Africa RISING institutional program history
Africa RISING is a complex program. Every event at program level - and key events in either of the three regional projects - brought important milestones and decisions forward. This page attempts to trace back the history of the program, event after event, in descending chronological order i.e. from most recent to least recent).
The program newsletter 'Matters Arising' also helps you follow the history of Africa RISING as it unfolds - subscribe to Matters Arising (email update) here.

Program Coordination Team meeting #4 (January 2013):

Read more about this event
This event
Key discussion points:
Key decisions:

Africa RISING-CSISA joint monitoring meeting (November 2013):

Read more about this event (meeting notes) and read this summary on the website.
Following a rather indecisive first M&E expert meeting in 2012, this second meeting was organised, this time jointly with the Cereal Systems Initiative for South Asia (CSISA), to discuss experiences around monitoring and evaluation of farming systems and draw out good ideas and practices to incorporate in their respective plans/activities.
Key discussion points:
  • Learning from M&E
  • Combining physical and social scientists in M&E / combining biophysical and socio-economic modeling in M&E
  • Controlled field experiments vs. 'real-world' outcomes
  • M&E of development vs. research initiatives
  • Project monitoring, keeping track of outputs, information & data management, integration within wider project management
  • (Web) tools and custom indicators
  • Characterizing landscapes, communities, households
  • Evaluating and forecasting technologies, practices and dissemination/learning approaches - embedding farmer behavior in modeling
  • Farming systems approaches, baseline datas and experimental approaches to evaluation
Key decisions:
  • IFPRI team to develop data management guidelines in line with best standards from CGIAR, DfID etc. and develop 'data management' wiki page/section
  • Comms team to develop profile of team members (who is who) on the wiki and do staff interviews on Africa RISING website to better know who does what
  • Small working group (researchers and M&E officers) Review Vital Signs indicators and develop custom indicators and discuss this in Ibadan late Nov.
  • IFPRI M&E team to clarify reporting levels, develop pilot mission, adapt Program Management Tool and catalog relevant spatial data sets
  • M&E is not seen as a separate activity in the program, it is integrated to all regional (and program level) teams and activities - more joint work has to cement this cooperation.

Program Coordination Team meeting #3 (September 2013):

Read more about this event (meeting notes)
The third PCT meeting followed a classical agenda: regional updates, Comms, M&E, and a couple of other points: participation to ASARECA event, forming a working group on sustainability and development of a scientific advisory committee.
Key discussion points:
  • Engagement guidelines
  • Program logic framework
  • Regional logframes
  • Upcoming events
  • Science advisory mechanism
  • Gender
  • Integration of livestock
  • Funding for partners
Key decisions:
  • Engagement guidelines to be included in the program framework
  • More work to go into regional logframes by Peter and Irmgard
  • Wiki and Google calendar to be clearly delineated to avoid confusion to display events
  • ToR for science advisory body endorsed and Iain to invite suggested members - with Tracy to finalize selection process
  • Annet to develop gender plan in line with the Humidtropics gender plan she is developing
  • An internal program review will be commissioned - possibly via the science advisory group
  • Joint M&E meeting (with CSISA) planned for November
  • FtF indicators to be collected by research teams
  • Data use agreement between AR and SIMLEZA has to be sorted out asap

Africa RISING learning event #1 (September 2013):

