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Partners implementing activities in all Africa RISING countries converged in Arusha, Tanzania from 11-12 November 2014 for the second annual program-wide learning event. More than 65 scientists and collaborators attended the meeting.

Participants - Africa RISING learning event 2014 (Photo credit: IITA/Jeffrey Oliver)
Participants – Africa RISING learning event 2014 (Photo credit: IITA/Jeffrey Oliver)

The main focus of the meeting was sharing lessons and experiences among the projects on:

  • Accommodating diversity in farm trials and dealing with farm typology
  • Exploring the innovation systems theory and practice across Africa RISING regional projects
  • Identifying the most important elements to update about the program framework document

Considering that most of the projects are currently in their third year, discussions among the scientists about farm typologies and diversity took center stage. At the heart of the discussion on farm typologies was the question of what were better typologies for the project teams to use as the focus shifts to scaling up the technology packages already developed. One of the proposals for moving the discussions on typologies forward and clarifying the typologies was for a team to be set up in order to compare the options used so far across the projects in order to find the better ones to adopt.

The unique circumstances and environments in which the projects operate significantly similarly influenced the structure and operational organization of innovation platforms across the program. While this was in no way a point of debate on which approach followed was the best, the teams generally discussed aspects in which they could improve the operations of their innovations platforms based on the experiences from different country teams coordinating similar platforms.

“Interactions with colleagues have been very enriching. As a member of the West Africa project team, I would say that we need to change how we structure our R4D platforms/technology parks in Mali. We also plan to do better documentation of the activities implanted by the platforms based on what we’ve learnt from the Ethiopian highlands team in both in Ghana and Mali”

…noted Dr. Asamoah Larbi, the Chief Scientist for Africa RISING West Africa.
One of the key resolutions from the 2014 program learning event was that the program framework document developed in 2012 required some revisions. It was concluded that a “working team” will be set up to revise the document in the first quarter of 2015.

This year’s learning event was run back-to-back with the annual monitoring and evaluation (M&E) meeting (13-14 November), and some of the discussions from the learning event (on cross-cutting issues such as M&E, but also on typologies) were fed to the M&E meeting. Some people who participated to both events recommended merging them in the future.
Another lesson from this year’s event, compared with the first program learning event (in 2013 in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia), is that having no field visit did not go unnoticed among participants, who would have enjoyed even more opportunities to see the program works in practice in the hosting region.

However all in all the event attendees really enjoyed interactions, interactivity and learning from each other’s region.
As one of the participants put it…

“The process is so exciting particularly open space discussion, round table discussions & panel discussions to get all important information from all partners. This is a really nice way of learning from each other. It is quite diplomatic with fun and freedom”

Next year, the program learning event will take place in West Africa and will focus on scientific results, as they are more and more readily available… Program learning is only at the onset of a new phase.

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