Capacity Development / Capacity Strengthening / Gender / LIVESTOCK-FISH / Value Chains

Piecing together the (gender) research for (capacity) development puzzle

Conducting Research for Development is at the heart of the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish’s value chain approach.

In this post, Diana Brandes argues that, in a world of complex sustainable development challenges, the solution(s) to ensure program outputs respond to localized demands to facilitate value chain transformation is a puzzle, where any number of rural communities, organizations, institutions may hold different pieces.

In recent months, through UN-facilitated consultation (e.g. the World We Want) 1.75 million people shared their priorities on the post-2015 global development agenda. Globally, people from both developed and developing countries conveyed a clear sense that our world is deeply unfair, and that the dynamics of power and exclusion have left many people, groups, communities, and even whole countries behind. They recognized that without concerted effort, this privilege and disadvantage would continue through generations.

Our challenge is how we can become better in establishing and applying, multidisciplinary collaboration and approaches across themes and countries in our research program. For that to happen CGIAR centres and “flagship specific” scientists need to break away from existing silos of specific expertise and have a more inclusive approach that brings together different disciplines. Of course, such collaboration is already happening at many places but we need to become smarter to seek out and identify potential partners with fresh perspectives that can help us address the challenges we are facing.

The draft report of a recent external evaluation (November 2014) recently stated that: “the value chain transformation theory of the program is not sufficiently clear”:

What happens if local beneficiaries and stakeholders do not sufficiently understand rapidly changing market and sector dynamics to inform sound decision making on value chain transformation strategies? What happens when the combination of partnerships, multi-stakeholder platforms and validation of integrated interventions from the other flagships are not sufficient? For example, what if the primary needs are policy and regulatory changes, small and medium enterprise development, and improvements in processing technologies and logistics? None of the other flagships and few of the most active stakeholders are positioned to generate validated knowledge about the above interventions. Will the value chains work address these types of interventions on its own? Will this only be done through partnerships and platforms? What will be the role of the value chains work in creating enabling policy and investment environments, shown in the program level theory but not under any of the flagship theories of change?”(p. 37).So far, the evidence generated on market channels and constraints has not been new information for policy makers. Policy analysis initiatives are needed to bring in or generate information on new options and opportunities” (p.72).

Let me chime in here. I believe that the questions posed by the evaluators are very valid because yes, we have lots of people working on research and technological solution finding but often they are only looking at one aspect of an (research, development) issue. This happens also because of donor’s impetus.

We really need to go beyond the oft-quoted phrase of we need (more?) “evidence-based research”. We are living through a paradigm shift (yes, trust me you do!). We are constantly connected and we are able communicate to millions of people in an instant through a single tweet; our information is stored in virtual clouds; we are exposed to the 24-hour news cycle.

The challenges of geographical distance have all but disappeared, our connections are virtual and we are all part of networks that generate vast amounts of data. These major shifts in communication and technology are changing the way we develop our own capacities, learn, live and how we perceive our world. Naturally this would also change the way we approach our (research) work, partnerships and relationships. That is, in the way we plan, design initiatives, how we measure their success and failure. The large trove of data we now have access to is not simply gender research data that is made public, but learning from information and experiences that is put on the web by individuals, the private sector, and others.

A thread I’d like to bring in is how our current (gender) research agenda, access to (gender specific) information can make us more attuned to capturing and identifying patterns and predicting future capacities and behavior needed to strengthen (women) capabilities?.

How many of us will read for example the newly published 2014 World Survey on the role of women in development: gender equality and sustainable development? Do we really need to research more ourselves before we are willing to acknowledge – what others already know for a while – that the many challenges we face in rural value chains are these (among others) of the informal rural economy and the vast (growing) gender disparities?

Many of us are familiar by now that most of the world’s poor live in the informal economy, occupying land they do not own, working in small, informal businesses, and relying on friends for loans. They often have limited access to broader economic opportunities and are especially vulnerable to the uncertainties, the corruption and even violence prevalent outside the rule of law and have few means to settle disputes apart from bribery or violence. Without legal rights or protections, they are in a continual state of legal and political vulnerability. Informality, therefore, limits the opportunity for economic and social development for individuals, families, businesses, communities, and entire nations. The thrust of value chain strategies that focus on development should hence emphasize capacity interventions to and for informal business(es), trying to develop resilient, stronger organizations, inputs suppliers, business hubs etc. to increase income and employment.

Our task is to sifting through (already available) data to get a good sense of our purpose for (Gender) Capacity Development interventions, and for many of us this is a real challenge.

Asking the “right” questions, through for example holistically designed capacity assessment guidelines and methodologies, will lead us to the sort of capacities our partners want (and need) to develop for our research to be better designed, delivered and taken up. And different types of data can often serve the same purpose. For example, do we need to simply evaluate our CRP in the traditional sense and try to collect data along those lines or do we use other types of data? Our recently published Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning Framework is quite silent about how we will measure capacity changes which are not linear and sequential, and which may lead us to draw wrong connections and identify false patterns.

The “good news’ is the CGIAR’s Global Community of Practice is currently looking into the design of a capacity development (impact) measurement framework.

To make good use of the data revolution we may need to reframe our development issues and problems based on comprehensive assessment methodologies, and that is exactly what our Capacity Development team is currently working on with ILRI’s gender scientists in 4-6 value chain countries as many partners expressed interest in integrating gender into their programming, but lack the knowledge and understanding of how to do so.

Capacity development is a priority in both the CRPs Capacity Development Road Map 2014-2016 and the Gender Strategy and as part of this priority, a preliminary study was undertaken in May 2014 with partners in targeted value chains (pigs, dairy and/or beef cattle and small ruminants namely sheep and goats) in four countries (Tanzania, Uganda, Ethiopia and Nicaragua) to ascertain their gaps in gender capacity related to integrating gender into agricultural programming.

Initial analysis of the results indicated that the assessment tool needed to be further enhanced which we are working on right as I am writing this piece.

I just came back from Ethiopia, where we discussed with national and local government partners, the private sector and key development partners (SNV, GIZ, CIDA, CARE, USAID) about how to improve the tool, not lastly as it is anticipated that the methodology will be used by development partners (as well as other CGIAR and ILRI programs). In Ethiopia, the tool will be implemented at seven project sites in five regions in 2015, which will lead to the design of capacity development strategies and (long term) gender intervention action plans. In December we will pilot the methodology in Tanzania, followed by Uganda and India early 2015.

I have not figured all the pieces of the puzzle yet but I strongly believe that if capacity assessments reveal (and they will!) where concomitant investments are needed, and for what, that many (gender, both internal and external) capacity issues flagged by our external evaluators can and will be addressed.

To you out there then the question is whether you are ready to invest your time, effort and finances (yes, we do need resources!) to work together with our CRP and the Capacity Development team!

Follow me on twitter: @DianaBrandes

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