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Improving crop-livestock value chains in the Volta basin

The Volta Basin Development Challenge (VBDC) aims “to strengthen integrated management of rainwater and small reservoirs so that they can be used equitably for multiple uses.”.

Volta BasinOne way by which to do this is to increase crop and livestock productivity through Rainwater Management Strategies (RMS) and improve water productivity at the farm level.

At present, rainwater management in mixed-crop livestock agro-ecosystems is inadequate, leading to low crop and livestock productivity, poverty, environmental degradation and high vulnerability of people and the environment. Although significant investments have been made in testing, adapting and developing a number of rainwater management strategies, these are often poorly adopted by farmers and ineffectively planned and implemented by decision makers and practitioners.

Another solution is to implement Innovation Platforms (IPs) that are multi-actor systems. These platforms provide a mechanism to facilitate learning, sharing and communication amongst value chain actors, including farmers, to promote joint action and stimulate innovation. IPs also create common ground for different actors with varied interests and challenges to identify opportunities to enhance their benefits in a given value chain. Membership is based upon peoples’ interest and need to improve the value chain for their own benefit.

The IP approach involves dynamic and fluid platforms of multiple actors at various levels that support action learning and strategies for scaling up and out. Through the Volta BDC project on integrated management of rainwater (V2), the CPWF is working with the Netherlands Development Organization (SNV) in Burkina Faso and Ghana to develop appropriate innovation platforms around identified crop-livestock value chains.

a. Multi-actor system as an Innovative Platform

IPs are a form of a public-private partnership. They are also multi-actor systems set up to identify:

  • How stakeholders can work together in various capacities and competencies for a given value chain in crop-livestock systems in the Volta basin and improve actor interrelationships
  • Opportunities, constraints and develop strategies for addressing challenges and promoting the value chains.

For the V2 Project, the IP approach supports learning and exchange for key actors along the identified priority crop-livestock value chains. So far, the project has focused on establishing IPs at the local level comprising key actors, namely farmers, livestock keepers, input suppliers, traders, public technical agents and financial institutions. At this level the IP shapes, monitors and evaluates the action research on the ground. It is a mechanism for adaptive management and learning, and capacity building of actors in order to access and use relevant knowledge. Later in the project, IPs will be set up at higher levels which will comprise influential actors from various sectors that are active at different geographical and administrative levels. Farmers, non-governmental organizations, private sector, decision makers, and researchers will facilitate joint learning and experience sharing for scaling up and out. SNV is leading the setting up and facilitation of innovation platforms with necessary support from innovation systems experts at International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI).

b. From baseline survey to setting up of the Innovation Platform

It is necessary for any research for development program to know the baseline situation to be able to monitor and evaluate its value-added and impact. Based on the site selection criteria developed during the project-planning meeting in November 2010, eight communities per country were identified for the implementation of project activities. In those communities, INERA Burkina Faso and ARI Ghana carried out a Participatory Rapid Appraisal survey to characterize crop-livestock systems, available natural resources, rainwater management practices, key local actors and institutions, and market access.

To have common understanding of the IP and value chain approach, SNV and the key project partners held a 3-day workshop both in Ghana and Burkina. Issues dealt with at the workshop included communities’ needs, practices and their potential value chain (VC) with strong linkages to markets. In addition to the workshop, a consultant, together with local capacity builders (LCB), carried out a value chain study in the eight project communities in Burkina Faso to better understand the community-based rainwater management strategies and potential intervention options to improve them.

Based on the findings from the PRA and VC study, SNV brought together key actors along the crop-livestock value chains both in Ghana and Burkina Faso to set up innovation platforms in the project sites. For the inception meeting of the IPs, key actors that participated included farmers (both male and female), traders, livestock keepers, input suppliers, technical agents, researchers, and NGOs involved in rural credit. During the inception meeting constraints and opportunities of rainwater management in crop-livestock systems were discussed, as well as strategies to improve the identified crop and livestock value chains (see table below). SNV facilitated the IP meetings in both Burkina Faso and Ghana. During the process of establishing the platforms, the communities in both Burkina Faso and Ghana expressed their appreciation of the IP approach, as it ensures their active participation in identifying interventions by the project and facilitates access to key actors along the crop-livestock value chains. In addition, they appreciated the market orientation of the IPs.

Crop-based strategies Livestock-based strategies
Identified crop based value chains: maize, sorghum, millet, bean, potato, onion,  ground nuts, sesame Identified livestock based value chains: sheep, cattle
Crops VC improvement strategy:a. Improve post-harvest management (especially storage), improve access to  tractor services, strengthen farmers’ organizations, train farmers in improved  crop husbandry, promote the use of animal manure to complement fertilizers, ensure a stronger relationship between farmers and input dealers, and improve bush fire controlb. Promote composting, promote animal traction, improve farmers’ knowledge on striga (parasitic weed) control, improve access  to credit, improve access to extension services, and promote water harvesting to conserve water for crop use Livestock VC improvement strategy:a. Improve housing, establish community surveillance committees to help reduce or prevent theft of livestockb. Preserve crop residues in the rainy season for use in the dry season, link farmers to processors, sensitize farmers on best husbandry practices, provide farmers with improved breeds and provision of dugouts to provide year round waterc. Improve bush fire control, improve access to veterinary services, improve access to credit, and encourage womens’ groups to raise small ruminants

c. Lessons learned

Some of the lessons we have learnt from the setting up of the IPs in the project sites are:

1. There is need for a supportive environment to ensure effective operations of the IPs.

2. Building on the existing network is useful instead of establishing a new IP. For example, in the project sites in Lawra district, Ghana, there exists a district assembly food security network comprising the main actors, which serves well as an IP for our project.

3. Ensure that farmers have good access to markets to sustain their interest in the IPs.

4. It is a big challenge to link IPs along priority crop-livestock value chains to rainwater management.

d. The way forwardMeeting

Setting up the innovation platforms is just the beginning of the multi-stakeholders’ engagements. The next steps for the project include the following: 1) Defining roles and responsibilities of the key actors in the IPs; 2) Development of monitoring and evaluation mechanisms for the IPs including documentation of the IPs’ activities; 3) Linking the IPs to action research by the project; 4) Implementation of identified options in different segments of the value chains and; 5) Implementing action-reflection cycle through a series of meetings.



By Hubert W. SOME

SNV Focal person for V2