Ar simlesa learning event 2018

From africa-rising-wiki
Jump to: navigation, search

Using Systems Approaches to Add Value to Research on the Sustainable Intensification of African Smallholder Farms
13 - 15 March 2018
Arusha, Tanzania
[edit | edit source]


  1. John Dixon (ACIAR)
  2. Jerry Glover (USAID)
  3. Vara Prasad (SIMLESA)
  4. Felister Makini (SIMLESA)
  5. Mulugetta Mekuria (SIMLESA)
  6. Paswel Marenya (SIMLESA)
  7. Daniel Rodriguez (SIMLESA)
  8. George Mburathi (SIMLESA)
  9. Michael Misiko (SIMLESA)
  10. Irmgard Zeledon (Africa RISING)
  11. Asamoah Larbi (Africa RISING)
  12. Mateete Bekunda (Africa RISING)
  13. Sieglinde Snapp (Africa RISING)
  14. Gundula Fischer (Africa RISING)
  15. Peter Thorne (Africa RISING)
  16. Kindu Mekonnen (Africa RISING)
  17. Carlo Azzarri (Africa RISING)
  18. Siboniso Moyo (Africa RISING)
  19. Jonathan Odhong(Facilitator)

Meeting outputs/ outcomes[edit | edit source]

  • A distilled short-list of high-line results from Africa RISING and SIMLESA, focusing on approaches and outcome/impacts.
  • Identified critical categories of outcome/impact that SI research must consider (e.g., productivity, economic, environmental, social, and human condition) and relevant metrics/indicators for outcome/impact.
  • Identified critical policy changes required for effective sustainable intensification.
  • Identified and documented best practices, principles, and approaches in SI research
  • Draft a 4 - 5 page document articulating, in a clear, concise manner suitable for general policymakers:
- A description of the type(s) of systems research needed for Sustainable Intensification;
- The common scope, approach, prioritization process, and outcome(s)?
-The importance of systems research approaches to sustainable intensification (e.g., substantial net benefits that add value to component-based and commodity-approaches; only

approach for robust improvements in resilience and risk reduction)

  • Outline a vision for establishing a multi-donor systems research-in-development platform focusing on 4-5 major farming systems underpinning sustainable economic growth in Africa,and possibly beyond,and which would help efficiently connect research programs such as SIMLESA, Africa RISING, N2Africa, Sustainable Intensification Innovation Lab, TAAT, SAIRLA and others.

Agenda[edit | edit source]

Day 1 [13 March]
08:30 Opening & welcome [Jerry/John]
09:00 participant introductions [facilitator]
09:30 Workshop outputs/outcomes [Jerry/John] & process/agenda for day [facilitator]
10:30 Program wide approaches - Africa RISING presentation click here to download presentation
10:45 Break
11:30 Discussion
12:30 Program wide approaches - SIMLESA presentation click here to download presentation
14:00 Lunch
14:45 Discussion
16:45 World café to brainstorm and identify:

  • Important common or desired elements for systems research programs like AR & SIMLESA [led by Sieg]

Outputs from the above discussion [click to download]

  • Lessons learned about systems research by the two programs [led by Daniel]

Outputs from the above discussion [click to download]

  • Required policy, market and institutional changes for effective sustainable intensification [led by Carlo]

Outputs from the above discussion [click to download]
17:30 Plenary discussion of world café sessions
17:30 Adjourn

Day 2 [14 March]
09:00 Recap of day 1
09:40 Compelling cases of instances where systems research has made a difference

  • Name examples - The 2 best cases in AR, SIMLESA….could be published or unpublished
  • What are the criteria for these successful cases?
  • What are the critical elements of this successful case?

[2 break out groups - Africa RISING team & SIMLESA team. Discussions for 40 minutes. Each group will discuss topics above and document the points arising. These materials to be presented back in plenary for further interrogation by the wider group.]

Case studies from SIMLESA [click to download]

10:30 Reporting back & discussions [25 mins each for AR & SIMLESA teams incl. discussion]
10:50 Break
11:30 Compelling cases of instances where systems research has made a difference in Africa and beyond from other projects

  • Name examples -2 best cases beyond AR and SIMLESA. Could be published or unpublished.
  • What are the criteria for these successful cases?
  • What are the critical elements of this successful case?

[3 break out groups formed randomly. Discussions for 40 minutes. Each group will discuss topics above and document the points arising. These materials to be presented back in plenary for further interrogation by the wider group.]

Case studies cited by group 1 [click to download] Case studies cited by group 2 [click to download] Case studies cited by group 3 [click to download]

12:30 Reporting back & discussions [20 mins for each group incl. discussion]
14:00 Lunch
14:30 Identification of critical elements that need to be included in a 4-5 page document on Systems Research in agriculture for Sustainable Intensification.

[30 minutes for 2 small groups formed randomly to identify candidate topics/sections to be included in the document]

15:00 Reporting back by the two groups [10 mins for each of the groups to present back the proposals; followed by prioritization through a 10 minute mentimeter.]
15:20 Break
15:30 Identification of section stewards [volunteers]

16:30 Fleshing out the sections [writing begins]
17:30 Role play - the shark tank
[For a chance to win a big prize, section stewards pitch/share what they propose to include in the sections to 'four sharks' in the tank - Jerry, John, Felister & Boni. The panel will provide feedback to each presenter on issues to think about/include to make their sections nothing but a winner for the intended audiences of the 4 - 5 page document.]
17:30 Adjourn

Day 3 {15 March}

08:30 Joint action between SIMLESA, AR and SIIL as a premise for the multi-donor platform []:

  • Introductory/pitching by Jerry & John

Low-cost spaces for interaction between the 3 programs Joint systems research questions to focus on by Africa RISING - SIMLESA - SIIL What are some of the major production regions to prioritize for farming systems investments in Africa - flexible enough to allow for continuity in the event of a change in donor priorities A bottom up look on how the donor platform could look like?

[Brainstorming four topics above - world cafe. 3 rotations x 20 mins followed by reporting back for 10 minutes each. Room for additions in plenary after presentation by the four table leaders.]

09:30 Sharks [Jerry/John/Boni/Felister] to give initial comments/thoughts on the drafts received & reviewed Comments and feedback by the sharks available posted as comments straight on the Google Docs file shared with the team.

