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Africa RISING’s 2013-2014 review and planning meeting for the West Africa region took place on 3 and 4 February 2014 in Bamako, Mali. The region’s steering committee also hosted a meeting on 4 February.
Over 50 participants attended the meeting representing partners from the country teams of Ghana and Mali as well as observers from e.g. the USAID Mission in Bamako and the CGIAR Humidtropics Research Program (under which Africa RISING is nested).
On the first day of the meeting, the participants received lots of information. They reviewed:

  • progress with baseline surveys and farming systems analysis;
  • progress accomplished in Ghana and in Mali;
  • relations with the CGIAR Research programs on Humidtropics and Dryland systems;
  • activity plans for 2014 for Ghana and Mali;
  • scaling up experiences from the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA).
  • Communication (strategy, people, channels, challenges, opportunities)

This presentation by Jawoo Koo elaborates on the scaling up agenda:

After the 2014 plans were presented, they were critiqued with participants calling for more integration as well as greater attention to scaling up.
On the second day, the Mali and Ghana groups addressed feedback received the day before and prepared improved work plans with more emphasis on integration. Both teams worked hard to improve the plans and presented two different graphs showing how they conceived the integration of the work packages, disciplines, scales etc.

The Mali team planning 2014 activities (Photo credit: ILRI/Ewen Le Borgne)
The Mali team planning 2014 activities (Photo credit: ILRI/Ewen Le Borgne)

Amid the participants, two semi-external observers mingled with the West African research teams to share their experiences and critical feedback: Mateete Bekunda (IITA lead scientist for Africa RISING in East and Southern Africa) and Regis Chikowo (Research Associate at Michigan State University, coordinating Africa RISING activities in Malawi since May 2012).
Regis kindly answered a few questions comparing what he sees happening in Ghana and Mali in comparison to his work in Malawi:
How does the process in West Africa compare with Malawi?
(Regis) We proceeded a little differently in Malawi. There’s been a lot of talk about integration, yet I see that here they are writing their proposals but if you have different work packages as stand alone projects it will be very difficult to integrate work packages. Each team is likely to work independently because they have a complete work package proposal. I don’t know how they manage to co-locate activities in the intervention sites. We have to evaluate the whole system, not components, such as aflatoxins only. Farms work as systems not as components. In Malawi in the first year we went through that separate approach too.
How do you see the work in Africa RISING come together as a program?
(Regis) The program has been structured well and it has recognised that different regions work around different systems. The philosophy of the program is fine and it should be the same across the regions but each system is different and the way we approach these should be site-specific.
Bringing Wageningen University on board for farming systems analysis is a plus because we want to understand the systems better and better align our technologies in relation to typologies etc.
As a program we are benefiting by learning across the program. The coordination team has not been too rigid and they have recognized that things are done differently in the different regions. That’s positive.
Coming here I began to learn what people are doing in other regions. It’s generally interesting to learn how others are coordinating their research teams.
The program has another three years to show impact. As the crisis in Mali is somewhat receding, there is finally good hope that West Africa presents a favourable profile to integrate and be more successful.
Read notes from the review and planning meeting ; read notes from the steering committee meeting.
See presentations from the meeting on the Africa RISING Slideshare
See pictures of the event

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