A number of large-scale projects are currently working to resolve sustainability issues in agricultural and food systems, in connection with climate change. The DeSIRA initiative, financed by the European Commission, encompasses many of these projects. In order to unlock the potential impact of this initiative, the European Commission and the Agence Française de Développement have respectively launched two cross-cutting meta-projects – DeSIRA-LIFT and DISSEM-INN – in which CIRAD is closely involved.
In Burkina Faso, R&D projects have been taking stock of their successes and failures
Smallholder organizations, public decision-makers, scientists, associations, etc. No fewer than 200 people took part in a meeting in Ouagadougou from 14 to 16 June: the "Journées nationales des innovations agricoles de l’initiative DeSIRA". It brought together players from all the sectors involved in agricultural development operations in Burkina Faso.
On the agenda: exchanges of experience between R&D projects under the umbrella of the DeSIRA initiative: Development of Smart Innovation through Research in Agriculture. This EU programme is driven by the European Commission DG for International Partnerships, which has been funding agricultural innovation projects worldwide since 2020. Twelve DeSIRA projects are under way in Burkina Faso. CIRAD is involved in eight: four as coordinator and the other four as participating member.
Meeting, drawing inspiration, sharing good practice
Three years after the first DeSIRA projects began, what lessons can be drawn from the emerging innovations and results? For the participants in the "Journées nationales des innovations agricoles de l’initiative DeSIRA", the aim was first and foremost to meet other participants and share experiences.
In Burkina Faso, the projects concerned cover a broad range of agricultural activities, from bioenergy to pastoralism through irrigation and agroecology. After a "project fair" to present the partners' lines of research, the discussions centred on crosscutting, shared topics such as the role of research in designing innovative new solutions. How can we measure the impact of projects? How can we roll out successes and good practices across the country or the region?
The DeSIRA initiative supports the transformation of agrifood systems, to make them sustainable, viable, resilient and fair. To this end, all the projects supported are building innovative, participatory approaches. While some activities have been a resounding success, others face a range of issues: a lack of coordination between sectors, the challenge of adapting agricultural value chains, insecurity in some areas, and so on. The participants were able to highlight their successes and failures and draw inspiration from others' experiences. The meetings allowed them to network, enabling the dissemination of good practices to other sectors or contexts.
Encouraging public- and private-sector decision-makers to support agricultural innovation
The meetings were also an opportunity to inform political and financial decision-makers. These players are a vital source of support for DeSIRA projects and the issues on which they are working. The development of digital technologies, climate change, rural employment and food security are all regional issues that have hit the agricultural sector hard.
In this respect, the DeSIRA projects are seen as crucial for boosting innovation and the capacity of the region's agriculture to adapt; the EU Ambassador to Burkina Faso and the representative of the French Ministry of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI) expressed their positions and talked with representatives from the worlds of agriculture, development and research, and with members of civil society and the private sector.
Left to right: Adama Kaboré (CNRST, Deputy DG); Marc Duponcel and Abdoulaye Désiré Traoré (EU Delegation, "employment and growth" team); Emmanuel Nanéma (CNRST, Delegate General); Karsten Mecklenburg (Deputy Head of EU Delegation to Burkina Faso); Prof. Nicolas Barro (advisor to and representative of the Minister in charge of Research and Innovation); Dr Nissan Coulibaly (advisor to and representative of the Minister in charge of of Agriculture); Serge Marlet (CIRAD, Deputy Regional Director); Prof. Jacques Nanéma (UJKZ) - © C. Kain, CIRAD
Additional resources and greater dialogue
The three days of meetings highlighted one priority: mobilizing more human, technical and financial resources, to improve the rollout of innovations to end users. Several options are being studied, notably establishing rapid, efficient communication channels between research and agricultural professional organizations.
Another priority is to step up dialogue between research and the public sector. The participants suggested organizing new meetings like this one, to look at the results obtained or to write and distribute policy briefs. Thought was also given to the possibility of a joint participation in FRSIT (a scientific research and technological innovation forum) and SIST (an international science and technology symposium), two events due to be held in Ouagadougou in 2023.
Lastly, work has begun to build a network and is set to gather speed. This drive will be backed by the establishment of communities of practice and the existence of crosscutting projects such as DeSIRA LIFT (Leveraging the DeSIRA Initiative for agri-food systems Transformation) or DissemInn (Dissemination of INNovations in the Sahel zone) capable of overseeing the dialogue between projects.
The first day was intended to foster networking between the partners in DeSIRA projects under way in Burkina Faso. A "project fair" was organized and each project had a stand to receive visitors. The fair boosted exchanges of information between the participants. Two workshops were then held, focusing on crosscutting topics: the role of research in designing new solutions to benefit innovation communities, and the impact of the DeSIRA projects in terms of the long-term rollout of the innovations promoted.
The second day was devoted to an exchange between political and financial decision-makers, on the various challenges of agricultural innovation. The opening ceremony was chaired by the Burkinabe Minister of Higher Education, Research and Innovation (MESRI). The EU Ambassador and MESRI representative repeated their determination to commit to agricultural innovation. The representative of the European Commission DG for International Partnerships explained the commitments and objectives that prompted the launch of the DeSIRA initiative, and the planned follow-up under the umbrella of the future DeSIRA+ programme. Two round tables finished off the day, on the issues surrounding the establishment of an effective national innovation system in terms of governance, funding, services provided to innovators and support for private-sector initiatives.
The final day served to bring together the various players in the projects and draw the main conclusions from the event. The participants agreed to establish a permanent framework to oversee and manage interactions between research-innovation projects in Burkina Faso.
CIRAD is involved in eight of the 12 DeSIRA projects in Burkina Faso
During the meetings, CIRAD shared its experience of eight of the 12 projects presented:
- AcceSS (Accelerating innovation dynamics in agriculture by strengthening innovation support services) - coordination
- BioStar (Sustainable bioenergy for small agrifood enterprises in rural areas of West Africa) - coordination
- FAIR Sahel (Promoting agroecological intensification of agriculture to boost the resilience of farms in the Sahel) - coordination
- IRRINN (Intensifying agricultural production by scaling up innovative and adapted irrigation practices and technologies) - coordination
- ABEE (West Africa breeding networks and extension empowerment) - participation
- CaSSECS (Carbon sequestration and greenhouse gas emissions in (agro) silvopastoral ecosystems in the Sahelian States) - participation
- PRISMA (Research and innovation project for productive, resilient and healthy agropastoral systems in West Africa) - participation
- SAFEVEG (Local production of safe vegetables for West African consumers) - participation.