10:30 Break

10:50 Discussion of next steps on the document, roles and responsibilities, and timelines.

12:30 Lunch, Departure at convenience

Resources worth checking out: Systems Research for Agriculture [Book. Click to download]

Meeting notes[edit | edit source]

Welcome remarks[edit | edit source]

Jerry Glover, USAID

  • Thank you all for being here, taking time away from your critical work.
  • I am very excited about this meeting. John and I had several previous discussions [going back to when Africa RISING was launched (SIMLESA had been launched a little before that]. John's thinking has therefore been critical in the way Africa RISING was conceived and how it has evolved. John is also on the external advisory board of the sustainable intensification innovation lab .
  • So I am very grateful to SIMLESA, which I have viewed with great admiration over the years. And I have been kind of channeling a bit on SIMLESA and John's personal background into discussions with Africa RISING whenever possible.
  • It's therefore very exciting to see the key personnel from both programs come together and exchange ideas/lessons learnt about sustainable intensification and systems research.
  • From my perspective at USAID, one thing that is critical for me to do is to articulate more clearly what Africa RISING is doing and what systems research is in general and explain and provide evidence for value added and the nature of systems research.
  • As we all know the 3 systems research CRP's within the CGIAR that were focused on systems research were cancelled - some probably for good reason. But there was much good work as well and it may have been premature to cut off all that.
  • Through Africa RISING, SIMLESA and a couple of other projects some of the donors have kept alive some of that systems research work, but in a less formally coordinated manner than what would have been possible in the CRP's.
  • So ultimately it would be nice to see a common vision for systems research. This doesn't mean that activities within each project have to be identical, but it would be nice to know where our brother/sister projects are operating - both geographically and which principles and strategies they are operating. So that we can coordinate that and explain better to the people that I have to ask for money.
  • I am sure John has to ask for money too and this info./content will help us be able to articulate and justify investment in these projects. Getting a crisp explanation of what systems research is expressly what Africa RISING and SIMLESA has done in this space, so we don't need to rehash many of those external discussion that went on for too long on - what is the nature of systems research? etc.
  • What we should rather aim for is to identify some critical categories and some central outcomes and impacts that this work must deliver on and consider. I imagine that at this point, Africa RISING is in its first year of a second 5-year phase, SIMLESA is in between phases. So this is a great time to reflect, revise, adapt and consider some of the blockages in the systems including marketing systems, institutions and policies that would specifically help drive sustainable intensification [SI] research and that the outcomes of SI research going forward. This a little bit more specialized than policy research in general, a little bit more specialized than institutional building in general. Additionally what are the enabling environments that would propel SI research outcomes forward.
  • And then [of course] it would be nice to identify some of the best practices, principles, and approaches are. So I am hopeful that we will both have great evidence and we will identify some weaknesses that can be filled for each program and really out of this create two much [better] programs going forward.
  • Then certainly what would be of great help is if we can draft a 4 - 5 page paper [of course not all of it in this meeting], but rather get the skeleton of it put together. The paper would ideally show a common vision for us and I think there are several audiences for that including: our funders [who support the systems research work for these two programs],other donors who may be considering funding this type of work [to see what type of common science agenda we can support in more coordinated manner particular in the critical production regions of the world].
  • Once again thanks everyone for coming!

John Dixon, ACIAR

  • This meeting is a joint vision between Jerry and myself. All of us recognize that we are under invested in systems research and there is variety of reasons for that.
  • To me the critical challenge right now is we are moving into this century well and securely is that we are getting an increasing number of what are called 'wicked problems'. These are the complex, uncertain problems that typically cross national boundaries. So we are moving from a phase where we have made great progress on local issues often which are commodity or disciplinary approaches and we are progressively moving more and more towards those apparently more complex problems for the future of countries and for the future of the planet.
  • And so those of us in this room recognize the importance of systems research and recognize that for the decades, it's really not been high on the list of research funders. And that must be somehow connected to our inability to articulate compelling narrative around systems research and [as Jerry said], not as a replacement for commodity focused research but as a complement to drive value for money and sustainable development outcomes. So that is the space we are thinking about.
  • A narrative is critical and that's why [again as Jerry said] we have this 4 - 5 page document articulating why systems research is important. Perhaps not in general, but we can zoom in our lenses on sustainable intensification as a space.
  • There a lot of generic development efforts that are externally broadcast and we probably have got value in giving a more narrow sustainable intensification focus. I have been increasingly aware of the failures of the green revolution.
  • For many decades, people [we all] thought that the green revolution was a magnificent success without downsides. We are now recognizing that the essential successes of the green revolution which were absolutely needed to feed Asia [at the time], came at a huge environmental cost. In fact in India, China and other Asian countries there is a huge run-down of the environment, aquifers, underground water, the soils and biodiversity. We also see a lot of other externalities for example the news that Beijing for example used to be the most polluted city in the world, now it seems that Delhi has been granted that mantle. And that is connected back to agriculture and in fact its connected to rice/coal burning and we have solutions which are systems solutions related to conservation agriculture and zero tillage, but the implementation is a challenge. So we observe that the 'S' part of SI has been neglected. One of the propositions we have been tossing around is - was it neglected in research or did researchers not pay attention to things like natural resources, to water etc? One of my working hypotheses at the moment is that the fact that research interfaces implementation, policy and incentives for intensification has led us into a space where even the best balanced research on SI could be rolled out and implemented in an unsustainable way.
  • So if I think back to the Asia case, most scientists [who I knew] who were working on the green revolution did have some sense of the importance of natural resource management. So I am not sure if much of it was the research or the way in which results of research has been picked up in another way so we hoped that Africa would be able to step into another level and avoid those issues of sustainability and learning generally from other regions, but also within ourselves. Forewarned is forearmed.
  • In Africa, if we can think ahead and see where does systems fit into ensuring that we both have 'S' and 'I' equally focused on. This forms the vision for establishing a multi-donor systems research-in-development platform and I am sure we will brainstorm a lot on what the value of that platform could be.
  • Some of us will recall that in 2013, at the FARA meeting in Ghana, we came together [USAID, ACIAR, Gates ] came together with a sustainable intensification/systems workshop and in some way we can consider this as a follow up to that meeting where it was proposed/agreed that we should meet again sometime in Eastern Africa.
  • We have before us a task which we may consider as the first in a series of meetings [not a one-off event]. We probably have to lay-out a programme that takes this forward.
  • The other piece that was just within the wording of that last outcomes is that sustainable intensification is very context specific across Africa [diverse farming systems].
  • I am looking forward to getting g a mental picture of which of these diverse systems is Africa RISING focused on and generating solutions and can be spill over to other sustainable intensification programs.
  • Thank you once again for coming, this is a gathering of people who care about this topic!

