Ext PCT Oct2018

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Africa RISING extended PCT meeting
01 - 02 October 2018
Lilongwe, Malawi
[edit | edit source]

Africa RISING extended PCT meeting participants

Expected outputs from extended PCT

  • Common understanding of how the program approaches systems research
  • Identification of common things that we can do together as a program
  • Resolutions from the meeting need to feedback immediately into the ESA review and planning meeting


  1. Siboniso Moyo (SM) - Chair
  2. Bernard Vanlauwe (BV)
  3. Peter Thorne (PT)
  4. Irmgard Hoeschle-Zeledon (IHZ)
  5. Carlo Azzarri (CA)
  6. Jerry Glover (JG)
  7. Jonathan Odhong' (JO)
  8. Regis Chikowo (RC)
  9. Fred Kizito (FK)
  10. Mateete Bekunda (MB)
  11. Kindu Mekonnen (KM)
  12. Lieven Claessens (LC)


  1. Sieg Snapp
  2. Jeroen Groot
  3. James Hammond


Day 1 [Oct. 1]
14:00 Introduction of participants
14:30 Welcome & opening remarks

  • S. Moyo
  • J. Glover

15:00 Farming systems research perspectives - L. Claessens {20’ pres. + 40’ disc.}
16:00 Scene setting/ background for the meeting - B. Vanlauwe {20’ pres. + 40’ disc.}
16:30 Working Break
17:00 Pres. about AR program-wide approaches [Review the Africa RISING systems research model so far] - P. Thorne {20’ pres. + 40’ disc.}
17:30 End-of-day 1

Day 2 [Oct. 2]
08:30 Recap of day 1 emerging topics and prioritization of issues for discussion
9:30 Step-wise discussion & resolution of emerging issues/ priorities generated [plenary]
10:00 Break
10:30 Step-wise discussion & resolution of emerging issues/ priorities generated [plenary]
13:00 Lunch
14:00 Step-wise discussion & resolution of emerging issues/ priorities cont’d
15:00 Closing

Oct. 3 – 5 ESA review and planning meeting starts, see agenda at - http://africa-rising-wiki.net/ESA_rev_planning_Oct2018

Extended PCT meeting[edit | edit source]

=== Day 1[01 Oct]===
Welcome remarks – Siboniso Moyo [Chair, Africa RISING PCT]

  • I want to officially welcome all of you to this extended PCT meeting.
  • During this meeting we will be discussing the topic of systems research in Africa RISING.
  • We’ve not met face to face as PCT for a while, but we’ve had regular virtual meetings. Last year [in June 2017], we met with some of you in Arusha when we had the PCT-SAG-CoP Champions meeting.
  • This morning’s PCT meeting touched on various agenda items and we will come back to you on some of those before determining certain directions that we’d like to take as Africa RISING program.
  • In one of our previous PCT meetings, we discussed and agreed that it would be worthwhile for us to come together and review the topic of systems research in agriculture. You will recall also that more recently [in March 2018] – some of you may have been present – we had a joint meeting with the SIMLESA project to discuss the issue of systems research in agriculture.
  • So we are coming together as Africa RISING family once again to clarify our understanding of systems research within the program. For us to do that, we need to go back and review what we have done, what is the thinking out there etc. So todays presentations will be geared towards clarifying our understanding of this topic.
  • There is also an expectation by others [beyond Africa RISING] that we would provide an opportunity for case-study on systems research. So if we can reflect on what we are doing, what we can do going forward and plan on how we will take it forward.
  • There are some questions that we brainstormed on, as the PCT that provide the basis of this meeting:
-Is Africa RISING on track in the systems research in agriculture question?
-Do we need to do more in terms of systems research?
-Do we need systems research to have sustainable intensification?
  • Finally, I would also like to take the opportunity to welcome Fred Kizito in his new as the chief Scientist for West Africa.

