CPWF Phase 2 Basin Development Challenge (BDC) research programs have been designed around a specific challenge in the river basin. In CPWF Phase 1 (2003-2008), the projects focused on thematic problem sets rather than locally identified problems. When we began designing Phase 2 programs around 2008, one of the lessons we learned was that partners and key stakeholders have to be directly involved in the development of the research proposals.
The first basins programs were designed by a smaller group of stakeholders; as a result, there was less buy-in during project start-up. In these basins (such as the Mekong), projects needed to build trust and social capital as they initiated their projects. Other BDCs, such as the Ganges, built upon this lesson and stakeholders were involved from the beginning, ensuring more buy-in and a more demand-driven approach.
The CGIAR Research Program on Water, Land and Ecosystems (CRP5) inception workshop in Nairobi was an excellent time to get feedback from participants who worked with CPWF on their lessons learnt—feedback that could help guide CRP5’s inception. I counted around 10 participants who had participated in CPWF research and some others who were knowledgeable of CPWF activities.
So, what did they say?
Most of the participants felt that the BDCs were demand-driven in regards to project design and partner input. Some of their reflections included:
- Moving from Phase 1 to Phase 2, CPWF analysed what people need in terms of livelihoods, food and ecosystems, so as to focus and narrow-down its research to the most pressing problems.
- By focusing its attention on basin problem sets as opposed to thematic ones, CPWF has acquired greater legitimacy with basin actors.
- The CPWF value chain approach in basins helps connect markets with people and their livelihoods.
- Social research has been shown to be very important to understand the processes of change.
- The CPWF multi-stakeholder platforms connect with local organizations and communities, hence providing a space to address local development challenges and to provide evidence-based lessons for decision-makers.
In addition, participants pointed out a few other lessons that might be useful for CRP5:
- The CPWF has provided a unique opportunity to have CGIAR projects led by National Agriculture Research Systems (NARS). Fourteen of the 29 CPWF projects in Phase 2 are lead by non-CGIAR centers. To get greater buy in from the partners, CGIAR centers must give up some control in order to gain more impact.
- Since each CPWF project comprises lead partner institutions, competitive calls for research projects have proven complex and less effective than commissioning research. Yet the administrative requirements for commissioning research and partnership can be easily streamlined while still complying with CGIAR regulations.
- Research into Use projects are a model worth exploring in the reformed CGIAR and in CRP5.
- Like CPWF in Phase 1, CRP5 has found it challenging to properly coordinate thematic and regional approaches.
What other key lessons learnt by CPWF can help guide the emerging CRP5? I am interested to hear your thoughts.
Alain Vidal, CPWF Director