Feedback to Africa RISING presentation on program-wide approaches

  • [John Dixon]: In summary, is it fair to say that Africa RISING is working in 3 agricultural systems - (a) the maize systems in eastern and southern Africa [where also SIMLESA does work], (b) the cereal-legume system in West Africa which does have maize, but also substantially sorghum and millet, (c) the highlands mixed system. You are not working in root crop systems and agro-pastoral systems [please, correct me if I am wrong].
  • [John Dixon]: I was intrigued by a challenge for all of us across resilience. I was wondering a bit about the SI framework particularly with regards to the critical elements in rain-fed systems across Africa [in terms of crop variability] and what this does biologically, socio-economically. So I am wondering whether you did/considered going into risk measurement and risk management explicitly/substantially or what other measures/metrics you may have had of systems resilience?
Africa RISING has not done a lot in this space explicitly, but some of our redefined farms e.g. Sieg's work in Malawi with farmers who have a large/small large land holding size on either side of 2 ha touches on this. So two systems were therefore designed to reduce the risk particularly of the low resource endowed categories of farmers.
We have seen that are is different risk portfolios depending on here you are in sustainable intensification. If you are in the 10% that is ready to be more commodity driven, able to take more risk in a given year then you have a lot of land and some of it can be for your food supplies and you have surplus, then you can go into very intensified soybean-maize rotation kind of system where you can sell the soybean. But there is also a farmer that is more in the food insecurity bracket [operating in areas that are more marginal], then you clearly need to have more of these perennials into your system to try and improve your systems and other types of innovations to improve your water holding capacity to make sure you have food security. So it depends on context/regionality, farm size, household size. So it's that whole thing about context by promising options together equaling performance and that includes resilience. But you might be looking at the types of risks that you are trying to manage.
[Jerry Glover]: At USAID we have several research and development projects. In fact we have 4 which are focused on resilience alone and several activities on smallholder risk and risk mitigation. So I think for me it's been a struggle to know whether its best for Africa RISING to fit in there without trying to duplicate efforts. I had discussions with a few people [initially] looking at very specific resilience targets within cropping systems because a farmer can handle variabilities as long as they don't reach thresholds of vulnerabilities and so on. So we don't want to sort of step out of our expertise/resource levels when others already have better resources and expertise in the same area.
  • Is it correct to say: There is no explicit metric in Africa RISING on risk although you have a general implicit orientation to consider reduced risk options?
The SI indicator framework, has indicators that measure risk [we can include if they aren't there]. This is still work in progress.
  • [Felister Makini]: You mentioned at the being that the site selection you looked at issues related to access to markets. I however didn't hear how the project is working to improve the farmer's incomes in terms of market linkages …or even if you went further and did some activities on market arrangements etc?
In phase 1 of Africa RISING we didn't do a lot of work on improving market accessibility of farmers both for input and outputs markets. But that is one of our expected outcomes in phase 2. In general, the market work is probably better manifested in the Africa RISING Ethiopia project than in the ESA or the West Africa Projects.
  • [Felister Makini]: You mentioned somewhere in the presentation that you were intercropping pigeon pea with groundnut. Just wondering whether you were using residues for soil fertility? If yes, then was there any noted competition with livestock [for the residue]?
The doubled-up legumes interms of improving soils is a multiples approach - there is nitrogen fixation, there is also the residues that we leave on the ground especially in Malawi. But when you come to countries like Tanzania where livestock is a problem, leaving the pigeon pea in the field reduces the interference of livestock in breaking down the soil structure.
  • [Sieg Snapp]: Great and articulate presentation Irmgard and Peter! To me what has really come out is that you can do systems research at plot scale, but then we have the landscape slide where we saw that we could have collective action. However, I didn't see collective action coming out clearly there, but we need that to see these different interventions and make sure they are equitable as we start to see improvements in livelihoods. We are now really starting to articulate a vision of how you can do plot level interventions that are integrated into the landscape level. So I am looking forward to the next few days of seeing how that is going to come out
  • [Daniel Rodriguez]: We tend to think about farmers having large diversity in the availability of resources and how they use them. So we have these broad categories of resource endowment. It also seems to me that most of the technologies that you presented sort of tend to be leaning towards resource endowed farmers. Is this assessment correct?
We have developed typologies within Africa RISING capturing these different farmer types [mostly from a farmer endowment perspective]. We have technologies in Africa RISING that target both high and low resource endowed farmers, it is only that we chose just a few cases to highlight.
  • [George Mburathi]: in all these projects, one of the most important things is scaling your results to farmers. You mentioned how Africa RISING works with development partners in this process. How do you keep track [monitor] of quality of what gets/is delivered to the farmers?
From phase 1 scaling wasn't a major component of Africa RISING, but in phase 2 it is a significant component. We do something to ensure quality. However, it may be presumptuous to call it a 'system'. In the model that was presented where Africa RISING works with partners, we are there with them on the ground. Have a staff employed and embedded with them. The project also conducts annual outcome surveys.
In the Africa RISING Ethiopia project we have representatives from the extension officer who we train and build capacities on the different technologies. We also involve these people in data collection [process] so that they already have a good idea of what is happening from the beginning. We want to strengthen this in the coming years.
In ESA, and West Africa, Africa RISING is starting to do adoption studies to give a picture of what has been adopted and what has been adapted by farmers.
  • [John Dixon]: We were looking for lessons out of our experiences. The following things struck me out of the presentation:
The linkages with development partners and other elements like public private -partners etc.
The metrics of SI - the SI framework
The diversification part of intensification - horticulture, livestock, crops etc.
Multi-level systems thinking - from plot level to the landscape level.
The collective action piece is also impressive
The feedback from the second/third generation adopters is critical to SI
The notion of nudging redesign and what it means programmatically
  • [John Dixon]: What are the top 3 functions of multi-stakeholder platforms in Africa RISING?
They are called by different names in the different Africa RISING projects. In some we call them innovation platform, in others we call them multi-stakeholder platforms, innovation platforms, and R4D platforms. Essentially they are the same things. We generally use them for: prioritization of research needs/plans, dissemination of research outputs, linking farmers to markets, linking to policy makers, cross-learning by different partners, review proposals, discuss research fin ding/sharing with the farmers, evaluating activities on the ground and planning for community activities.
  • [Michael Misiko]: When we focus on the role of markets in systems research, we find that there are issues related to equity. Research has a role in this.
  • [Vara Prasad]: I am intrigued by the four scaling methodologies presented - scaling with the development partners, with government and NGO' s, with the private sectors and finally with the development partners directly. Your partnership with NAFAKA seems to be a very innovative model for scaling innovations despite being a 'forced/arranged marriage'. So we really need to have these kind of partnerships established by design from beginning of projects. Use of GIS tools also present an opportunity that we can also capitalize on with APSIM models etc.
In the Africa RISING - NAFAKA project we use the GIS for targeted scaling. It is in our plans to invest more in this kind of scaling approach/model.
  • [Daniel Rodriguez]: We have been thinking more about livelihoods rather than commodities. Could we also consider having a discussion about what it takes to get relevant activities to improve livelihoods.
  • [Daniel Rodriguez]: You talked about communities. Not sure what you are doing. Please elaborate a bit more?
In West Africa we had community analysis as a means of identifying the systems challenges/issues to address within the communities we work in Ghana. We also have community focused actions in Ghana and Mali like community technology parks, nutrition education etc.
  • [Daniel Rodriguez]: Are your interventions transformational enough? How far are they going to take you in reducing downside risks? Let us have a discussion on transformational agenda.

