Strengthening Capacity to Achieve Eco-Efficiency through Agricultural Research for DevelopmentAug 13th, 2012 | By Simone Staiger | Category: Spotlight Posts
Simone Staiger-Rivas, Sophie Alvarez, Jacqueline Ashby, Mark Lundy, Rachel Muthoni, Paola Andrea Victoria, Carlos Arturo Quirós, Cristina Sette, Maya Rajasekharan, and Nathan Russell. In: Eco-Efficiency: From Vision to Reality. CIAT, 2012.
Global climate change and food security are complex and closely intertwined challenges. A key requirement for dealing with them successfully is that agriculture becomes more eco-efficient. As researchers work toward this goal, they must always ask, “Efficiency for whom?” Finding answers to this question requires that research be conducted from a systems perspective in a broadly participatory manner involving complex collaborative arrangements.
In recent decades, training and other efforts to strengthen the capacity of national partners in such collaboration have declined because of funding scarcity. As a result, key links in the chain that connects research with development have been weakened, thus diminishing the ability of research to reach end users effectively. Many approaches, backed by practical experience, have been developed in an effort to reduce the gaps between research and development. Among these approaches are new partnership styles, participatory research methods, novel strategies for strengthening agricultural value chains, qualitative monitoring and evaluation, and knowledge management and sharing. All of them contribute broadly to capacity strengthening by empowering stakeholders and by fostering joint learning rather than reinforcing unidirectional technology transfer. These approaches can contribute importantly to mainstreaming eco-efficiency in agricultural research for development, particularly if currently separate and isolated interventions are combined under a comprehensive strategy.
This chapter is part of CIAT’s scientific publication titled Eco-Efficiency: From Vision to Reality, which is the inaugural volume in a new series called Issues in Tropical Agriculture. The publication documents recent advances in research on key production systems and crops, and it explores new avenues by which agricultural research can help achieve further gains in eco-efficiency.
The chapter is about strengthening capacities for eco-efficient agriculture. The authors decided to gather insights and examples from social science that are all important to address when it comes to capacity strengthening. We are talking about capacities in broad terms, considering far more than training, looking at the environment and the contexts that enable people to learn, improve, change behaviors, and adopt new ways of doing their work.
For example, with Maya Rajasekharan, Program Officer at CIAT, and Cristina Sette from the Institutional Learning and Change Initiative (ILAC), we talk about partnerships and how the nature of collaborators changes with an increased focus on development outcomes and would change even more with a consistent approach to eco-efficiency.
Sophie Alvarez and Rachel Muthoni, both monitoring and evaluation specialists at CIAT, discuss M&E which has to be addressed systematically if we want to be able to observe and analyze partner and user’s reaction to the research process and its results. We cannot measure development outcomes only by assessing increases in productivity. We have to look at changes in behaviors and skills of those who we want to influence.
With Nathan Russell, we discuss aspects related to knowledge management and what is required to create an open and transparent environment for collaboration and participatory communication.
The work on the chapter has confirmed three principles:
- Integration of methodologies and fields of research: We have to be able to mix methodologies and use them in a combined manner to address the different aspects of research for development for example Ex-ante network analysis, and strategic planning to be able to anticipate work in partnership, plus knowledge management strategies to strengthening learning processes in the different aspects of the project or program, plus a strong communications plan to share results widely.
- Concentrate on people: In 11 years at CIAT, we experience frequently how easy it is for research teams to forget about people, meaning next users and end users of our research. It is so tempting for us to concentrate on the methodology we develop, the tool, the data. We will always need to be reminded that there is no development outcome without adoption, adaptation, use of our results. So we need always to keep in mind for whom we are working and how we can involve our targets group in the best way.
- Walk your talk: We will only be able to convince with an eco-efficient focus, if we start at home and if we adopt ourselves eco-efficient behavior in our day-to-day work. That is also the note on which the chapter concludes.
One aspect of our work that we are still uncertain about is … training. While we see progress in the way we think and practice partnerships, M&E, KM, very little progress has been made in the way we approach training. Training is definitively a crucial component of capacity strengthening, but the CGIAR has made little progress in its approaches. We have the obligation to do more in terms of the products that we should be co-creating with development partners, the academia, or the private sector. We still restrain ourselves to the involvement of students and the delivery of some sporadic training courses. This will be a big obstacle for us when it comes to demonstrate that we are able to produce development outcomes.