Eva Weltzien works for the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) in Mali. In Africa RISING, Eva oversees scientific activities in Mali. In this interview ahead of the West Africa review and planning meeting in Tamale, 23-25 October 2012, she shares her views about progress achieved in Mali to date and expectations about the workshop. This interview echoes the recent interview with Asamoah Larbi, Eva’s counterpart in Ghana.
What has been happening so far in West Africa?
Two broad-based partnerships mostly, with a wide range of local actors, in each case moving to sets of partnerships established earlier into more collaboration and interactions:
- In Bougouni the animal breeding partnerships around the PROGEBE (Projet régional de gestion durable du bétail ruminant endémique en Afrique de l’Ouest) project of ILRI with the MOBIOM (Mouvement Biologique Malien) network of organic cotton producers.
- In Koutiala the AMASSA (Afrique Verte Mali)-supported union of seed cooperatives with the MSF (Médecins sans frontières)-supported network of community health centers and the AMEDD (Association Malienne d’éveil au développement durable – a local NGO) expertise with facilitation and farmer training, as well as their experience with supporting soil conservation, and other crop intensification activities.
What have been good results in the Mali work and what are you particularly proud about?
We are very proud about:
- The multi-crop seed production and variety testing initiated with great enthusiasm by collaborating farmers, mostly members from farmer organizations;
- Transferring our experience with cluster-based farmer field school training on integrated Striga and soil fertility management, towards working with community health centers and women groups from the villages which support the centers;
- Transferring the experience with sale of mini-packs of seeds to encourage farmer-managed variety testing to very new and different sales points: health centers, and seed cooperatives who had partnered with research before;
- Large scale viewing and positive feedback from viewers of the Striga videos.
What have been the biggest challenges so far in Mali?
Not being able to partner with the National Program, due to the political situation; the departure of ILRI (International Livestock Research Institute) staff from the station in Mali; being very uncertain about what the researchers should monitor themselves, and what monitoring IFPRI (International Food Policy Research Institute) will provide, embedded in the uncertainty about how the research framework will evolve.
Are you excited about the review and planning workshop? What gets/keeps you excited about it?
The timing is actually a hindrance for us, as it falls into the key period for trial evaluations with partners, as well as coinciding with the biggest Muslim festival in the year. We hope very much to gain more clarity on the monitoring and evaluation roles and responsibilities, and the implementation of the research framework.
What is the next phase all about?
Moving the integration of different centre activities forward, and agreeing on more specific research hypotheses and methods for evaluating them.