Feedback to SIMLESA presentation on program-wide approaches

  • [Jerry Glover]: Some food for thought - what should systems projects look like? Should they be stand - alone where the project does everything from testing/validation of technologies to scaling/adoption or do we do mapping of other people working in some of those spaces and collaborate with them?
  • [Jerry Glover]: What is the scope of SIMLESA's work? It seems that you are well into scaling beyond what Africa RISING is doing. So you are directly doing scaling, while Africa RISING is facilitating scaling. Its nuanced, but significant.
SIMLESA is piloting scaling approaches so that users could pick up from the options. We aren't doing the scaling ourselves, but rather do competitive grants that media companies and seed companies etc. can bid for and experiment on/with. It is just that the results from these have been great!
ACIAR wants project funded by it like SIMLESA to demonstrate impact. They therefore have to provide numbers. ACIAR prefers not to be called a donor, but rather a financial partner. ACIAR is interested in the plausible scaling pathways. However that doesn't mean that ACIAR invests in scaling per se, the primary purpose is for research in scaling.
  • [Asamoah Larbi]: Should systems projects be funding activities like variety breeding? It sounds a bit to me like a duplication of actions being implemented by crop improvement programs.
SIMLESA doesn't support breeding activities, but rather aim to just use the results of these breeding programs.
  • [Irmgard H. Zeledon]: Are you sure that conservation agriculture fits all contexts of the countries that SIMLESA works in?
CA is context specific and farming system specific. This is the approach that SIMLESA is taking. However, the process through which SIMLESA ended up implementing/working with CA across all the project sites was demand driven - where the country team [in 2009] identified it as challenges in their legume-maize systems. This was then adopted as an approach of evaluation in both high potential and low potential areas.
SIMLESA was conscious of the risks of business as usual science being implemented in an unsustainable way. The choice of CA was therefore one way to reduce the risks in the implementation process of good research results [hypothesis]. We have actually called it therefore CASI - Conservation Agriculture based Sustainable Intensification. So any definition of CA that we have always incorporates good agronomy.
When in research and not development, it is good to sometimes go to controversial areas. When we went into CA it was of course controversial and we have managed to generate information that will shed more light on it.
  • [Carlo Azzarri]: What is the relationship between the 650,000 farmers versus the 3 million farmers in your presentation.
The 650,000 farmers refers to the number of farmers who are likely to benefit form the project 10 years after implementation of the SIMLESA program as we set it at project inception. The 3 million farmers refers to the numbers we have reached as a result of the piloting of scaling methods that we have does within SIMLESA over the past couple of years.
These figures were based on research on actual adoption that is studied and not just estimates. The monitoring of adoption practices is an ongoing process.
  • [Kindu Mekonnen]: SIMLESA is working the Ethiopian maize-livestock-legume systems while Africa RISING is on the wheat-barley-faba bean systems. I see commonalities and we can learn from each other in the future. NRM was cited as a pillar within the presentation, however it didn't come out clearly. Please could you elaborate?
We have different types of NRM trials that are ongoing at research stations - on station and on farm.
  • [Gundula Fischer]: I appreciated a couple of things from your presentation key among them being the clear focus on labor - labor saving solutions. I am curious about how you approach the topic---what studies have you done in terms of labor saving and who does the labor?
We haven't designed a specific labor use topic, but it is something that has emerged out of the scientific work that we have done. Our gender team is just currently embarking on these sort of studies.
  • [Irmgard H-Zeledon]: I was wondering why you are emphasizing that NARS present a risk to SI as opposed to farmers?
The NARS are the ones that keep asking that how does CA contribute to downsize risk?
  • [Vara Prasad]: I want to pint out three things: [a] there are several innovation labs working on systems - SIIL, innovation lab on sorghum, and livestock systems innovation lab. It would be nice to bring all these three on board. [b] the SI framework - in the next 6 months it will become a web-based tool where you can choose domain, indicators etc. and run them through the framework and you get your results. [c] Scaling and adoption - SIIL has initiated a project with UC Davies on uptake study /adoption study. So there are several innovations from the labs are being documented by UC Davies. So just want to let you know that this is going on and we can collaborate in these areas.
  • [Sieg Snapp]: Africa RISING is planning a work shop on sustainable intensification in Ghana in July 2018. A methods book is also being discussed as something that will be developed down the line with regards to the SI Framework.
General reflections about the two presentations
  • [Jerry Glover]: One thing I have learned, not only in Africa RISING but also other projects is that it seems some of the household will not meet their full needs. And especially difficult will be lifting them out of poverty as result f the interventions that we introduce. That is a double challenge. Even if these interventions can't deliver 12 months of food security or deliver enough income to lift the families out of poverty. It is better to be at 90% food security through agricultural activities than at 50% and the same applies to income in relation to how close to getting beyond the poverty line than being well below it. What is the obligation of a systems research program? What is within our manageable interests? Of course these also go with defining terms like reach, use, adoption etc.
  • [Irmgard H-Zeledon]: Where does SIMLESA store the data, how are they used and how do you know what was collected?
We are also having challenges with our data management processes. We store on the data verse.
  • [John Dixon]: A reminder to all of us that a benefit [for example on the incomes side] should and must include the sustainability of the ecosystems services.