Opening remarks - Jerry Glover, USAID

  • First, I would like to thank you all for enduring the past year when funding situation has not been stable/predictable. I appreciate that the situation presented a lot of problems with partners and your staff/teams, I wish things could have been different, but thank you for keeping your focus.
  • We do expect funding to roll through around January. That is when our Bureau is aiming for.
  • We really do need to clarify and articulate what we mean by systems research and the value it brings. This is not just for the sake of Africa RISING which is currently in year 7, but it’s well beyond Africa RISING to other development partners [e.g. Gates, ACIAR] who are interested in seeing what systems research can do and even developing some common science agenda.
  • Many people are therefore looking to Africa RISING to clarify this because it is one of the larger systems research projects still operating.
  • Within USAID the implication for this is that we are currently undergoing a re-organization of the Bureau for Food Security which is being transformed to the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security. This is not yet publicly official yet, but thanks to the perceived success of projects like Africa RISING and others, the sustainable intensification program is being elevated into a department.
  • This means that we will be ideally, much more influential to the mission programs and of course those mission funded program are what ultimately have the most impact on farmers lives.
  • So our articulation of systems research, what it can do and what it can achieve will really lead the way for an area that will now become an operating unit on its own and therefore opening up the possibility of directly influencing missions and their work.

Farming Systems Research in Africa RISING – Lieven Claessens


  • What is the correct terminology to use – Farming Systems Research, Agricultural Systems Research, Systems Research in Agriculture, Systems Research for Agriculture?
  • CA – Which socio-economic data do you consider Africa RISING is missing that sort of prevent it from making a good system research case study?
  • LC - That was a general point/observation. Not specifically talking about Africa RISING, but as a general point that you need to have socio-economic data in addition to biophysical data in order for the systems research picture to be complete.
  • FK – Probably the program need s to come up with generic instruments to ensure that socio-economic data are collected / stipulating the minimum data sets that have to be collected when surveys are done.
  • JG – Thank you for your presentation Lieven, One key question for us [from the perspective of the USAID Mission staff] – How can we operationalize /translate systems research and the SI domains into tangible development outcomes?

Decision #1:For the purpose of Africa RISING we will use the Systems Research for Agriculture.

Perspectives on systems research – Bernard Vanlauwe


  • JG – The example in your presentation that illustrates the ‘changes in maize production systems’ and how that affects changes in farmers livelihoods represents an important message that systems research work should represent for any technology that we decide to work on.
  • JG – There has been a paper that clearly illustrates that to achieve sustainable intensification, then data has to be collected across all the five domains.
  • RC – Is it really possible to collect data across all the SI domains to achieve SI?

The Africa RISING Approach to Systems Research - Peter Thorne

visualization of changes in livelihoods
  • IHZ – We need to determine the relevance of these indicators for all the systems in which Africa RISING works. This is probably something we can focus on in more depth at the upcoming SI Assessment Framework Implementation Workshop in Accra.
  • MB /PT – We shouldn’t pre-select relevant indicators before we implement the SI Framework.
  • JG – Is it possible for Africa RISING to develop visualization of changes in livelihoods [show people below the poverty line/people below the calorie line as shown on the slide from Peter] from the panel data we hsave from the past?
  • JG – From your presentation [Peter], it shows that component research is critical for systems research. This is markedly different from what we had in the initial draft of the SRA document, where it came out as if we were pitting component research vs. systems research.

=== Day 2[02 Oct]===
Participants went through a list of issues / discussion points emerging from presentations given the previous day to agree on which ones deserved to be prioritized by the Africa RISING team for discussion and determination. The following top line issues were identified:

  • How do we translate Africa RISING systems research outputs into tangible development outcomes?
  • How do we operationalize systems research within Africa RISING?
  • Do we need systems research for sustainable intensification?

