Southern African Center for Cooperation in Agriculrural and Natural Resources Research and Training

SACCAR Newsletter

December, 1996 Issue

Highlights from the 31 st SACCAR Board of Directors Meeting 11-15 November, 1996 Pretoria, South Africa

Seventy senior Agricultural and Natural Resources Policy makers from the 12 member states of the SADC region, international and national agricultural centres, Team leaders of SACCAR coordinated regional programmes and projects and donors met in Pretoria South Africa to assess SACCAR progress in achieving its mandate as the coordinating agency for agricultural and natural resources research and training activities in the SADC region and to prepare plans and priorities for the next century in the context of the SADC programme of action.

Officially opening the meeting, Mr. L. P. H. Mtshali, Minister of Arts, Culture, Science and Technology reminded the delegates of the challenges that confront agriculture and natural resources sectors. These included a modest food production increase per person of 12 percent in Africa while the increase was up to 30% percent in Latin America and over 70% in Asia. Recognising that the bulk of these producers in SADC region are by far smallholder farmers the minister said ..we have to give the small and subsistence sectors greater access to markets by building and improving infrastructure such as roads and other aspects".

In his introductory remarks, Dr. L.P. Gakale, Chairman of the Board of SACCAR set out the agenda for the meeting by informing delegates that the meeting provided stakeholders an opportunity to receive progress reports on regional research projects, make adequate reviews and chart the course for the future.

Improving the well being of the smallholder farmer and providing him with an enabling environment has been the cornerstone of the SADC Programme of Action(SPA). Specifically for SACCAR, priorities and strategies have revolved around addressing constraints to technology and crop improvement aspects of the smallholder farmers.

There are however several types of constraints to problems that farmers face in the SADC region and SACCAR addresses these by collaborating with stakeholders in agricultural and natural resources research areas. This collaboration with many of the stakeholders has been going for sometime now. Ms Donnah Stauffer, Head of Agriculture, Democracy and natural Resources at the Regional Center for Southern Africa emphasized this by saying USAID and SACCAR have had a long and productive relationship since SACCAR's earliest days... We are proud of the many accomplishments under these projects." Support to SACCAR is being considered as part of the overall program under the Initiative for Southern Africa. She revealed further that there are four strategic objectives of the Southern Africa program: democracy, small and medium enterprise development, transport efficiency, agriculture and natural resources management(Strategic Objective 3 (SO3)). SO3 is meant to establish key regional conditions for sustainable increases in productivity of agriculture and natural resources by smallholders and it now incorporates a number of activities which were managed by the USAID Harare Office. These activities and funding levels include the following;

1. Sorghum amd Millet improvement program (US$ 42,110,000.00)

2. SA Regional Agricultural Research Coordination (US$ 5,605,000)

3. SA Agricultural Research Management Training (US$ 1, 770,000)

4. SA Root Crops Research Network (US$ 7,000,000)

5. Heartwater disease Control Research (US$14,000,000)

6. Natural resources management (US$ 54,000,000) with components in Botswana, Malawi, Namibia, Zambia and Zimbabwe)

7. Improved environmental policy an planning - a cooperative agreement with IUCN/ROSA Networking and capacity building (US$ 5,000,000)

8. CA With University of Swaziland (US$ 1,122,550)

9. CA with Technoserve (US$ 325,000)

10. EPAT: Natural Resources Accounting (US$ 499,625

11. USDA Agreement (US$ 1,250,000)

12. Strengthening Regional Economies through NGO's (US$ 2,700,000)

13. Regional Policy Improvement (US$1,000,000)

It was through SO3 that USAIDS's contribution to SACCAR was increased by over US$ 2m to complete research prioritization efforts for Agriculture, natural Resources, Agriculture and Natural Resources Training, continue with Impact assessment activities with member NARS, to assist with institutionalization efforts and to provide technical assistance in the field of natural resources management.

The major thrust of the proposed Agriculture and Natural Resources Strategy is geared towards relaxing the priority constraints identified by stakeholders with appropriate interventions which are appropriate from a regional platform in order to establish conditions or results that will increase smallhoder productivity, thereby generating income and economic growth, in a sustainable explained Dr Lane Holdcroft, Team Leader for the Evaluation Team assigned the task by the USAID'sRgional Centre for Southern Africa RCSA to carry out and Agricultural research Assessment of Southern Africa.