Read more about this event (event notes) and this website update about the program learning meeting. Also read this website item about the overview of tools and approaches used across Africa RISING.
This important event was the first program learning meeting of its kind. It aimed at learning from good experiences across the program, focusing on cross-cutting components (gender, nutrition, comms, M&E etc.) and prioritizing key events and activities in the next 12 months. Some important discussions (on platforms, partnerships, integration, definitions of sustainable intensification and gender & agency) took place but it is not clear how these will be followed up.
Key discussion points:
  • Understanding the program and its components, as well as principles...
  • Research outputs / experiences across the three regions
  • Approaches and tools used across the regions
  • Priorities and focus challenges:
    • Critical entry points towards sustainable intensification
    • Research for development framework
    • Partnership motivation/integration
    • Going beyond the household scale
    • Trade off hypotheses and opportunity costs
    • Towards a useful definition of sustainable intensification?
    • How can SI work well under smallholder farmer conditions?
    • Labor saving - a new cross-cutting theme for AR?
    • Integration
    • Gender and agency
    • Nutrition
    • Avoiding silos
  • Synthesis and country reflections
  • Feedback on the learning event
Key decisions:
  • R4D/innovation platforms should be outcome-focused, address the enabling environment, integrate different technologies, look at adoption and prioritization of interventions - we have to work further on the conceptual understanding of these platforms to adapt them to the Africa RISING context
  • On the definition of SI: a concept note will be shared with a revised definition to include whole-farm efficiency (outputs/inputs) with minimal land expansion and expand to include environmental, economic, human, and social sustainability - and address the landscape scale
  • About partnerships: Encourage a sense of belonging, joint work, no delivery (and/or reporting) = out (though who decides?)
  • About gender: we need to have a gender lens on all activities (and e.g. consider gender-neutral technologies); the Ethiopia team will develop a gender plan/strategy that can be adapted in other countries
  • About integration: It will be encouraged through crop-livestock-tree farming systems lens, platforms, capacity development, linking agriculture with human nutrition, strengthening information-sharing mechanisms and joint work
  • Comms will aim at increase visibility through e.g. branding, developing a comms plan and working more closely with research teams
  • Various action points for each of the countries (see notes)

Program Coordination Team meeting #2 (June 2013):

Read more about this event (meeting notes)
This second PCT meeting seems to have mostly gone through the main elements without discussing them in detail or taking many decisions but it was helpful in keeping track
Key discussion points:
  • Notes & follow up from last PCT meeting (community engagement rules, planning the learning event in Ethiopia in September, science advisory mechanism, gender strategy, framework for livestock integration, guaranteed partner funding)
  • USAID updates (FtF indicators, branding guidelines, small scale irrigation grant, upcoming events, Sustainable Intensification Innovation Labs replacing CRSPs, MoU signed in program countries, looking for alignment among many current and upcoming activities)
  • Project updates:
    • ESA: events planned, workpland and budget to be prepared, ongoing farming systems analysis, pest & disease diagnostic completed, data analysis to start now that the field season is almost over, partnering exploration with SIMLEZA, AfricaRice withdrew from the project and rice systems research suspended.
    • WA: events planned, workplan/budget finalized, AfricaRice withdrew from the project and rice systems research carried out by NARS partner, regional hypotheses finalized, field visit Ghana -> Mali planned in October, recruitment of agricultural economist ongoing, farming systems analysis started, field visit Jerry/Tracy planned for July.
    • Ethiopia: Development of SLATE tool in progress, ToT completed, sustainable livelihoods analysis and participatory community assessment ongoing, on-farm research protocol design ongoing, upcoming events, late with reporting, workplan and budgets almost completed, field visit planned around learning event and USAID field visit planned for November.
  • M&E update: Baseline survey results in TZ, MW, upcoming in other countries, working with CSISA / WUR / ACDI-VOCA / Vital Signs / FAO / MSU on M&E, working on web-based monitoring platform, M&E officer recruited for West Africa and ESA, possibly expanding from generic to custom FtF indicators, site/field visits planned.
  • Comms update: program brochure & poster ready, Ethiopia brochure & poster ready (to start soon in ESA/WA), Malawi video ongoing, comms tool flyer done, templates done, photofilm planned for July 2013 [read this update about it] etc. many updates on this part)
  • Upcoming meetings
Key decisions:
  • ToR for the science advisory mechanism have to be drafted
  • Web monitoring platform (M&E) to be finalized by July 2013 and training in August
  • Web stats to be presented in September 2013
  • More inputs required from ESA and West Africa for program communication (website updates, photos, presentations)

Research methodology meeting, Lilongwe (March 2013):

