Widespread consensus exists that the use of research is very important for achieving development goals. But what’s the best strategy for ensuring that research results make it beyond the journal article and into the real world?
Research for development was the main principle governing the CGIAR Challenge Program on Water and Food (CPWF). One theory of change the program tested was to bring research findings into the hands of development professionals on the assumption that these change agents would be able to adopt, adapt, and scale up innovations. This assumption was tested particularly under a two-year grant from IFAD, which was recently brought to a close with an event at IFAD headquarters in Rome.
At the event, researchers who contributed to CPWF presented a number of tools and approaches that have potential to foster development impact at scale and that therefore are assumed to be of interest to IFAD decision makers and field staff. One such approach is the use of innovation platforms (PDF), which the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) has used to strengthen the livelihoods of farmers in semi-arid Zimbabwe who grow crops and raise livestock in combination.
A market-oriented development approach
Using ICRISAT’s integrated market-oriented development approach, the research team has facilitated improved value chains for goats—improving both the supply of seeds and other necessary materials and establishing new markets for farmers to sell their goats—thereby generating both the incentives for farmers to invest in their production and the much-needed cash for them to do so. Farmers who participate in goat markets are reinvesting income generated into broader agriculture production. They are now able to purchase crops when their own harvest falls short, pay for education and health care, hire labor, and purchase inputs for both crops and livestock. These reinvestment patterns clearly illustrate that development of more sustainable and resilient crop-livestock systems is feasible.
Imagining that initiatives such as ICRISAT’s work in Zimbabwe could attract interest and support from development institutions such as IFAD is easy enough. By garnering support from larger and more powerful actors, such innovative approaches could be allowed to bloom and scale up, and the link between research and development would be established.
Conditions for conducive partnership?
Yet, to continuously replicate this effect and ensure wider uptake of research innovations, CGIAR would be required to further formalize its collaborative relationships with development institutions such as IFAD. To this end, a new way to perceive partnerships between CGIAR and IFAD was presented and discussed during the recent event in Rome. Based on the experiences of the CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (WLE), which has collaborated with IFAD in Lao PDR during the past year, a new strategy for linking research and development was proposed: Partnerships should be designed at the country and investment portfolio level from the start, allowing WLE and CGIAR to provide a sort of context-specific advisory service to IFAD.
But this approach also comes with its own set of challenges: Researchers could potentially resist to “just act as consultants”, the institutional frameworks and cultures on both sides might be insufficiently conducive for partnerships, and inflexible contracting procedures make partnering challenging.
What do you think: What would be the best way for CGIAR to collaborate with development institutions such as IFAD? Would such collaborations be a good way to ensure that research does contribute to development? Let us know in the comments!
Goat Production and Marketing in Zimbabwe a presentation by Andre van Rooyen
Where Research Meets Development an interview with IFAD's Audrey Nepveu and CPWF's Alain Vidal