(Innovation + compromise) * articulation = our team’s answer to challenges
By Carolina González and Carolina Acevedo.
Here at Linking Farmers to Markets (LFM), within the International Center for Tropical Agriculture’s (CIAT) Decision and Policy Analysis (DAPA) program, we’re a multidisciplinary, multiethnic and “multi-territorial” (we lead projects around the world) team. This past August 2014, during CIAT’s 46th Annual Program Review, which brought together all of the Center’s scientists working in Africa, Asia and Latin America & the Caribbean (LAC), our entire LFM team met face to face here in Cali, Colombia. We discussed LFM’s global research themes, defined specific proposals to strengthen our work in Africa and LAC, and explored expansion opportunities in Southeast Asia.
Who we are?
The first task on the meeting’s agenda was to present each member of the team. Here is a short summary of who we are and what we work on:
1. Mark Lundy. Lead scientist on Linking Farmers to Markets team (LFM). Based in Cali, Colombia.
2. Matthias Jäger. CIM (Centrum für Internationale Migration und Entwicklung) expert in value chains and markets. Based in Cali, Colombia.
3. Falguni Guharay. Scientist, team representative in CGIAR’s research program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics (known as Humidtropics). Based in Nicaragua.
4. Nelson Mango. Scientists, sociologist with emphasis on rural development. Based in Zimbabwe.
5. Gian Nicola Francesconi. Scientist, team representative in CGIAR research program on Policies, Institutions and Markets (PIM). Based in Kampala, Uganda.
6. Carolina González. Agricultural economist. Based in Cali, Colombia and Washington, DC, USA.
7. Rafael Isidro Parra–Peña. Economist, public policy analyst. Based in Cali, Colombia.
8. Jhon Jairo Hurtado. Research associate. Based in Cali, Colombia.
9. Fernando Rodríguez. Research associate project coordinator for Borderlands. Based in Cali, Colombia.
10. Alexandra Amrein. Consultant. Based in Cali, Colombia.
11. Erika Eliana Mosquera. Communications analyst. Based in Cali, Colombia.
Other members of our team not present in the meeting include:
12. Elizabeth Minchew. Visiting researcher. Based in Cali, Colombia.
13. Gipsy Bocanegra. Visiting researcher. Based in Cali, Colombia.
14. Melissa Pérez. Visiting researcher. Based in Cali, Colombia.
15. Carolina Acevedo. Student intern. Based in Cali, Colombia.
16. Jorge Sellare. Visiting researcher. Based in Cali, Colombia.
17. Natalia Gutiérrez. Consultant. Based in Cali, Colombia.
The path of research
Taking advantage of the presence of Andy Jarvis, the head of DAPA, team members discussed key aspects of LFM’s global research, such as our strategic objective, which is to leverage market mechanisms for consistent inclusion of the rural poor population in profitable but equitable commercial relations that contribute to poverty reduction (and/or to generate resources and accumulate goods for both women and men).
Other specific objectives include:
- Identify the principles present in commercial relations between small-scale producers and commercial actors, and evaluate their contribution (or resource generation) towards reducing poverty in diverse market conditions.
- Evaluate the benefits of different business model methodologies in terms of their effects on the wellbeing of the rural population, competitiveness and sustainability in diverse market conditions.
- Evaluate the effectiveness of public and private policy instruments for market linkages, value chain development, public-private partnerships and other related topics in terms of impact on the livelihoods of the rural population and the generation of competitive rural economies.
- Develop, test and evaluate research processes within platforms into research development programs.
In this regard, when planning future research it’s important to anticipate possible challenges. Andy commented on the importance of defining specific research questions for each project that align with global goals. Once a goal is achieved in the short term (one year) and ongoing projects meet pre-established and concrete research questions, it’s expected that within five years the projects will show results. Therefore, all projects’ medium term proposals should revolve around the same questions.
Andy and Mark both placed particular emphasis on directing efforts towards managing shared projects. Our initiatives should include proposals that apply across different regions, such as Nicaragua and Uganda, in a way that methodologies are shared and ongoing contact within the team is established in order to identify the difference between results of how a methodology responds in one country and another.
The key is make proposals collaborative, even though several members of our team are not based at CIAT HQ in Cali, so as to maintain team cohesion. DAPA currently finds itself focusing on uniting and encouraging communication and collaboration between our experts so as to prevent and eliminate duplicate efforts and isolation – both harmful to innovation. With better communication, we can work together to improve the quality and productivity of our scientific work and ultimately more effective operations. Faced with this challenge, innovation and commitment is key to working together.
One pending task regarding this challenge is to make an inventory of all the projects both recently completed currently being implemented – as well as recently presented proposals – by using a virtual tool called Basecamp. The LFM team already uses Basecamp, and we hope that the tool will become DAPA-wide by the end of 2014.
Prospects for Africa, Asia and LAC
Dindo Campilan, CIAT’s new Vietnam-based Asia Regional Director, also attended our meeting and expressed interest in working in market-related projects once regional support staffs are established. It’s worth highlighting that the growth we’re seeing in LFM is proven by a demand to implement LFM methodologies around products such as cassava and tropical forages.
In Africa ad LAC, the principle areas of action belong within the Policies, Institutions and Markets CGIAR Research Program (CRP), commonly referred to as PIM. The Policies aspect of PIM refers to the evaluation of public policy that facilitates smallholder access to markets. Within Institutions, research is focused on innovation platforms and the relationship between public and private alliances. In terms of Markets, several subtopics include business models, nutrition-focused value chains and technology diffusion. In Africa, LFM team member Nicola Francesconi plays a key role for our team thanks to his previous work with the International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI), where PIM is based, which focuses on reducing poverty in developing nations, achieving sustainable food security, improving health and nutrition and promoting an environment friendly to the growth of agriculture.
Other ongoing initiatives we expect to provide significant results and valuable contributions to our research questions include
- A learning cycle initiative in Central America based on LINK Methodology.
- A study on Colombia’s Productive Partnerships Support Project (PAAP for its Spanish acronym) implemented by the Ministry of Agriculture Rural Development, in which we have conducted a macro analysis of ten case studies of specific partnerships in various parts of the country. We are currently processing the results of a household-level survey.
- Collaboration with Catholic Relief Services’ Borderlands Coffee Project, which aims to expand high value market opportunities and reduce vulnerability to hunger and environmental degradation in both Colombia and Ecuador.
As you can see, this meeting not only allowed our team to physically meet in one space, but to begin building a strong foundation across regions, which implies enormous growth potential thanks to diverse profiles and strengths. Our team can easily read our goals written on paper, and we all know the goals we’d like to reach, but working together in one place established a stronger bond towards synchronizing our actions so that we can be more proactive and effective.