Read more about this event (meeting notes).
This ad hoc event was formalized at the first PCT meeting (see below) as it was deemed necessary to integrate vision, thinking, assumptions, skills, activities and results across the three program regions. It was a very useful meeting setting the basis for various integration activities.
Key discussion points:
  • Research scales (at plot/field, farm/household, district, development domains etc.) for each of the current 5 countries involved. Development domains (useful for IFPRI work on impact assessment) are not experimentally useful for farm/household research now but will be when we focus on research outcome 3 and identifying drivers for intensification and scaling strategies)
  • Research Outcome 1 (RO1): RO1 strategy proposed by Wageningen University (WUR): Good approach but bearing the risk of becoming a diagnosis trap; Updates on RO1 activities in Malawi and Ethiopia; M&E RO1 baseline activities with priority going to Tanzania and Ghana for now since Malawi and Ethiopia have their own (later) plans and Mali is uncertain
  • Impact evaluation design: how to reconcile useful research with rigorous impact evaluation, how to assess success (research outputs vs. development outcomes), goals of evaluation, what regional teams want from impact assessment
  • Linking RO1 with RO2: use typologies to identify key constraints and potential (technology) solutions, use modeling to inform technology combination, make systems modeling outputs relevant to farmers.
  • Regional project work plans (updates)
  • Upcoming events (regional and program events such as the first program learning event to be held tentatively in September in Addis Ababa)
  • USAID updates (changes in CRPS' structure, lesser involvement of Jerry Glover in Africa RISING to be expected, possible partnership with BMGF-funded VitalSigns project, improving situation in Mali etc.)
Key decisions:
  • IITA adopts WUR's RO 1 strategy for West Africa and East & Southern Africa. WUR will recruit someone to train the Africa RISING teams in Ghana, Mali, Malawi, Tanzania. WUR may have to collect their own rapid characterization data. Discussing with Humidtropics is essential in this general effort
  • AR activities are not suitable for a rigorous (randomized control trial only) impact evaluation - the (IFPRI) proposed impact evaluation design is not realistic. The regional teams expect their activities to yield development impacts at the household and community scales, at the level of a group of certain farmers (typologies), and possibly at the scale of the development domain, but not above (e.g. regionally/nationally)
  • A concept note summarizing a framework around some key questions (process to improve productivity? implications of these processes for sustainability? impacts of these processes on development outcomes) will be circulated for update. Read the draft proposal for Africa RISING impact evaluation (current as of March 18, 2013)
  • The survey tool should undergo minor changes reflecting the vision discussed here, regional norms and contexts, indicators that address sustainability and farmers' innovation, supporting extrapolation of farm typologies generated by systems analysis
  • How to ensure characterization work (RO1) informs implementation (RO2): Agronomy teams document farmer innovations and perform participatory evaluations, which inform models, which inform research interventions, which refine models, etc.
  • The Malawi team may organize a modeling meeting in July 2013
  • The regional lead scientists will meet before regional plans go to steering committee to ensure a more coherent approach and provide guidance where necessary
  • The learning event will take place in Ethiopia in September 2013

Program Coordination Team meeting #1 (January 2013):

Read more about this event (meeting notes) and this website article (as well as this website article mentioning the PCT).
This was the first formal program coordination team (PCT) meeting following an initial discussion in July 2012.
Key discussion points:
  • Regional project plans, logical frameworks ('logframes'), milestones and other updates - showing significant differences in approaches, scales and integration.
  • M&E work plan 2013
  • Comms work plan 2013
  • External science advisory committee
  • Program Framework document (read this website article related to the development of the Program Framework Document around January 2013)
  • Program-wide activities (learning event, peer visits, photo journalist field trip, meetings)
  • Feed the Future indicators
  • Dates of next PCT meetings
Key decisions:
  • Having logframes is good for all regions and the program framework document provides some of that guideline
  • The Program Framework Document should not be updated at this stage but should be revisited in one year (early 2014) - only cosmetic changes will be brought in for now.
  • For M&E, one person recruited for East Africa. And the M&E and (program) comms teams should work more closely together. The impact assessment survey is progressing.
  • For comms, branding will have to be revised in line with USAID/FtF changes (and changes of institutions); more stats would help the PCT; Developing a newsletter is good for regions but there's no capacity at program level to actively support this; data management is important but requires strong coordination;
  • We cannot take any decision re: a possible scientific advisory committee before the Malawi meeting (see above);
  • A research methodology meeting must be organized in March 2013 to address issues of scale, assumptions, farming system vision, integration, team capacity gaps, peer-to-peer learning and learning event opportunities.
  • The program learning event could focus on the program framework document
  • The photo journalist field trip could take place in Ghana, September 2013
  • French translations only are not acceptable - there should be a summary in English too and every document should have an executive summary
  • Only the 8/9 generic Feed the Future indicators are expected to be reported about by USAID; additional ones are possible but not specifically encouraged