World café to brainstorm and identify:

Important common or desired elements for systems research programs like AR & SIMLESA [led by Sieg]
    • Multidisciplinary: five domains, experts on components (eg crops, animals) and experts on systems, and on social, gender aware
    • Does multidisciplinary mean mixed methods (qualitative and quantitative)
    • Action research approaches
    • Representative (operationalized): AR and Simlesa have both
    • Aspirational: would like more systems expertise and future foresight
    • At multiple scales plot - farm- landscape (when appropriate)/ value chain
    • Representative: yes, AR is including all three in some sites, Simlesa is more plot farm focused in phase 1 and 2, ambition to go to 3 landscape (when appropriate)
    • SI practices or principles widely communicated
    • Aspirational in both projects, we are on the way, highly desirable
    • Monitoring systems and metrics to document progress along SI trajectories, metrics carefully selected to align with decision making criteria at each level (farmer has different decision making, researchers and policy maker)
    • Representative in both projects
    • Aspirational: aligning metrics with decision making criteria at multiple levels, extension and policy
    • Quantification of benefits, e.g. labour saving, degradation. This requires careful identification of indicators to measure changes rigorously
    • Documentation of the success and failures, for holistic lessons gathering, policy, etc.
    • Adoptability, and potential impact, vision of success
    • Representative in both projects lots of progress, esp SIMLESA, however also AR work in progress as well with SI framework
    • Iterative learning and flexibility to support redesign as needed (when done?)
    • Representative in both projects, more documented in some AR projects
    • Beyond household benefits ecosystem services, equal attention to S and I
    • Aspirational in both projects, spotty attention
    • Look beyond crops and livestock, horticulture, focus on the integration and interaction
    • Representative in both projects, especially in AR
    • Systems boundaries and context, farming systems, future as well as todays (so need foresight)
    • Aspirational in both projects
    • Holistic approach, considering livelihoods and context, as well as understanding process
    • Representative in terms of focus of many AR projects, SIMLESA less so
    • Aspirational: very little social science representative, yet livelihoods requires this and policy maker communication, to operationalize for impact, how do we understand complexity, we are failing to communicate, and failure to focus and synthesize
    • Also systems may need to better address the 'wicked problem' aspect, which is key to grapple with in systems research: the variation in uncertainty and value conflict communication complexity
    • (short list: residue management, soil quality rehabilitation)
    • Aspirational for both projects also work in progress (current tasks)
    • Systems research, efficiency, redesign (local adaptation, in a local context), Plausible options, context = performance - so some substitution - so need to grapple with failure and support local capacity building
    • Aspirational except some examples within Africa RISING (see Irmgard/Peter talk today). Work in progress to document.
    • Explicit attention to synthesis: Spend more money on analyses and synthesis, more than data collection. Big projects require more communication too, which requires indepth syntheses of the different disciplines incl. gender and environmental issues

' Aspirational, work in progress

Lessons learned about system
Diagnosis/foresigh Implementation Impact assessment
Acceptance problems are wicked Paradigm shift with managers & directors on the value of multidisciplinary approaches, trickling down on to researchers, who should be able to explain it to their clients Multi dimensional assessments of new emerging properties across multiple goals
Systems boundaries, scales, agents & synergies Pathways for multiple objectives, benefits and trade offs Systems embedded technologies
Partnerships at different levels requiring participation and learning about systems approaches (capacity building on systems research) Quantification, feedbacks in an agile approach Understanding the dynamics of system evolution
Description of what it is (original emerging properties) Adaptive management as we learn during the implementation (a common issue for partners) Understanding the need of time to be able to measure system changes
Visioning of what it could be Scaling as a systems research problem The need of communication products to provide evidence of value
Negotiated/step-wise approach to impact
*Subdivision into management problems, actions and teams that are multidisciplinary
GxExM x Farming system is a systems approach to agronomy Visioning of what it could be

Comment: probably you should have considered to add to the table a fourth column on Scaling (outside looking in)

Required policy, market and institutional changes for effective sustainable intensification [led by Carlo]

  • It was felt helpful to frame the discussion around two different, though related, questions:
What are the required policy, market, and institutional changes that support SI?
Should our projects affect policy, market, and institutional changes?
Who is supposed to do policy dialogue in Africa RISING? Policy making is above us.
Though, we can still influence market and institutions (CG centers, international, national, local, NARS,…), providing essential information.

Though the question is: are we going to succeed in affecting the policy process?

A helpful option could be communication pieces, to try to get policy-makers interested in what we do, for example with policy briefs.

Changes need to come from the bottom, not from the top, otherwise the risk is that they are unsustainable, they do not become the norm. If institutional changes become the norm instead, then people start thinking and acting naturally on them. Helpful examples from the SIIL experience are:

Bangladesh Agriculture Research Council as the control entity, to which the responsibility was assigned to gather annually all the ag research institutions in the country;
2. Royal University of Agriculture in Cambodia, where institutional capacity to be able to handle the multiple projects was low. Due to SIIL, it has become a center of excellence, signaling a crucial institutional change;
3. ten cohorts of students coming from different disciplines: agronomists, economists, nutritionists, etc. are working on the same experiment but looking at it from different angles. This model seems to have been working pretty well.

The examples from SIIL are very encouraging. When you start bringing economists then the picture gets bogged down.

The experience of SIMLESA was that some micro-econometrics studies of impact have been done, but what about enabling environment, or norms? We need to understand the underlying causes and mechanisms of changes, challenged by economists!

