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New Guidance on Drylands Energizes the Opening of East and South Africa Regional Planning in Malawi

The regional Dryland Systems planning for East and South Africa kicked off yesterday afternoon in Lilongwe, Malawi, laying out a tall agenda for the five-day meeting. As the last in the series of five Target Region Implementation and Partnership (TRIP) workshops, it is not only tasked with developing a work plan for the region; it is also addressing planning gaps that remain for the entire Dryland Systems Research Program and additional goals and parameters suggested by the CGIAR Consortium and the Steering Committee.     

The meeting has gathered some 35 participants from NGOs, NARS, CGIAR centers – ICARDA, ILRI, IWMI, Bioversity and CIAT - and local institutions. GFAR’s Senior Gender Adviser, Dr. Jennie Dey de Pryck, is also participating and has been invited to lead the gender strategy component. Scheduled to take place on the last two days of the meeting, September 20-21, gender has already become a priority for participants as they heard opening remarks on the first day.

Dr. Boni Moyo, the Regional Program Leader and scientist, Dr. Polly Ericksen, both from ILRI, the lead agency for Drylands East and South Africa region, gave a warm welcome and revisited the framework of the program, ahead of the action planning which begins today.

Dr. Maarten van Ginkel, ICARDA’s Research Deputy Director General sparked some lively reactions as he shared recent developments directed by the CGIAR Consortium. The combined budgets of CGIAR Research Programs have recently expanded from $500 million to $1 billion, as donors committed more funds to drive larger-scale implementation and impacts. Participants were asked to put forward proposals for the action sites to leverage these new funds. Additionally, as the program is set to expand its scope, satellite sites may soon be called action sites and new sites may be added as the need arises.

As part of the workplan development for the region, the expectations for the meeting are to: develop “clustered” activity plans; specify sites/outcomes/deliverables/timelines; identify activity leaders; establish regional committee; and finally, agree on budget “principles.”

Malawi TRIP meeting to deliver on program-wide decisions and activities

Aside from regional planning, the group of participants in Malawi has a bigger agenda on their plate – discussing the IDOs or the Intermediate Development Outcomes that will measure and guide the progress of the program toward its intended impacts.  IDOs will have three-year cycles over the next nine years – with the activities in the first phase centered around testing out of technologies in adopted areas, experimental scaling out in the next phase, and finally, putting the tested innovation packages into action on a larger scale.

The participants are asked to revisit the language of the goals captured under each IDO and finalize them as the extensive Dryland Systems program embarks on implementation phases across the five regions globally. The main task on hand, however, is to plan for the new IDO added on gender.

Dryland Systems Adds New IDO on Gender Strategy

Gender has been included as the cross-cutting theme in program activities but the program’s steering committee has recently directed adding an IDO that expressly mandates a strategy on gender to ensure the focus is not sidelined and is central to impacts.  Bill Payne, the Director of Drylands Program, concurred that while the move has been driven by decision-making at the top level of the Consortium, it really is a bottom-up need as women are core to any development being half the “clientele” for the planned research for development activities.

Dr. Jennie from GFAR pointed out that women do 43% of agricultural work worldwide, a number which can vary by culture and region. As a result she argued that having gender as a “cross-cutting theme is not enough; it is important to mainstream the gender activities” to deliver on the development impacts targeted by the CGIAR’s Dryland Systems Research Program. The new IDO aims for “increased control by women and other marginalized group of assets, inputs, decision-making and benefits.” Bill Payne also added Youth as a high priority in the strategy that must be included in the Program’s IDOs.