (IPMS)
- Livestock and Irrigation Value chains for Ethiopian Smallholders (LIVES)
- Nile Basin Development Challenge (NBDC)
- Africa Research In Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation (Africa RISING)
What these projects have in common is their use of participatory ‘research for development’ approaches, moving away from blueprint approaches to commodity development, natural resource management etc.;
After short presentations of each projects, participants discussed each project and highlighted considerations that are relevant for the rest of ILRI:
- Where in the research-development continuum should ILRI place itself? Are we best placed to deliver development interventions? Can we, on the other hand, genuinely influence other actors in the agricultural system to change their practices by following the process from a distance?
- Who should we partner with, for what purpose? How to ensure that “partnerships are an input, not (just) an output?”
- How to ensure we connect much more systematically our conversations (like this one), questions and ideas across different partners (other CGIAR centers as well as governmental agencies, business partners etc.)?
- How do these projects – especially as they phase out – connect to and fold into specific CGIAR research programs?
- To what extent is ILRI explicitly addressing poverty and to what extent should it do so – as opposed to more business-oriented and promising avenues which go beyond food security?
Some of these questions were already raised in the extensive strategy consultation process launched by ILRI in 2012 – as the ILRI strategy is shaping up, these questions are bearing renewed urgency.
This conversation and the open-ended questions left behind are good examples of the type of focused interactions that CGIAR scientists (and their partners) should have more regularly – perhaps structured around specific aspects of the working processes we are going through e.g. site selection, farm/household characterization, innovation platforms, working with diverse partnerships, impact assessment etc.
In ILRI’s new strategy, one of the critical success factors is to get the science right. This conversation was a good step to help ensure that ILRI’s projects are right in line with the institutes mission and mandate.