Even in a program like Africa RISING, where Sustainable Intensification is at the heart of the approach, such key concepts should not be taken for granted. A recent conference about ‘sustainable intensification’ in Accra showed that there are widely different understandings about such complex approaches.
The 2013 review and planning meeting of the East and Southern Africa (ESA) project took some important steps towards integration of the components, and all teams aim to achieve synergies in the near future. From 3 to 5 September, over 60 participants came to hear progress in the ESA districts of Babati and Kongwa-Kiteto in Tanzania, Dedze and Ntcheu in Malawi.
The first day of the meeting reflected on progress in the first research output of Africa RISING, ‘Situation analysis and program-wide synthesis’ (following the research framework introduced in the program document), by the monitoring and evaluation team from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Farming Systems Analysis team of Wageningen University.
The Africa RISING ESA team also commissioned two studies on ‘Opportunities for adoption and institutional innovation‘ (by Per Hilbur of Malmö University) and about ‘Plant disease and pest monitoring surveys in Africa RISING action areas in Tanzania‘ by Lava Kumar of the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture.
On the second day, additional speakers introduced potential – or effective – linkages between Africa RISING and other programs such as the CGIAR Research Program on Humidtropics, the newly launched Small Scale Irrigation project (led by the International Water Management Institute) and the CIMMYT project on ‘Farm power and conservation agriculture for sustainable intensification’.
Progress in research in Babati, Kongwa-Kiteto and Malawi
The bulk of the meeting was really about progress made – and plans for 2013-2014 – with research output 2 ‘Integrated Systems Improvement’ in the research sites of Babati, Kongwa-Kiteto in Tanzania and Malawi. The feedback given by external participants on day one called on research teams to seek further integration and synergies.
The teams spent the next two days of the event improving the draft research proposal they had submitted in the two weeks prior to the event, identifying updated research hypotheses, activities and indicators assessing success, around a timeline for the next year (until 30 September 2014, marking the end of the next Africa RISING financial year).
The final presentations showed that despite some room for improvement (particularly to address socio-economic issues and institutional mechanisms), all three teams have taken concrete steps towards integration and seeking synergies among various technologies and components such as crops, agroforestry, livestock and soil/water management. These plans will be sanctioned in the next month and research teams will start a new cycle.