To consolidate progress and plan the road ahead, the ICARDA-led CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems recently brought leading world scientists and the Program’s International Science Advisory Committee to Amman, Jordan, where lively and productive discussions helped to identify on-going challenges and initiate the development of an ‘action plan’ to facilitate the transition to a new phase of research.
The five-day meeting (June 30-July 4) provided an opportunity for research teams to report on the implementation of activities across the Program’s five flagship regions: West African Sahel and Dry Savannas, North Africa and West Asia, East and Southern Africa, Central Asia and the Caucasus, and South Asia.
The past 18 months have seen considerable progress as the Program entered its research phase with a number of key initiatives taking off. Program scientists have been consolidating the ‘systems approach’ to agricultural research-for-development, and participants noted a number of positive trends: a shift from descriptive to diagnostic approaches; increasing participation from a broad range of actors; the emergence of a ‘value-chain’ approach; and increasing recognition of enabling institutions and good governance.
Subsequent debates helped to review lessons learned – positives and negatives - to inform and strengthen this approach as the Dryland Systems program moves ahead. Implementation will be assisted by the development of ‘Agricultural Livelihood Systems,’ activities focused around sets of farm and human activities that also encompass food and nutritional security, health and well-being, employment, and income-generation.
While it was recognized that a ‘systems approach’ is challenging, a number of recommendations were put forward, including: continual efforts to share lessons; the development of standard performance indicators; strategies for scaling-out beyond individual ‘action sites;’ and greater integration – encouraging partners to enhance collaboration on joint project proposals.
The meeting included a field visit to the Program’s El-Karak ‘Action Site’ in southern Jordan where participants were able to get an appreciation of the challenges that face rural communities in dryland areas. The visit covered milk processing activities, sheep management, and the tending of small-scale olive orchards, all against the backdrop of family farming.
The Dryland Systems science and implementation meeting provided an opportunity to review progress and plan the transition to a new phase of research