One example of institutional change is from the AR-Ethiopia project, which set-up a task force that is formulating strategies to refine context-specific fertilizer recommendations given the project is working on fertilizer-related issues and ATA is working on the same topic.

  • It is important that these recommendations are recognized by the government and are backed up by strong evidence on nutrition, trade, etc., as well as pros and cons, as we need buy-in from the government otherwise change will not happen. Not more than four pages for policy-makers, and with a crispy message! It was a missed opportunity in SIMLESA, for example in herbicide control, not to have studied the ingredients that would support SI, as the earlier we recognize the issues we need to tackle the better. So, initial engagement for early buy-in is crucial. However, unless there is a process whereby these barriers are broken, it might be difficult to get the message of system research to policy makers. Ex: crop-livestock system in Zimbabwe: research field teams belong to different ministries.
-We need to "sell" multidisciplinary research, which is difficult, almost a mission! This is because a system approach is much more demanding for a researchers and extension staff, who also need to understand how the different elements of the SI interact.
- Another important missing element is the capacity of institutions: they do not necessarily have relevant skilled staff to take innovations on board.
We are good at system research and innovations, but institutions should be able to act upon them. There is widespread institutional weakness that we should address.

Perhaps we should formulate some crucial policy issues to share widely.

For example, CAADP should adopt SI as a strategic area. There will be a big meeting end of April but we should get their buy-in before the meeting and for this we need to have the capacity of advocacy, which we currently perhaps do not have.
In most of the countries we work in there is a strong need of inter-ministerial or intersectoral working groups.
This is important for our SI efforts to be successful.Until we achieve this upgrade, it would be difficult to have institutional changes.
How should incentives be tweaked to invest in NRM? What would be the right incentives for the private sector to support SI? Understanding those incentives is crucial.
We need to have "peripheral vision": while we do our work, we should keep an eye open to opportunities around us.

Day 2 - 14 March 2018 Compelling cases of instances where systems research has made a difference SIMLESA cases

  1. Stepwise GxExM approaches to SI: Stepwise negotiation in the evolution of sustainable intensification
  2. Integration of socio economic and biophysical approaches to gain insights on SI pathways from different types of households
  3. Scaling (CGS, Innovation platforms, Scaling processes)

What is the criteria for success?

  • Contributes to mission
  • Environment, productivity, economic, social, human, scalability, policy, multidisciplinary, Wow factor, Net value

What are the critical elements of this successful case?

Cases M V E Pr E S H Sc Po W
Stepwise GxExM approaches to SI: Scalable practices identified (CA scalable varieties) 5 8 8 7 7 3 6 9 7 5
Socio economic and biophysical integration: To munch or to mulch 8 8 8 3,4 8 7,8 6 5 6 10
Scaling: Functional AIP and CGS 9 7 3 8 7 8 8 7 3 9

M Multidisciplinary, V Net value, E Environmental, P Productivity, E Economic, S Social, H Human, S Scalability, Po Policy, W Wow factor//

Africa RISING cases

  1. Feeding trough – Systems approach identified catalytic entry point and subsequent plausible options == sparks iterative process of adapting the technology fitting into a virtuous cycle of adoption of improved crops and forages, improved nutrient cycling, and re-investment. Impacts are labor savings, improved nutrient cycling,
  2. System redesign for intensification and diversification –

Forage-bean intercrop & doubled-up legume system Learned from a ‘sustainable’ system and from an ‘intensive’ system to deliver sustainable intensification --

  1. Site specific integrated soil fertility management across a landscape
What are the critical and criteria elements of this successful case?
  • Supports iterative adaptation at different locations
  • Considers interactions with other elements of the whole farm and considers performance in different SI domains (productivity, economic, social, human, and environment).
  • Transferable/implementable/relevant to effective development agents
  • Based on a few key principles that are widely adaptable in different contexts
  • Based on iterative co-learning through participatory action research
  • Adoptable (based on analyses of impacts in multiple domains)

Compelling cases of instances where systems research has made a difference in Africa and beyond from other projects Group 1

  • CSISA: mechanization for main staples, improved cultivars
  • ZimCLIFS (Zimbabwe Crop-Livestock Integration for Food Security, 2012-2015, ACIAR-funded): household intensification of farming system (in two regions), production and storage of forages, forage facilities, above ground level structures, farmers collecting makuna drying them up in bales and stored them; it was structured in multidisciplinary teams, addressing social issues (gender, equality), with a clear business model, implementation of auction (it provides higher prices for goats), it shows how the dynamic of communities changes due to these auctions
  • FACASI (Farm Mechanization and Conservation Agriculture for Sustainable Intensification. Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zimbabwe): business models for mechanization, provision of mechanization services
  • N2Africa: livelihood-system approach, livestock-legume system, inoculants production and provision.
  • AR-SAIRLA (Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research and Learning Alliance, DFID-funded project): trying out tools, combining social science research
  • Research Into Use (RIU): a DFID-funded scaling program. The RIU was commissioned in 2006 to address ways to scale up successful innovations from agricultural research. The intention of RIU was to deliver the impact from the 10-year (1995 to 2005) DFID-funded suite of programmes on Renewable Natural Resources (RNRRS). The programme came to a close on 31st December 2012.
  • CASCAPE (Capacity building for scaling up of evidence-based best practices in agricultural production in Ethiopia, 2012-2015): it was initiated to strengthen the capacity of stakeholders on scaling up of best practices and newly introduce practices for agricultural production. In addition, CASCAPE is to provide an evidence base for best practices. Moreover, the CASCAPE approach aims at improving linkages between farmers, NGO's, private sector, universities, research institutes and policy makers. The added value of CASCAPE in relation to the AGP is that it brings in scientific expertise for:

Detailed understanding of current farming systems and their effects on various sustainability issues Verification of best practices Identification of key factors for sustainable increased production and for successful uptake of these practices Evaluation of short term and long-term effects of selected practices on sustainability The purpose of CASCAPE is to identify drivers for uptake of innovations, test and disseminate these and evaluate their short and long-term effects and with this knowledge stimulate scaling up of innovations.

