Video – Stakeholder-Research Collaboration in South Eastern Africa

Stakeholder-Researcher Collaboration Transforms Both Model and Decision Capabilities in South Eastern Africa

The Benefits of Stakeholder Engagement

By Sabine Homann-Kee Tui and Greg Reppucci

Since 2015, a team of agricultural model-based researchers and region-based stakeholders have been collaborating in South Eastern Africa. The aim of this collaboration is to improve the information available to decision makers by incorporating their knowledge into the model systems. The models simulate communities of smallholder-farming systems in current and future climate conditions, including changes in poverty outcomes. By incorporating stakeholder knowledge directly into the modeling system, it becomes possible to compare a suite of development pathways associated with decisions stakeholders may make.

Farming system typical for drylands like in Nkayi district. Illustration by CLIP Team Credit: Masikati et al. 2013
This linked model methodology is referred to as the AgMIP Regional Integrated Assessment. It has been developed with the support of the UKaid DFID to the Agricultural Model Intercomparison and Improvement Project (AgMIP), to improve stakeholders access to information on how climate change may affect agricultural productivity and food security and to use this information to design and implement effective climate change adaptation and/or policy strategies. The research targets agriculture-based communities in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia at multiple scales. It is breaking new ground in the use of linked models to simulate current and future farming systems (including crops, livestock, climate, economics, technology, and adaptations) and by involving stakeholders in defining future pathways, climate change adaptation options, and results interpretation to together tease out the most critical messages that decision makers need to know.

The AgMIP Crop-Livestock Intensification Project (CLIP) team is led by Dr. Sabine Homann-Kee Tui, an ICRISAT-based social scientist who has lived and worked in Zimbabwe for over a decade. The team includes national, university, and international experts in climate, crop, livestock, economic modeling as well as experts in communications and stakeholder engagement.

As part of their research strategy, the CLIP team has regularly met with key stakeholders in an iterative and ongoing dialog to explore and identify the technologies and decisions that could best help smallholder farmers adapt to changing climate and other factors. These conversations have occurred at two levels. Engagement first took place with local farmers and decision-makers to provide the team with valuable provincial level inputs that improved analyses and assessments for the Nkayi district of Zimbabwe. Then, these improved regional assessments were shared at the national level and incorporated into national decision making and planning. The CLIP Team recently produced a video highlighting the benefits of engagement to the research process.

This video captures insights from both stakeholders and scientists from the AgMIP CLIP Team on the value of co-developed research to Nkayi district, and to national planning in Zimbabwe. (Video credit: ICRISAT – The International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics in collaboration with Tapfuma Machakaire, media consultant)

The stakeholder engagement constitutes a critical and distinguishing component of the AgMIP model-based research. The projection of climate impact on agricultural production and socio-economic conditions requires analysis, assessment, and assumptions about how development may evolve over the next few years, as well as over decision timeframes of a decade or two, for a given region. Assumptions are necessary when data is either not available or not sufficiently able to represent likely development pathways. The scientists, however, are not the experts when it comes to specific decision contexts. These contexts are best understood by the stakeholders of the region. This mutual understanding enables researchers and stakeholders to work together to agree on appropriate assumptions for plausible development pathways, allowing improved exploration and projection of near-term and future outcomes.

In Nkayi district, two contrasting pathways were explored: one envisioning a sustainable future, and another envisioning a fossil-fuel dependent future. In both cases, the dialogue amongst participating researchers and decision-makers presented an opportunity for discovery of information that was not otherwise apparent.

The stakeholder engagement has transformed AgMIP research capability. It has also changed decision maker understanding of pathways, impacts and trade-offs. But equally significant is the recognition of shared vision among diverse stakeholders participating in the sessions. Following the October 2016 workshop, Mr. Ben Mache, Head of Crops Agricultural Technical and Extension Services, found the dialogues amongst stakeholders helped β€œto create conditions and mechanisms that would leverage uptake of technologies in preparation for agriculture under future climate.” The engagement on development pathways motivated dialogues between agencies that previously had minimal interactions. There is good reason to expect the linkages to continue into the future.

To scale up insights from the AgMIP research, the CLIP team built on existing relationships among scientists and stakeholders. This effort strategically matched AgMIP goals with other projects supporting sustainability transitions of smallholder farming systems in high risk areas like Nkayi district. For example, the cross-scale dialog with decision makers on the possible impacts of climate and adaptation based on the AgMIP project simulations was complimented by site-based testing of sustainable and climate resilient intensification of crops and livestock, participatory technology development and learning with farmers, and agricultural extension services though the project: Integrating crop and livestock production for improved food security and livelihoods in rural Zimbabwe (ZimCLIFS), funded by ACIAR. The ZimCLIFS insights on technology priorities were fed into AgMIP, and AgMIP created the local to national dialogue featuring ZimCLIFS insights.

AgMIP greatly appreciates the efforts of the CLIP team and its key stakeholders, which include members from the Department of Research and Specialist Services, Agricultural Technical and Extension Services, the Department of Livestock Production and Development, the Department of Climate Change, the Meteorological Service Department, the Ministry of Women Affairs, the Department of Economics and Markets, the Livestock and Meat Advisory Council, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Nkayi Rural District Council, as well as farmers and other local level officials.

AgMIP also acknowledges with appreciation the support of ICRISAT and its communications team as well as Mr Tapfuma Machakaire, Media consultant, to create a video that offers insight from both stakeholders and researchers on the benefits of the research conducted in the Nkayi district of Zimbabwe.