NRI and WYG International (WYGI), a global project management and technical consultancy, are currently embarking on a five-year programme dedicated to improving sustainable agricultural enterprise for smallholder farmers in Africa.
Entitled ‘Sustainable Agricultural Intensification Research and Learning in Africa’, and to be known by its acronym, SAIRLA, the programme will commission and manage competitive research grants, facilitate a ‘Learning Alliance’ at national and international levels to encourage joint learning and innovation in the field of Sustainable Agricultural Intensification (SAI) and conduct cross-programme monitoring and evaluation.
Global food production needs to double by 2050 to meet the demands of a world with a growing population, in a context of a changing climate, environmental degradation and other challenges. In particular, smallholder farmers and women in sub-Saharan Africa face a growing struggle to access sufficient and nutritious food.
Such a complex challenge requires innovative solutions. Sustainable Agricultural Intensification generally refers to producing more crops or livestock, in an environmentally-friendly way. However, SAIRLA is also concerned with understanding the social implications of different pathways to achieving SAI. Increasing food production sustainably is not just about having appropriate agricultural technologies but also creating the ‘right environment’ of policy support for finance, access to markets and knowledge, amongst other issues.
The WYGI–NRI partnership and the SAIRLA approach
WYGI’s established grant, fund and programme management experience is combined with NRI’s agricultural and socioeconomic research, knowledge sharing and networking experience to understand different ways of achieving SAI and their developmental outcomes.
Running from 2015–2020, SAIRLA will focus on sub-Saharan Africa, with an emphasis on six countries: Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia. A key focus will be to assess how SAI can be developed in ways that enable particularly women and poorer smallholders to participate in and benefit from agricultural development through SAI approaches.
The programme will do this by establishing a programme of competitive research grants. The open Research Call will be announced in October 2015, with further information about the call to be posted to the new SAIRLA website. Furthermore, the programme will facilitate an interactive ‘Learning Alliance’ which will operate at different levels, with diverse membership, and will generate, share and use research outputs. Its aim is to foster learning between researchers, policy makers, development institutions and funders.
These processes aim to support shared learning on how ‘enabling environments’ can result in increasing sustainable food production through creating the right environment for farmers to care for the environment, whilst producing more food and in an equitable way.