  • CIALCA (Consortium for Improving Agriculture-based Livelihoods in Central Africa): it's an innovative research-for-development partnership operating in Burundi, DR Congo and Rwanda, and supported by the Belgian Directorate General for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid (DGD). Embedded within the CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers and Bananas, CIALCA uses integrated systems research and unique collaboration platforms for better impact on poverty and eco-systems integrity. By building on 10 years of investments and partnership, CIALCA is able to jump-start activities and mobilize networks to boost farmers' incomes from integrated systems intensification, while preserving their land for future generations. There is focus on value-chains and entrepreneurial farming, nutrition, natural resource improvement and the scaling of successful technologies and approaches.

Group 2 ZIMCLIFS- Zimbabwe- Crop-livestock integration for food security: R4D project

  • Mucuna incorporation in to the cropping system and cattle marketing
  • Improved goat marketing, forage, ground nut value chains, IPs
  • Import-export trade
  • FMNReg- Farmer managed natural regeneration: Sahel- Parklands- Impact on resilience, Policy as a key issue for tree tenure
  • CIALCA: Soil fertility, banana
  • FARMESA: Regional SI
  • SRFSI/CSISA: Cropping systems/mechanization
  • SILL: SI-works in progress
Group 3
ZimCLIFS (Crops – legumes –livestock systems) in Zimbabwe
  • Integration of the bio-physical and socio-economic approaches to increase crops and livestock productivity (livestock feeding and nutrient cycling). Add labour issues and gender (groundnut, smallstock and beef cattle). Different agro ecological zones.
  • Why -Multi-disciplinary teams (3 CG, Govt NARES and 2 NGOs from the design to the end).
  • Market pull to the system (goat auctions, groundnuts, beef cattle)
  • Continuous iterative co learning and adaptation process (PTD/IPs)
  • Scalability - NGOs implementing partners from the start (mainstreamed in their own programs). Value for policy (Ministers interested -) 4800 – 20, 000 – though NGOs 170
  • Multi purpose crops -Dual purpose crops (Senegal/Burkina) – sorghum-millet and cow pea (learning how to redesign these). High yield
  • Climbing beans and agricultural systems- N2 Africa
  • Home gardens - SIIL (Scaling up in Ethiopia and Cambodia)

What is common across all the cases

  • Systems analysis thinking,
  • Participatory approaches
  • Stepwise improvements (home gardens, goat auctions)
  • Multi disciplinary teams
  • Socio economic and market analysis is key
  • Linking with scaling partners

Identification of critical elements that need to be included in a 4-5 page document on Systems Research in agriculture for Sustainable Intensification media type="custom" key="29612455" Screen shot of the assessment of sections/topics proposed topics for the 4-5 page document after mentimeter exercise [click on image to enlarge]

Topics as prioritized/merged by participants after some deliberations and consensus building:

  • Introduction. The challenge of achieving the sustainable development goals (Peter, Mateete)

The lack of delivery of business as usual Why the need for agricultural systems research complementing disciplinary approaches?

  • What is systems research in agric. (Sieg, Gundula)

What is it Evolution in systems research

  • What are the new opportunities? (Daniel, Mulu, )

How circumstances have changed making ASR needed How progress in tools offer new opportunities

  • The need for more integrative and complementary approaches that: (Paswel, Kindu)

address multiple constraints simultaneously deliver multiple outputs

  • Incremental and transformational benefits (Vara, Carlo,Asamoah)

Examples of success stories / case studies in text boxes

  • How systems research could be implemented (Michael, George, Felister)

What is an enabling environment for the application of research?

  • Call to action (John, Irmgard, Boni, Jerry)

What is next?

  • References
  • Annexes

Day 3 - 15 March 2018 World Cafe - Joint action between SIMLESA, AR and SIIL as a premise for the multi-donor platform

  • Discussion table 1: Low-cost spaces for interaction between the 3 programs [led by Paswel Marenya]

Joint desk-based analysis

  • Joint peer-review publications using existing data

A joint paper clarifying adoption: reach, use, adoption, disadoption, persistence, extent of use. Technical and practical guideline on these issues

  • Joint review and synthesis papers: identify a coordinator from each group
  • Utilize special issues of Systems Research focused journals
  • ASK: As group to send title suggestions by email before departure
  • Shared research personnel especially at a post-doctoral level tasked to carry out the analysis
  • Joint communications products to policy (how practical?)

Overcome issues of attribution Joint drafting of policy messages and synthesis Joint policy workshops Pool resources for a communications expertise (high transaction costs)…communications coordinator…????...Branding issue Use local country based communications person

  • Sharing Experiences on Agricultural Innovation Platforms (AIPs) and multi-stakeholder fora for scaling
  • Suggestion: Joint workshop to update of the Makini et al AIP Field Guide and include in the African Distance learning initiative including AIPs

How to show that the two programs are interacting by inviting the other programs

  • Workshops
  • Trainings
  • Combine annual and planning meetings to (annual). To workshops happen simultaneously???
  • Coordinate these
  • Strategic planning meeting based on common topics
  • The suggested bottom up multi-donor platform should help with this e.g. online portal that provides project travel plans
  • Joint symposia at conferences
  • Joint project review meetings
  • Third party sponsorship of joint workshops
  • Write shops are preferred (synthesis papers, grant making)

Joint (Coordinated) field activities

Joint field days
  • If projects add value to existing research sites instead of starting over
  • Measure variables in existing sites
  • Joint design of multi-locational activities
  • Sharing field sites
  • Sharing data collection
  • Joint field visits
  • Avoid field site overlaps

Stocktaking and analysis of various of various R4D platforms to identify the best models

  • This includes innovations platforms in SIMLESA
  • Use existing national forums for sustainable intensification (DFID supported)
  • Use these for results sharing e.g. SAIRLA
  • Test scaling modalities

Reducing transactions costs: Carry out cost-benefit analysis of proposed and completed joint activities

  • Higher benefits can justify more cists
  • Unrealistic to expect low transactions costs
  • Focus on benefit-cost comparison
  • Third party sponsorship
  • Self-sponsorship to joint activities using current budgets
  • Joint resource mobilization
  • Avoid overlapping activities, make those joint activities

Look for ways to overcome “coordination failure

Assign one member to help with minimum facilitation of agreed joint activities. This person would help in facilitation (even if not a “coordinator per se”). Given his extensive networks, a person like Mulegetta Mekuria could help in this

Discussion table 2: Joint systems research questions to focus on by Africa RISING - SIMLESA - SIIL [led by Mateete Bekunda] Questions....need more thought

  • Does systems research add value?
  • Does diversification enhance resilience and nutrition?
  • What enabling environment is required systems research?
  • How do we build capacity to conduct systems research?

