‘We are the same … though we are not the same’ – Livestock and Fish program director Tom Randolph kicked off a partnership roundtable discussion between CGIAR and Wageningen UR scientists, echoing the feeling of many in the room. The spirit, principles, intentions and activities of both sides (the Livestock and Fish program and Wageningen UR) are so similar that it appears almost bizarre that the partnership has not been formalized before. The roundtable (18-19 March 2014) aimed to pin cooperation on the wall and tease out the best ideas, mechanisms and road map to bring this partnership to a solid program, beyond declarations of intentions.
Wageningen UR (university and research centre, or WUR) has been cooperating with CGIAR scientists and indeed Livestock and Fish projects for a long time:
- The CGIAR Research program on integrated systems for the Humidtropics brings together WUR, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI, which leads Livestock and Fish) and the International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT);
- The Africa RISING program involves farming systems analysis from WUR in a program that brings together ILRI, CIAT and the International Center for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA);
- Most recently, the N2 Africa project was launched in Ethiopia, involving WUR, ILRI and other partners;
- And there are many bilateral research collaborations among scientists from WUR and CGIAR.
This meeting was seen as a good opportunity to get beyond smaller collaborations to set up an institutionally strategic partnership around livestock and fish.
On the first morning, participants briefed one another, explored partnership do’s and don’ts (building upon past cooperation) and identified current and emergent needs could be jointly addressed by both parties. There was consensus that effort and time should not be directed to numerous meetings that might raise transaction costs and slow down the road to effective partnership. They did however recognize the need for joint sessions and conversations to facilitate mutual understanding of approaches and collaboration requirements.
Participants subsequently worked in groups on six different areas recognized to have potential mutual interest:
- Value chain development and sustainable interventions
- Nutrition, food safety, post harvest and food technology
- Aquaculture systems
- Livestock production systems and the environment
- Animal health
- Gender and capacity development
Working groups identified set of priority challenges that both parties felt were important to jointly address, research questions and a set of activities and modalities to flesh out the partnership through short term activities and longer term research.
In addition, a small group worked on the overall institutional partnership to establish a ‘road map’ that could bring this cooperation to the level of a formal partnership with an exciting joint program.
Marten Scholten, director of the WUR Animal Sciences department ‘gratefully accepted the invitation to become a formal partner of the Livestock and Fish program’ and took upon himself to push discussions within WUR to cement the partnership.
Read the full meeting minutes: http://livestock-fish.wikispaces.com/wageningen_roundtable_mar2014
Article contributed by Ewen Le Borgne