These priority constraints were identified in various Southern Africa Agricultural and Natural Resources stakeholders meeting which were part of the Initiative for Southern Africa(see page 30 for details). In his presentation to the Board, Dr R. McCoulaugh of RCSA which based in Gaborone, Botswana, outlined some of the major constraints as being:

Human resources development: Although a large pool of experienced technical personnel exits in the region, current diploma/certificate level training from many national colleges lacks adequate accreditation system to allow for advanced degree training in the region for these individuals;

Networking/ communication/Infrastructure: Due to poor individual and institutional networking, there is a general lack of commodity or market information and/or access to such information for decision-making. Free and open information exchange, networking and direct source information are positive elements necessary for individual and institutional success. Yet, basic communications infrastructure and sophisticated electronic systems are inadequate in most SADC member states.

Enabling institutional environment: There is limited research on, or planning for, improving the enabling institutional environment. The absence of (or imperfections) in an enabling environment affects the performance of trained manpower (often leading to greater mobility and outward migration) as well as people-level impact of the technology developed.

Policy issues: Weak linkages and lack of consensus between those engaged in developing macroeconomic and sectoral policies, and those engaged in research management in most SADC member states is a concern.

Multi sectoral integration and harmonization: In most countries in Southern Africa, there is a lack of interface between government, the private sector and NGO's in promoting agricultural development initiatives through agronomic research and agenda.

(TDT) and (NRM): Limited networking activities exist in areas of livestock and Natural resources Management. Natural resources issues are often considered peripheral to agriculture. Thus there are not adequately addressed within the agricultural agenda.

SADC: The roles, work areas, responsibilities and obligations of regional coordination are not fully defined, understood or sufficiently supported by SADC. A much higher degree of coordination must be achieved between all stakeholders collaborating in SADC's development projects.

Developing the strategy to relax these constraints have been based on the following assumptions;

  • the strategy contributes to the political and economic integration of the region;
  • The strategy recognizes that agriculture is (or could) be the engine of economic growth in the most of the SADC member states
  • The strategy moves beyond food security and famine mitigation to focus on income generation and economic growth;
  • The strategy recognizes the USAID has a long history and comparative advantage among donors in supporting regional A/NR efforts
  • The strategy recognizes that USAID will usually continue to work with and support existing A/NR institutions rather than creating new ones; and
  • The strategy recognizes that RCSA is but one of the many agents that will influence events within the A/NR sectors and their contribution to economic growth.
  • For all this to happen, the necessary conditions identified by stakeholders that are needed to support and stimulate increased smallholder productivity are:

  • a favorable policy environment for A/NR, with particular reference to the smallholder sector;
  • strengthened public and private institutions, that are innovative and demand-driven, adequately funded, staffed by well trained personnel, to serve smallholders;

  • Adequate infrastructure in terms of transportation and communications system;

  • strong technology development and dissemination systems that are demand-driven and innovative;

  • strengthened natural resources management for the sustainable use of the region's natural resources.

    One of SACCAR's Mandates is to achieve complementarily between national, regional and international strategies and programmes. Therefore SACCAR has been collaborating with a number of international agricultural centres to developing, planning and implementing its regional programmes and projects. Some of these activities relate to the agricultural information and communication programme which SACCAR has been collaborating with the Tropical Centre for Agriculture and Rural Development (CTA) which is an institution of the EU-Lome Convention and the support in coordinating agricultural research in the region.

    Dr. Roberto Rensi from the Delegation of the European Commission in South Africa informed the delegates that the EU is working with the South African government on 3 proposals that will see the integration of South Africa in as many ongoing regional programmes in rural development and agricultural research. The proposals fall in the areas of food security regional programme, the trypanosomiasis and the Wheat and Maize research programme.