Themes/Problems/Issues to be addressed by research

  • Combating environmentally unsound practices, e.g. weed control that is environmentally sound (chemical, biological)
  • Promoting efficient resource use, e.g. improved nutrient cycling
  • Improved technology uptake, e.g. research on scaling
  • Farm enterprise diversification and expansion (e.g. adding value) to reduce hunger periods
  • Capacity of market systems to respond to farmers demands
  • Multi-output interventions to avoid unsustainable intensifications, e.g. expanding multi-purpose options/innovations for smallholders
  • System component interactions and synergies for enhancing resilience
  • Households evolving overtime through stepwise uptake of innovations
  • Rural mechanization
  • Research on policy, market and institutional issues
  • How to adapt to changing environments (e.g. climate, markets, policies) and management practices (e.g. new genetics, inputs)
  • Crop/livestock diversification vs dietary diversity vs improved nutrition


  • Understanding incentives and barriers of adoption {including risk and risk aversion}
  • Understanding social dynamics
  • Creating enabling environment for systems research

Discussion table 3: What are some of the major production regions to prioritize for farming systems investments in Africa - flexible enough to allow for continuity in the event of a change in donor priorities? A bottom up look on how the donor platform could look like? [led by Gundula Fischer]

Production Regions to Prioritize for Farming Systems Investments in Africa

  • Sub-Saharan Africa as a broad focus and within that moist and dry savannahs and again within that specific systems (agro-pastoralist systems, crop-livestock systems)
Maize-mixed farming syst. [Eastern and Southern Africa], Cereal-root crop mixed syst. [West Africa],Agro-pastoral syst ,Highland temperate mixed syst,Perennial mixed syst,Peri-urban syst.
  • Should we have a similar ranges of rain fall in both West and East Africa for comparability? Should be range and distribution.
  • Thornton, Dixon, Giller: Should be taken as a starting point. Agro-ecological zones (maize-sorghum-millet based systems, legume systems) and livestock within these systems. Maize and Sorghum could be prioritized.
  • Disagreement: We have to de-commoditize systems research. We just pick similar agro-ecological conditions for comparison within the current regions. After selecting agro-ecologies you dig into other criteria such as population density, market, culture, diversity of households etc.
  • Livelihood systems approach - focusing on the broader system

Bottom-up Look at How Multi-Donor Platform Could Look/Work

  • Platform should bring partners together for knowledge exchange, joint research, joint communication
  • To strategically target research with no duplication and more synergistic value addition approach including capacity building, policy investments/ support existing African mechanisms for prioritization e.g. FARA etc.
  • Coordination effort in the region
  • Technology park model/innovation hubs where scalable innovations from all projects could be showcased, discussed (open even for other development partners, private industry)
  • To work closely with regional policy bodies (ASARECA, CORAF, NEPAD, CAADP etc.)
  • Synthesis of data across regions and data management platform for systems research in agriculture
  • Pool funding (a critical issue with CRPs) versus component funding; from a bottom-up view continuity and larger investments in funding would matter/ Explore flexible models for different options of funding by donors?
Look for expanded resource
Being effective with the current available funds in a way that can be seen
  • Example for multi-donor-platforms: CRS (Collaborative Research Center; private-public partnership), PABRA (Pan-African Bean Research Alliance; network of bean researchers); these examples should be explored
  • Could the platform also serve as a center of excellence (good practices in systems research)?
  • To mainstream systems research in donor institutions and mobilize further funding from non-traditional donors (private sector, Gates Foundation, DFID, Master Card)
  • Is there any existing body with similar functions that we could build on?
Next steps and timelines to finalizing the document
  • 15 - 23 March 2018: All revision by sections stewards [based on comments from the ‘sharks’] done and concluded.
  • 23 - 13 April 2018: Review and revision of document by the technical team comprising of Peter Thorne, Daniel Rodriguez, Paswel Marenya, and Sieg Snapp.
  • 13 - 21 April 2018: Review/revision of document by the ‘sharks’ - Felister Makini, Jerry Glover, John Dixon, and Siboniso Moyo.
  • 21 - 27 April 2018: Final look at document by section stewards, sharks, and technical team. No fundamental changes expected at this point.
  • 28 April 2018: Technical team approves final document; communications team take over
  • 29 April - 20 May 2018: Layout and design, development of infographics, copy editing etc.
  • By 31 May 2018: Final document published

Closing remarks John Dixon, ACIAR

  • Jerry referred at the opening to how we are interacting between USAID and ACIAR when Feed the Future was getting going and how we were thinking on conceptualizing SIMLEZA. So there is a long history behind this even before that by ACIAR and USAID.
  • A lot has therefore been learned and lots of capacity exists.
  • ACIAR is fully engaged in doing/funding systems research.
  • Jerry and I knew that it would be valuable to have a learning event of this sort.
  • Within both ACIAR and USAID there are big believers in systems research. The ACIAR CEO [Andrew Campbell ] is a huge fan of systems synthesis/systems research. he also asks where is the sustainability in sustainable intensification. He was very interested in being at this meeting, but other engagements couldn’t allow. So there is a receptive audience at ACIAR, but also with other donors like DFID,GIZ,CIRAD and the Belgians.
  • Personally I think we have exceeded our minimum goals for this group. I am impressed with what we have put together.
  • I think its great that this team came together and put in this impressive work.
  • We will be therefore relying on Peter, Mulugetta and Peter to nudge us to having an activity that would carry this work forward.
  • Thank you all very much for coming together. Let's keep the momentum on sustainability and systems research going!

Jerry Glover, USAID

  • We have a couple of critical fans out there who need a bit of a nudge to come on board and support systems research in agriculture.
  • I think providing an outline of how our work can make a difference will really help them jump on board.
  • This group could be a real leader in guiding the activities/agendas of other projects.
  • I feel like we went well beyond what I expected.
  • I enjoyed being in and participating in this workshop.
  • Thank you everybody.