Southern African Center for Cooperation in Agriculrural and Natural Resources Research and Training
December, 1996 Issue
SACCAR DEVELOPS ITS LONG-TERM STRATEGIES
SACCAR, just like any other regional institution, has started to re-look at its activities and mode of operation in view of the fact that resources are declining, nationally, regionally and internationally. In addition, with the integration of Mauritius and South Africa into SADC, the current regional policies, priorities and strategic plans need to be adjusted to more accurately reflect the regional opportunities and constraints. The mandate of SACCAR was expanded in 1992 to include coordination of research and training in all the sectors of Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources (FANR). Given this background, SACCAR has been reviewing its existing research strategy to include Natural Resources Management as well as Human Resources Development. An information and communication strategy is also currently being developed .
The SADC Crop and Livestock Strategy
SACCAR has gone through three regional priority setting exercises. The first one was at the inception of SACCAR in 1984 and the second was completed and approved by the Board of SACCAR in May 1995. The first regional strategy was developed by identifying major national constraints (from SADC member countries), followed by the identification of regional constraints (i.e. problems cutting across all/most member states). In the second exercise, priorities were set at the commodity level and on research thrusts within the commodities. The priorities were based on the relative contribution of the commodities to the FANR sector goals and objectives.
The third regional priority exercise which has just been completed:
1. Reviewed the current long-term strategies for agriculture (crops and livestock) in the SADC region and identified gaps and deficiencies, including methodological issues.
2. Reviewed the resource base and performance of the agricultural sector of SADC to identify issues and problems that affect agricultural production.
3. Developed a methodology for priority setting giving due consideration to the commodities, environment and the agro-ecological zones, i.e., eco-regional framework for analysis and priority setting.
4. Collected, compiled and synthesized the relevant data from member states and established a framework for a database for the agricultural sector.
5. Developed long-term agricultural research priorities for the SADC region.
The strategy includes both crop and livestock research priorities.
The status of FANR human resources in the region remains a major constraint to the development of both national and regional institutions, and their capacity to effectively and efficiently implement programs. SACCAR, which has the mandate for the training of professionals in all areas of FANR, has been fostering closer collaboration between national research programs and universities in the region, particularly Faculties of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine, to help alleviate this situation. However, little progress has been made in the natural resources and environmental areas in strengthening and/or institutionalizing this process in the SADC region.
The Blueprint The Long-Term Policy and Strategy for Manpower Training in the FANR sectors of SADC is referred to as the Blueprint. The primary focus of the strategy which was developed in 1990 and is centered around the creation of regional centers of specialization and the strengthening of teaching and research programs of Faculties of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine, particularly at the post-graduate level. The Blueprint emphasizes the need for university faculties to develop policies that enhance regional cooperation through the rationalization of admission requirements, accreditation, and foreign student quotas. The major objectives of the strategy focus on increasing inter-university staff and student exchange for MSc and PhD level training, as well as some specialized training at the BSc level, assuming that each member state is self-sufficient in most areas of undergraduate training.
However, the Blueprint does not adequately address the training needs of the natural resources or environmental sectors. In addition, the Blueprint's emphasis is on training for the public sectors(i.e. agricultural research and extension) and does not give adequate attention to the development of entrepreneurial and management skills for self-employment or employment in the private sector. Institutional strengths and capacities to offer training in these areas are unknown.
With a view towards achieving economic productivity gains in the SADC region, the Blueprint therefore needs to be expanded to cover the full technology development and transfer system to include food processing, marketing, logistical, financial and personnel management, contracting, task management and planning, and policy research. More efforts should be made to impart skills which are necessary for both conservation and sustainable development.
The exercise which has just been completed:
1. Undertook a regional (ANR) labour market study analyzing supply and demand by various levels,by sector and for all employer categories (i.e public sector, private sector, NGOs and academic institutions).
2. Examined the capacity and quality of regional ANR training institutions to develop the required human capital and produced an inventory of the training institutions in the region.
3. Reviewed the current long-term strategy for Human Resources Development (HRD) and identified gaps and deficiencies, including methodological issues.
4. Developed a long-term HRD strategy for the SADC region.
5. Reviewed critically the concept of regional centers of specialization in HRD for the SADC region.
6. Reviewed the Regional Programme for Strengthening Agricultural Faculties(REPSAF) in light of the updated and revised HRD strategy.
7. Identified the role of SACCAR in support of NARS human capital and institutional development needs for all ANR sectors.
Regional Research Priorities in the Natural Resource Sectors: Inland Fisheries, Marine Fisheries, Wildlife and Forestry
The mandate of SACCAR was expanded recently in 1992 to include coordination of natural resources research and management as well as professional training in this area. The natural resources sector covers a large number of disciplines including forestry, wildlife, inland and marine fisheries as well as environment and land management. SACCAR was not originally set up to accommodate this expanded mandate. Therefore, in order to bring the agricultural and natural resource sectors under one umbrella organization, the composition of the Board of SACCAR was changed.
Currently the Board of Governors consists of a Chairman and 21 Governors. The Governors include 12 national directors of agricultural research, eight sector coordinators and one representative from the committee of Deans of Faculties of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine.
In order to facilitate the smooth functioning of SACCAR as an institution, and enable it to address its mandate, it is recognized that a natural resources research strategy needs to be developed as soon as possible.
The second priority setting exercise of SACCAR looked at the natural resources research priorities in the SADC region, but did not include the Republic of South Africa and Mauritius. Furthermore, there was also a need for SACCAR to develop a strategy for implementing these priorities in collaboration with the sector coordinating units. Any sustainable agricultural and natural resources strategy for SADC therefore needs to include these elements.
