CGIAR country consultations: improving collaboration in agricultural research to support national agricultural development objectives


by Frank Place | January 5, 2016

Frank Place shares his impressions about the recent CGIAR national consultations

I had the pleasure of attending CGIAR national consultations in Nigeria, Tanzania, and Ethiopia over the past two months. The consultations launched a process to strengthen collaboration among CGIAR centers towards a more collective support of national agricultural research and development goals. The Abuja, Dar es Salaam, and Addis Ababa venues were full with about 70 participants from CGIAR and a large number of national stakeholders (from government, research, development organizations, civil society, funding agencies, farmer groups, and private sector). Congratulations are in order to both IITA and ILRI for their commitment to the process and for the successful organization of the consultations.

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Nigeria consultations

There was an overwhelming positive response to this CGIAR initiative from all national stakeholders.  Everyone saw value in improved collaboration and coordination within CGIAR and between CGIAR and its national partner research organizations and the intent to more explicitly and strategically support national agricultural development objectives. There was high energy, constructive and honest discussions, and numerous good ideas for improving collaboration.

The consultations devoted considerable time to listening to national agricultural development strategies and plans and agricultural research priorities. CGIAR also shared information on current research activities in the countries and future plans. Building on that, participants met in small groups to discuss key elements constituting a country integration plan and then the process for completing the plan.

PIM IFPRI posters

PIM and IFPRI posters (Ethiopia consultations)

I came away from the consultations with a stronger belief in the importance of PIM’s own agenda. The governments’ objectives of increased productivity and use of technology, increased value addition, and agricultural growth and transformation which is inclusive of women, the youth, and the poor and sustainable in terms of natural resources all resonate in PIM’s research portfolio. I also saw more opportunities for complementary research where PIM’s focus on solving particular market or policy implementation challenges could magnify the impacts of technology research from other CGIAR research programs. Finally, there are already effective demand driven models for policy research support in the case of IFPRI’s Country Strategy Support programs in Nigeria and Ethiopia. The foundations they have built can be further explored for the benefit of CGIAR as a whole.

CGIAR is widely recognized as an essential agricultural research for development partner for the three governments.  However, some concerns that should be addressed were raised, including the lack of visibility of some of the CGIAR work, insufficient commitment to country priorities, and unclear boundaries among CGIAR centers, between CGIAR and national organizations, and between research and development.

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CGIAR research programs in Ehiopia

To be sure, ever since I joined the system way back in 1992, CGIAR scientists have been collaborating across centers and with national organizations. But the higher level strategic planning and coordination of research in synergistic ways to contribute to national agricultural goals offers a new model for working in selected countries. Its achievement will require collective commitment and investment of time from CGIAR staff. It is also important to set feasible milestones and not create overly ambitious expectations. We are all interested in seeing country collaboration and site integration plans developed in a selected number of countries; but this will take time to move through the necessary steps and involve the necessary stakeholders. We were reminded of this in both Nigeria and Tanzania where new ministers of agriculture have just been appointed and have yet to put their stamps on agricultural development plans in their countries. Fortunately, the successful consultations paved the way for the process to unfold and the CGIAR country teams have been empowered to take the next steps.

About the author:

Frank Place 98-144Frank Place is Senior Research Fellow in the Program Management Unit of the CGIAR Research Program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets. His primary duties include coordination of impact assessment, and leadership of the program’s cluster of work on technology adoption and impact.