Challenges and lessons learnt from EAAPP
Considering the huge investment and pilot nature of the Eastern Africa Agricultural Productivity Programme (EAAPP) and the regional centres of excellence (RCoEs) arrangement, a lot of challenges were faced and lessons learnt in the course of programme implementation. Some of the lessons learnt are listed below:
- Although EAAPP countries shared germplasm, planting materials, breeding stock and some technologies effectively, trading of commercial seeds, breeds and planting material did not materialise because of an inadequate policy environment for regional technology transfer. This could be achieved through a comprehensive policy harmonisation process, which is a longer-term effort, planned for implementation during phase II of the programme.
- The impacts of agricultural research activities can be enhanced when other links in the value chain such as extension, seed multiplication and supply of agricultural inputs are integrated into the overall strategic project design. EAAPP included downstream activities with high-level participation of farmers that helped make agricultural research more relevant and sent signals where to scale up activities in future phases of the programme.
- The FREG model, a participatory approach in Ethiopia for testing new seeds and agricultural practices is effective because farmer involvement is high and results from new technologies are extensively shared and discussed. It is a two-way-feedback mechanism through which farmers, extension staff and researchers undergo a process of dialogue and trial with a physical demonstration of new existing technologies. Farmers witness the result and decide whether or not to adopt the technology. This model could be relevant to other EAAPP countries.
- In planning and setting up regional projects, substantial preparation time should be allowed for all parties to agree on how to proceed and determine respective roles. The lack of modalities for technology exchange requires time to overcome.
- Although a country may specialise in one commodity, it may achieve breakthroughs in another commodity within the collaboration arrangement. For example, although Ethiopia specialised in wheat research, Kenya produced a variety of wheat (King bird), which was shared among the participating countries because of its rust resistant characteristics. A country may achieve a breakthrough in a commodity due to knowledge of specific conditions. For example, the rapid expansion of cassava in Ethiopia using Ugandan cassava.
- Establishing a Steering Committee at a high level can provide the necessary boost to projects cross-border cooperation. The Permanent Secretary level Steering Committee introduced at mid-term review of EAAPP accelerated technology sharing, promoted discussions of modalities for trade and technology sharing.
- Implementers of regional agricultural programmes should look for ways to achieve spill over effects. EAAPP showed that there can be important unanticipated benefits from regional agricultural research. Not only did new agricultural technologies reach countries outside of EAAPP, but EAAPP countries also contributed new TIMPS that were not necessarily in their area of speciality.
- In a regional project, the competitiveness of a country may seem to be an implementation risk, but can turn out to be an advantage. There could have been initial attempts to protect ones’ own research turf or to outperform the others. EAAPP steered competition away from protecting own turf and towards mutually beneficial regional cooperation. This was achieved by convening meetings to negotiate how project resources would be used, which country would specialise in which commodity. It was also supported using frequent regional exchanges of scientists and technicians. Once the exchanges were underway for some time, the potential for defensiveness gave way to cooperation and healthy competition.
- Research which focuses on regionally identified and prioritized production issues leads to quick results due to strong collaboration and sharing of knowledge. In the case of EAAPP, research based on regional crop diseases such as wheat rust and cassava brown streak was driven by strong-shared incentives to aggressively solve the problem. Regional efforts help to avoid duplication of efforts and sharing of TIMPS reduces the number of years needed for a single country to produce improved varieties.
- The regional centres of excellence offer a special advantage to agricultural research and development professionals of all countries.
Article by Ben Moses Ilakut
ASARECA, Communication and Knowledge Hub