The formulation of regional natural resource strategic plans included the establishment of a process that links resources, priorities, and implementation mechanisms. This activity complemented the national efforts at strategic planning for natural resource technology development and transfer by specifically assisting national programmes to (1) integrate natural resources within the national strategy, and (2) integrate the regional and national strategies for natural resources research.
The strategy formulation exercise
1. Reviewed the current long-term strategies for natural resources (forestry, fisheries, wildlife and environment) in the SADC region and identified gaps and deficiencies, including methodological issues.
2. Reviewed the resource base and performance of the natural resource sectors of SADC in order to identify issues and problems that affect utilization of natural resources.
3. Developed a methodology for priority setting giving due consideration to ecologically sustainable development.
4. Collected, compiled and synthesized the relevant data from member states and established a framework for a database for the natural resource sectors.
5. Developed the long-term natural resources research priorities for the SADC region.
Information and Communication Strategy
When SACCAR was created in 1984, there were three functional units to support the activities of SACCAR in achieving its mission. One of them was the information services unit. The functions of this unit were:
to maintain and operate an inventory of agricultural research resources;
to facilitate rapid and continuous exchange of scientific and technical information between the national research systems; and
to promote and facilitate the publication of research and results.
Since its inception, the unit has compiled and edited workshop proceedings and occasional publications which are distributed in the region. Under its umbrella the unit produces this newsletter and supports the Zimbabwe Journal of Agricultural Research which is the official SACCAR journal. The unit has conducted a number of training courses including the use of international bibliographic and non-bibliographic databases for scientists in the region. The unit has also compiled a national and regional assessment of the agricultural information needs in the SADC region. The Southern African Agricultural Information Network (SAAINET) is coordinated by the unit.
However a critical analysis of the organisation and structure of the network show that it is biased towards government institutions, particularly libraries in the Departments of Agricultural Research in the region. Even though SACCAR has taken steps to rectify this problem by endorsing a national coordinating committee as a primary functional unit in the network, the agricultural information needs of the Faculties of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine still remain to be addressed.
The available funding for research and development activities within the agricultural and natural resources sectors is continuously declining - globally, regionally and nationally. Therefore, there is increasing pressure from policy makers and donors for greater accountability and improved management in order to demonstrate that the past investment in research has produced competitive returns. Given these changes, there is a need to re-look at the services being provided by the information services unit. Database and information provision is becoming increasingly important for strategic planning and management. The role of information, including databases in development is well established. The world has entered a new age of electronic communication and information sharing.
Data is needed to:
provide information to SACCAR management, NARS and other users for strategic planning and priority setting purposes;
monitor the performance of projects coordinated by SACCAR as well as those of the NARS; and
develop new networks in the region.
Information and communication is, the most important tool not only for more effective national research, but also for greater participation of the individual countries in research at the regional and global levels. This is critical for the successful implementation of the SADC regional networks.
The strategy therefore involved the development of a need-based regional database for better management of resources and an action program for data collection and management which will improve information flow and sharing between NARS members, SADC organs and other agencies in the area of agricultural and natural resources research and training. Better information sharing will increase regional collaboration and facilitate the coordination and implementing the FANR sectoral activities. Improved information is essential for informed participation.
The long-term goal is the creation of a sustainable, efficient, and cost-effective system for sharing of information and data within the FANR sectors in the region. However, the medium-term objective is to develop a need-based centralized information and data management system (including M&E;) and an information and communication network for sharing information and data.
The strategy formulation exercise:
1. Assessed the current information sharing mechanism between member NARS and identified ways in which this information sharing system can be improved.
2. Identified constraints and suggested measures that will facilitate the development and use of information networks for the sharing of information to enhance regional cooperation.
3. Based on the available database at SACCAR, identified the data gaps for effective management (including strategic planning, priority setting and monitoring and evaluation) of its projects.
During the process of developing the strategy, SACCAR commissioned a series of studies with various partners and stakeholders. These studies showed that there are many constraints to smooth information flow in the region. In 1994, SACCAR and CTA commissioned a series of national and regional studies for each of the countries in the SADC region (except South Africa and Mauritius which were not yet members of SADC).
The national studies were synthesized into a regional report (Bunyolo and Ngwira, 1994). In order to have a wide consensus on the major information and communication themes, SACCAR and CTA organised a regional seminar in Windhoek, Namibia in 1994. The seminar was attended by leading professionals from Faculties of Agriculture, library and information specialists, and agricultural extension and research specialists.
Major themes identified at that meeting were:
the need for agricultural information policies; regional collaboration; and
identification of agricultural information programmes at national or regional levels.
The summary report from the meeting in Windhoek was further refined in April, 1995 (SACCAR, 1995) and the terms of reference for the preparation of a proposal for Agricultural information programmes in Southern Africa were drawn up.
SACCAR and CTA subsequently commissioned Mananga Management Centre of Swaziland to develop a proposal for an agricultural information programme in southern Africa.
The draft proposal was refined at a meeting of the Regional Committee of Agricultural Information Programmes and Strategies(CRAIPS) which was held in 1996.
The major themes on information and communication which were identified at this meeting were: human resources development especially in the areas of information technology and management;
information management and technology; publications ;
extension ; and absence or inadequate agricultural information policies in some member states specifically in the following areas:
information generation, collection, storage, retrieval and dissemination; human resources development, education, training, and career development, etc. institution building e.g. standards, physical infrastructure, budgetary provisions
SACCAR has now prepared a proposal for an integrated Agricultural Information Programme for Southern Africa which will serve as the vehicle for addressing the constraints identified in the national and regional assessments.
Copyright Chris Lungu, SACCAR, Private Bag 00108, Gaborone, Botswana email address: email@example.com