With the aim to develop and implement a more coherent and efficient research strategy, CGIAR centers are being reorganized into “One CGIAR”. The success of this new working model requires proven experiences to avoid institutions focusing on internal organizations at the expense of strategy implementation.
Over the past 15 years, IITA has co-led the Consortium for Improving Agricultural Livelihood in Central Africa (CIALCA, www. cialca.org). CIALCA is the longeststanding consortium consisting of National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS), extension services, European universities, and CGIAR centers (three from 2005 to 2016; two from 2017 to present) working in the Great Lakes Region of sub-Saharan Africa.
From 2005 to 2008, CIALCA and NARS partners developed science-based products and technologies for improved banana and legume germplasms, integrated cassava-legume cropping systems, and integrated Annual Report 2020 35 pest and disease management. From 2009 to 2012, CIALCA and national, regional, and international extension services disseminated technologies and innovations, lifting more than half a million people out of poverty (https://www.iita.org/countries/ drc/).
The importance of CIALCA is reinforced by the recognition that CIALCA-based research has informed and changed national policy. For instance, the Rwandan government’s Crop Intensification Program moved away from monocropping of the major food and cash crops to intercropped systems due to the high income that households generate from the latter (Fig. 1).
During these phases, CIALCA, in collaboration with regional and European universities, has trained more than 150 PhD, MSc, and BSc students in Burundi, DR Congo, and Rwanda. CIALCA alumni are now in senior governmental positions across the focus countries.
From 2013 to 2016, CIALCA continued developing and disseminating science-based technologies and innovations and building capacity within the NARS. In addition, CIALCA used the Innovation Platform approach
to facilitate multi-stakeholder networks (from input suppliers to consumers, including private sector operators) in the value chains such as cassava, banana, legumes, and cereals. With the long history of conflicts in the Great Lakes Region, these networks were a unique framework where the private sector, organizations, and research-for-development systems across countries discussed mutual development strategies and exchanged experiences.
Since 2017, CIALCA applied a partner co-investment model Figure 1. Examples of intercropping systems for more income generation and multiple benefits 36 Annual Report 2020 (“we do not pay you, and you do not pay us”) to ensure it worked on stakeholder demands. For instance, CIALCA co-invested in Rwanda with One Acre Fund (OAF), one of the regions’ largest farmer extension networks (serving 500,000 farmers), to better understand farming household heterogeneity and develop tailored tools and innovations for a specific group of farmers.
In Burundi, CIALCA co-invested with the International Fertilizer Development Center (IFDC), which is leading the country’s fertilizer subsidy program, to develop ICT-based tools to enhance soil responsiveness to fertilizers and improve farmers’ returns on fertilizer investment (Fig. 2). During the 2019 midterm review (CIALCA phase 4) in Kigali, the representative of CIALCA’s donor (DirectorateGeneral for Development Cooperation and Humanitarian Aid of Belgium [DGD]) provided a positive testimony on CIALCA as an exemplar for capacity development and impact generation. Representatives of development and co-investing partners (OAF and IFDC) also expressed the appropriateness for farmer needs of the tools being developed by CIALCA.
Under CIALCA’s phase 4, demand mapping revealed a need to provide insights for increasing water use efficiency to counteract drought effects on cassava production. To address this demand, CIALCA contacted the Soil and Water Management & Crop Nutrition Laboratory (SWMCNL) of the Joint FAO/IAEA Division, who became a member of the consortium. Furthermore, CIALCA attracted funds, representing about four times the original investment, by leveraging ‘spin-off’ projects.
We anticipate that the above lessons learned by CIALCA can be of interest to One CGIAR.