The internally commissioned external review of the Africa RISING program has been concluded and a report of its findings presented to the Program Coordination Team (AR-PCT). Submitted on 7 April 2020, the external review report outlines 44 recommendations covering aspects of Africa RISING implementation in terms of organizational structure, data management, monitoring, evaluation and learning, research and development partnership achievements as well as the program’s alignment with donor and country development strategies. Commissioned in mid-July 2019, the review was carried out by a team of three experienced tropical agriculture researchers – Christine Negra, Mark Powell, and Nancy McCarthy. 

Speaking during a debrief meeting with members of the AR-PCT, Chair of the External Review Panel, Negra explained: ‘We implemented a broad review covering 20 subtopics and made a total of 44 recommendations – 22 of which we highlighted as priorities. They are a mix of both easy win/low-hanging fruit actions while others are more fundamental with a bigger impact on the implementation of the program’s activities across the five program countries. Each recommendation is supported by observations and rationales.’ 

The reviewers note in the report that strong program implementation for Africa RISING continues, with successes being seen in vibrant research and development partnerships that facilitate achievement of program goals, an array of validated improved agricultural technologies that can improve smallholder’s lives, the strong synergy between the program activities and farmer’s needs, a robust legacy of capacity building, substantial delivery against the United States Agency for International Development (USAID)’s mandate and priorities and consistent alignment with government priorities as well as notable efforts to increase the value of public investments.

The 22 priority recommendations made by the review panel point to opportunities to synthesize major program achievements and fill programmatic gaps while tapering off technology validation activities. The panel also encouraged the Africa RISING PCT which is made up of representatives from Africa RISING’s three lead CGIAR centres – the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and the USAID activity manager to clarify the program’s present and future research and development actions to ensure outputs and outcomes are more balanced on the economic, environmental, social, and human dimensions of sustainable intensification.

Other priority recommendations included appeals for Africa RISING to double down efforts towards mobilizing data for insight through its monitoring and evaluation mechanisms, press for more effective scaling of validated technologies supported by a robust learning agenda for scaling processes, and implementation of more program-wide analyses that would incorporate activities under the Africa RISING research portfolio running through west, east, and southern Africa for the benefit of the broader agricultural development community.

The AR-PCT Chair and ILRI Director General’s Representative in Ethiopia, Siboniso Moyo thanked the review panel for providing a much-needed critical look from outside into the program’s implementation noting that the recommendations will influence improvements in different aspects of Africa RISING operations. 

‘The timing for this review report is perfect not only because we still have a second phase of the program to deliver on, but also because we have the ongoing changes in the context of ONE CGIAR initiative which will definitely have lessons to draw from the experiences of multi-year, multi-CG centre programs like Africa RISING,’ explained Moyo. ‘As a follow-up, the PCT will organize discussions to sift through the implications for each recommendation within the report to determine the actions needed immediately at program and project levels,’ she added.

Read the full external review report: Performance evaluation of the Africa Research in Sustainable Intensification for the Next Generation (Africa RISING) program

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