    After giving a chronology of events that have been undertaken in preparing the agricultural information programme for southern Africa, Dr. Cooke, Director of CTA, informed the meeting the national and regional preparatory studies revealed that research and extension specialists, farmers and other stakeholders have general problems in acquiring, disseminating and utilizing scientific and technical information. These were cited as:

  • Lack of effective agricultural policies and specifically lack of agricultural information policies;

  • Low rates of adoption of technologies to intensify and diversify production;

  • Poor dissemination of information to users; and

  • Poor resources for information communication arising from lack of trained manpower, lack of source materials (from all media sources), limited outputs from the national agricultural systems, limited access to regional, and international knowledge.

    He also stated that the specific problems that have been identified were:

  • Absence or weakness in Agricultural Information policies; Lack of trained information specialists;

  • lack of resources in libraries and documentation centers; Low levels of connectivity within the region;

  • Weak levels of connectivity/regional journals and publications; and Failure to disseminate information to the end user, especially the farmer.

    SACCAR and CTA are working towards providing solutions to these problems by:

  • Improving information management and technology for agricultural information centers throughout the region through SAAINET (see page 10 for details);

  • Strengthening human resources development (HRD) of IT sector personnel; Improving library and documentation services;

  • Upgrading regional agricultural publishing facilities; and Improving extension communication systems

    Other partners like ICRISAT, emphasized the need for joint project proposals and outlined that it is important that SACCAR must develop regional research proposals. Their preparing and submission by SACCAR should reflect stakeholder support and accountability. It is only in this way that SACCAR and ICRISAT, for example, can tap funds that have been earmarked by donors for agricultural research through regional, not global activities. In addition, ICRISAT can supply skills and services not available in the region.

    As for ISNAR, Dr. Bradford Mills indicated that the first phase of the Agricultural Research Management training Programme (ARMTP) generated awareness, and most importantly a common vocabulary, on issues of research policy, organization and management. The steering committee of the ARMTP identified themes of particular importance where ISNAR and partners in SACCAR would develop in-depth training for research managers. This training included planning, priority setting, monitoring and evaluation, research linkages, gender issues and other issues. During the second phase SACCAR and ISNAR sought to build capacity within the SADC region for continued management training and support to NARS. In this case direct involvement in research management training has led to ISNAR's involvement in reviews or master plans in Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Malawi and Tanzania.

    Support for SACCAR regional activities comes from all areas. The World Bank through the Special Programme for African Agricultural Research (SPAAR) supports the SACCAR Secretariat to carry out its mandate in the region.

    In his presentation, Dr Sykes informed the delegates that SPAAR is actively contributing to the Sustainable Finance Initiative (SFI) by creating a unit to deal with SFI in Africa. It also facilitates contacts between African NARS and has created a continental forum to foster contact between regional and sub-regional organizations and donors. These include USAID, sub-regional organizations, the World Bank and other regional organizations. SPAAR is encouraging the private sector involvement in agricultural research. This includes dialogue with seed companies on TDT issues and Agricultural Research. One area in which SPAAR attaches great importance is strengthening information and communication strategies of its stakeholders. SPAAR has drawn up an information and communication strategy which will assist help to build on the existing strategies that are currently in place are being developed in Africa.

    To supplement and complement the development of human capital in the region in agriculture and natural resources, Dr Bjorn Lundgren, Director General of the International Foundation of Science (IFS) informed the delegates that IFS provides support to the academic and research councils in 77 countries of which three-fourth are in developing countries in the following nature;

  • Financial support in the form of research grants;

  • IFS purchasing department can arrange purchasing and delivery of equipment on behalf of grantees;

  • The IFS organizes for its grantees regional workshops and training countries;

  • Supplementary travel grants may be awarded in order that grantees may attend scientific meetings.

    The French Government will provide technical assistance for a Programmes Officer who will be responsible for coordinating Natural Resources Research starting in 1997.

    Making his presentation, Dr Luis Navarro, Senior Programme Specialist International Development Reserach Centre in Canada expressed satisfisation at progess made by various regional projects as expressed in the Regional SADC Projects Team Leaders reports to the Board.

    He also reiterated that regionalisation of agricultural research can produce sustainalble results for te region. This was aslo in line with IDRC, who are active in various parts of the Africa in Agriculture and Natural Resources

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    Copyright Chris Lungu, SACCAR, Private Bag 00108, Gaborone, Botswana email address: