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Africa RISING Chief Scientists & Project Managers Meeting
5 December 2019
Virtual (Skype)
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  1. Peter Thorne
  2. Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon
  3. Jonathan Odhong'
  4. Fred Kizito
  5. Mateete Bekunda
  6. Kindu Mekonnen


  1. Progress with Harmonization
  2. Experiences with SIAF implementation
  3. Harmonization recommendations from the interim ICER report.
  4. Program wide events for 2020
  5. Next Chief Scientists and Project Managers meeting

Progress with harmonization across the Africa RISING program----

During a similar meeting between Chief Scientists and Project Managers on 6 December 2018, the enumerated points below had been agreed on as fundamental for promoting harmonization within the program. Progress with each of them was reviewed.

  • Program-wide publications around 6 key themes: cross-country watershed experiences; process paper; program-wide livestock paper; approaches, challenges and experiences in scaling paper; intercropping paper; nutrition paper; mechanization paper; and crop-water paper. The following update was noted for each:
  • Cross-country watershed experiences paper
    • Kizito noted that a draft paper touching on work done in Tanzania, Ghana, Mali, and Ethiopia had been drafted. There is still further input required from Birhanu in Mali. This paper is 60% done. Kizito and Birhanu are aiming to finalize the full draft by end of December 2019.
  • Process paper
    • Mekonnen noted that a draft for an Ethiopian process paper is 70% ready, but aspects from ESA & West Africa regions were not planned to be included.
    • Thorne proposed that the 3 Chief Scientists should take lead on this paper. Probably each region should develop their own papers and then aim for a synthesis paper at the end.
    • Kizito requested Mekonnen to share the Ethiopian draft with both he and Bekunda so that they can work of a similar outline that can provide a great basis for developing a synthesis paper.
  • Action: Mekonnen to share his draft. Bekunda and Kizito to develop their respective regional process papers for ESA and West Africa. A common synthesis paper will be the combined output from the three regional papers. The aim is to have evidenced-based publications
  • Program-wide livestock paper
    • This was supposed to be led by Augustine Ayantunde. No update was yet available for this.
    • Mekonnen noted that Melkamu from Ethiopia was already leading the preparation of a livestock paper that incorporates a program-wide perspective. Was this different from the one that Augustine was supposed to lead?
    • Kizito noted that Augustine was not informed about this paper and so there was likely no progress made. He, however, agreed with Mekonnen’s suggestion to rope in Augustine into the draft already being developed by Melkamu so that it can incorporate Ghana and Mali inputs to it.
  • Action: Mekonnen to follow up on finalization of the livestock paper with Melkamu and then work with Kizito so that Augustine’s input is sought for the Ghana and Mali livestock activities.
  • Approaches, challenges, and experiences (ACE) in scaling paper
    • Bekunda noted that an outline was already developed last year (2018). However, not much progress has been made beyond the outline.
      • Action: The Chief Scientists led by Bekunda will have a draft paper ready by end of April 2020. Zeledon inquired whether the Chief Scientists regular calls still took place? It was noted that the meetings haven’t held as often as may have been desired.
      • Action: Chief Scientists to aim for regular meetings at intervals of at least once every 2 months, but this is likely to be even more frequent when work commences on the ACE in scaling paper.
  • Intercropping paper
    • There had been no follow up with Sieg about this paper. Bekunda had discussed this proposed publication with her and she had proposed to develop it a certain way. Not much update from her since then about this.
    • Zeledon noted that Sieg had some initial discussions with Lulseged Tamene and Job Kihara. No outcome from these initial discussions is reported yet.
      • Action: Bekunda to follow up with Sieg to establish what kind of progress she and the rest have made. If not much progress has been made and there isn’t a programmatic outlook in Sieg’s proposed paper, then a back-up plan for developing an intercropping paper that captures AR’s programmatic approaches will be developed/discussed at the next meeting between CS’s and PM’s.Kizito noted that it may also be worth asking the individual scientists leading intercropping work in the different project countries as part of the back-up plan.
  • Nutrition paper
    • Kizito noted that a lot of progress has been made on the nutrition paper. The draft paper is complete and is being led by Justus Ochieng, Prof. Muzanila, Mwangwela, Mahama Saaka, Mestaut (from Bioversity) and Zelalem.
    • The drafting team are currently in discussion about a journal paper.
    • Kizito noted that it would also be best for the Chief Scientists to review the publications which are ready – before teams submit to a peer-reviewed journal.
    • Action: Fred to inform teams about this procedure
  • Mechanization paper
    • Kizito noted that the paper on mechanization is being led by Walter Mupangwa. However, not much progress has been made on it.
    • Action: Kindu to contact Walter for update
  • Crop-water paper
    • About 70% done. The drafting team includes Zenebe, Birhanu, Kizito, and Desalegn.
    • Kizito noted that Desalegn hasn’t been very responsive in the drafting of the paper.
General action points for follow-up
  • Updates about the current status of each of the paper and individual scientist contributions from each project region is urgently needed. For each of the publication categories, Bekunda, Mekonnen and Kizito will tease out their project team members and follow up with them about their contributions.

Experiences with SIAF implementation----

  • Zeledon noted that concrete action by the 3 projects on the appropriate minimum data sets proposed by Jerry was still pending.
  • Thorne noted that although he had volunteered to take up the task of assembling a task force to recommend certain minimum data sets, he now (after some further thought) come to the conclusion that this action wasn’t necessary. He noted that this is because the 3 projects each are now applying the SIA framework quite differently. For example, while in ESA & WA have focused SIAF application to activity level (each scientist applies it for each activity they implement), the Ethiopian highlands project has focused on applying the SIAF at project level (across sites). So, having a minimum data sets for these two approaches will not be feasible. Adapting a. set of minimum data sets is also contrary to the whole point of having the SIAF, which already has a variety of indicators for which every scientist can apply to their work depending on the scale at which they are implementing activities.
  • Zeledon noted that Jerry’s suggestion was about having the minimum data sets as part of a broader approach to having AR activities to respond to the development questions by USAID country missions. The minimum data sets were not supposed to be everything that individual scientists collect, but rather the initial data sets for each domain, then the scientists can add whichever others s/he prefers or are relevant.
  • Action point: No need for a task force at this point on minimum data sets since most scientists within the projects already collect most of the data that were identified as minimum data sets. The fact that scientists and project are operating/implementing activities at different scales/levels makes having a set of minimum data sets nearly impossible. However, projects to ensure that Jerry’s point about extracting the minimum data sets identified during the extended PCT meeting when interacting with the USAID country missions should be followed /adhered to whenever these requests arise.
  • Bernard’s point about “advancing” the SIAF is not clear. However, it was noted that probably the Africa RISING team should champion the SIAF more.
  • Odhong noted that Bernard’s point was about how effectively the 3 Africa RISING projects have documented its experiences in applying the SIAF.
Action point
  • Thorne & Zeledon to seek clarity from Bernard about his point regarding “advancing” the SIAF.
  • To promote/give more visibility to SIAF, Kizito had approached the Journal of Environmental Indicators if they could publish a special issue focused on the SIAF. Kizito to provide an update at the next meeting.

Harmonization recommendations from the interim ICER report----

  • Zeledon noted that the report had recommended certain harmonization issues including better harmonization of data collection to effectively track beneficiaries; simplifying log frames and change of indicators to ensure better relationship between activities, outputs, outcomes and impacts; integration of the M&E team should be improved; promotion of more cross-regional collaborations through science events; and Incentive tools to scientists working in the project.
  • Thorne noted that the Ethiopia team, for example, had a good reason for not having a log frame. He also noted that some of the recommendations given were also a bit vague and don’t have direct action points for the project team to implement.
  • Zeledon noted that the ICER reviewers had indicated that they will elaborate on the harmonization recommendations in the final report.
  • Action point: Wait for the final ICER report before developing a coherent response to the harmonization recommendations from the reviewers.

Program wide events for 2020----

  • Thorne: Have the funds for program communications been received yet?
  • Zeledon: Not yet. I am having a call with Jerry tomorrow. We’re still waiting for the funds to come, but when they do, he has also indicated that he would like us to use some of those funds to implement some joint studies with the innovation labs and other universities. Jerry, however, instructed that we shouldn’t ask ILRI or IFPRI to provide funds for program communications, but we should rather wait for the incoming.
  • Thorne: Once those funds come in we should start planning for a program-wide event next year.
  • Odhong: We can still discuss plans for program-wide events even before the funds come in. So, any ideas are welcome at this point. I had some discussions with Mekonnen about the possibility of having the program learning event for 2020 in Addis (around September/November). (September/November). Also, during a WA and ESA project team meeting 2 weeks ago, Bekunda and Kizito had suggested that instead of a typical learning event we should consider having a more science-focused meeting. No decision has been made yet as I know this will also come up for discussion at the PCT level.
  • Zeledon: The ICER reviewers note in their report that we don’t have good follow up to decisions made during program-wide meetings & events. This is probably a point to consider for the improvement of these meetings.
  • Thorne: Probably we can also consider a meeting with a stronger focus on scaling? The form and content of our next meeting should be well aligned to the present realities of Africa RISING.

Next Chief Scientists and Project Managers meeting----

  • Zeledon: When should we have the next meeting? Who will initiate these meetings? They were supposed to be every 3 months, however, this has not held.
  • Bekunda: We should probably call the meetings whenever necessary without fixing it to specific periods.
    • Action point: Zeledon to convene the meetings whenever there are agenda items that require discussion.