How do we operationalize systems research within Africa RISING?
The goal to implement systems research has been intentional within Africa RISING since inception. This is clear from the initial program framework and diagram depicting Africa RISING’s operational niche. To all project partners, too, this has been clear considering the demands for integration of R4D/R-in-D activities across different specializations. However, this awareness by partners has not translated into concrete systems research outputs on the ground / at the farmers level – where it matters.


  • MB – When we are working Based on a presentation by Mateete regarding the process through which the Africa RISING program has gone through over the years to aim at sites we usually have the chance to do integration because we have all the partners together…also when we look across sites there is barely any communication.
  • IHZ – In previous planning meetings, partners have drawn influence diagrams meant to show interactions between different components of the systems research. Everybody at these meetings says yes, the influence diagrams are useful, but afterwards during implementation all the systems research elements represented in the influence diagrams is discarded. Recently at the retreat for Africa RISING core staff from IITA we resolved that we should make it compulsory that all partners submit the influence diagrams as part of their workplans to show clearly how their work is contributing to the systems/SI perspective. It seems that our researchers are yet to fully internalize that their interventions have a role in the 5 SI domains.
  • BV – We can consider having a group of 3 – 5 people to act as ‘guardians’ or ‘stewards’ for each SI dimensions across the program. Can we also consider investing in modelling work that will allow us to visualize the data as represented in each arrow with the accompanying data as depicted currently in the influence diagram shown by Mateete.

  • Decision #2:Going forward, to operationalize the SI Assessment framework in Africa RISING, all partners have to be obliged to collect data across all the SI domains when evaluating a specific technology.

  • Decision #3: To follow up and ensure compliance/better implementation of the SI Assessment Framework, a group of scientists within the program will be mandated to act as stewards for each SI domain [plus data management]. A detailed terms of reference for this group of ‘SI domain stewards’ will be developed by PT and BV and circulated to members of the PCT for comment and ratification before the scientists are approached to take up this role. Scientists nominated for stewardship across different domains are as summarized in the table below. A training will also be organized for the stewards to prepare them for the role.
SI Domain Stewards
Domain [in bold] Social Economic Productivity Environment Human Data Management
ESA Gundula Fischer TBD Lieven Claessens Lieven Claessens Gundula Fischer TBD
Ethiopia Annete Mulema TBD Melkamu Lulsegad Temene Annete Mulema TBD
West Africa Gundula Fischer Bekele Kotu Nurudeen Abdulrahman Birhanu Zemadim Gundula Fischer Benedict Ebito

How do we translate Africa RISING systems research/SI outputs into tangible development outcomes?
For the Africa RISING systems research/SI outputs to make sense to development partners and make a strong case for increased investments, the outputs need to be translated to tangible development outcomes that change the livelihoods of farmers.


  • JG – If data were collected to fill up the SI framework fully, would it help? I think it would. I can suggest to you the key indicators that USAID missions are interested in and in that way we can make a head start with ensuring that our systems research/SI outputs translate to development outcomes. So for example, under productivity domain they are interested in yield, under human domain they are interested in nutrition, under the social domain they are interested in gender preference, under economic domain they are interested in cost benefit ratios and finally with environment they are just keen that you measure something there. To me, these are 5 indicators that answer directly the questions USAID missions are interested in.

Decision #4:Adapt some minimum data sets that have to be collected for all Africa RISING technologies being evaluated by partners. It should be clarified to all partners that these data sets are to be collected in addition to all the other data sets they would like to collect under each SI domain. This will at least help to initially meet the USAID interests.

Minimum data to be collected for each SI domain
Domain Social Economic Productivity Environment Human
Minimum data Rating of technologies by gender Cost benefit ratio analysis Relevant yield Soil erosion Food security composite index

Closing remarks – Siboniso Moyo

  • Thank you every one for your contributions to these discussions.
  • Out of this meeting we now have an action plan and I hope that when we meet a year later we can see progress on the issues which we have discussed at length.
  • Thanks to the PCT members for organizing this extended session!