Friday, December 10, 2010

EC-funded project in West Africa shows successful multi-stakeholder involvement in inland valleys

The establishment of multi-platform players at the village level – in southwestern Benin and in the circle of Sikasso in Mali – and the strong involvement of stakeholders are already positive signs of the successful management of land development by the actors themselves.

This was the verdict of the participants who attended the final workshop of the first phase of the European Commission-funded 2-year project “Realizing the agricultural potential of inland valley lowlands in sub-Saharan Africa while maintaining their environmental services (RAP).” The workshop was held, 7-10 December 2010, in Cotonou, Benin.

The project seeks to improve the livelihood of the rural poor by enhancing the productivity and competitiveness of inland valleys through sustainable intensification and diversification of agricultural productivity and product value chain development, while conserving land and water resources.

Over 50 participants presented and discussed the results obtained in the first phase and made recommendations to identify methods and tools capable of ensuring the national and regional dissemination of technological innovations, institutional and socio-economic improvements to enhance the sustainable productivity of rice in the inland valleys and improve the lives and livelihoods of all the actors along the value chain.

The participants included partners involved in the project from France, Mali, Netherlands and Benin (AfricaRice, IITA, CIRAD, WUR, IER, INRAB, UAC-FSA ICRA); experts from Africa (Burkina Faso and Togo); development specialists; project managers (FAFA PAFIRIZ Benin) and institutions for agricultural development (CERP Department), NGOs, and government representatives.

This plurality of actors reflects the commitment of RAP to involve the entire range of stakeholders in the participatory learning and action research (PLAR) process.

At the workshop, 25 papers and 14 posters were presented, structured around three sessions:

• Success Factors of increased development of lowland
• Intensification and diversification in rice systems
• Development of value chains of agricultural systems based on rice

The meeting included a field trip to the inland valleys of Dogbo and Houinga in the Mono-Couffo area in Benin. It allowed participants to interact with the villagers and to evaluate in situ the relevance of the participatory process around the multi-platforms actors.

The participants were honored that Dr Lynn Haight, a member of the Board of Directors of the CGIAR Consortium to Benin, who was visiting AfricaRice during that period, joined the field trip.

The workshop concluded that a great deal of knowledge and experience has been gained and collaborations initiated with partners in development projects. The next step is to document this knowledge in scientific publications and produce tools that will facilitate decision-making (videos, agro-socio-economic geo-referenced databases on inland valleys, etc.) in partnership with the development actors.