Monitoring and evaluation experts' meeting (September 2012):

Read more about this event and read the summary article about this event.
As the team had agreed, in the research framework workshop from July, monitoring and evaluation had to start at the same time as other activities and it was already getting late so this experts' meeting was called upon to tighten up the M&E framework (led by IFPRI). The workshop was good but its decisions were not followed as the responsible M&E person left the program shortly after critically questioning the conclusions made during the workshop, leading to a temporary paralysis on the M&E front.
Key discussion points:
  • How to combine the differences in ideas and priorities between the IFPRI team (in charge of global M&E and data collection) and the regional/national implementation teams (in charge of implementing it), when the former needs consistent data collection and rigorous evaluation design and the latter need practical and relevant M&E activities that support their work
  • Balancing monitoring (keeping track of ongoing efficiency) and evaluation (ensuring effectiveness of the project and leading from research outputs to outcomes) across the three mega sites, which may have different priorities
  • Dealing with USAid and development partner preferences (e.g. for specific sites to carry out the work) as opposed to scientists’ preferences (e.g. for sites that make sense to their research design)
  • How different can the M&E approaches be across the three mega-sites?
  • Is it possible to have a rigorous ‘randomization’ across action research sites when the planting season and development partners’ preferences argue against a thorough and thought-through approach to choosing the ‘treatment’ sites (where Africa RISING is working) and the ‘control’ sites (similar sites that offer a comparative to assess the relative impact of Africa RISING)?
Key decisions:
As mentioned above, these decisions were largely not applied in practice, however.

Research framework workshop (July 2012):

Read more about this event
This event was decided about, out of the necessity to adopt a common research approach across the three projects. Good discussions seemed to be held between the 16 participants but very little was recorded - leading to the sketchy discussion points below.
Key discussion (and decision) points:
  • the 'race track' aspect of the conceptual framework
  • 'whole farm' focus
  • diagnosis and interventions
  • integration of components
  • it connects together a set of (not always new) concepts
  • focus on scalability
  • it tackles dynamic changes over time
  • any crop, any value chain ... demand driven
  • three regions
  • a priori characterization will help us to scale (by design)
  • M&E (robust data and tools) in from the beginning
Key decisions:
See above. Otherwise unclear (very few notes were taken during that meeting.)

In between events (March-June 2012)

A website article summarized the progress made through the three design workshops:
What was getting relatively clear:
  • The three concept notes for the three regions - paying attention to nutrition and gender
  • The program goals, outcomes, targets and assumptions or hypotheses
  • The importance of partnering with other actors and initiatives
  • The notion of an ‘intensification gradient’ across sites and how this could be put into practice;
  • Criteria to select research sites, and in some cases to zoom in on specific places - both for early wins as for longer term plans
  • Some ‘early wins’ where the projects could demonstrate results in their first year of operation;
  • The overall research framework, and hypotheses to be tested
  • Coordination and management mechanisms – at project and program levels;
  • Monitoring and evaluation and associated data collection and management systems and tools;
  • Approaches to communication, learning and knowledge management.
During those months, all teams were very active with early win activities. Quite a few of these were documented on the Africa RISING website.
See the full list of early win projects across the program.

Project design workshop 3: East and Southern Africa (February 2012)

Read more about this event and summary article
Following the West Africa and Ethiopia design workshops, this event in turn laid the foundations for the East and Southern Africa project - equally based on initial concept notes for a) maize-based and b) rice-based systems (prepared by AfricaRice and IITA). Early win activities were also the way forward chosen by participants for the inception period of 9 months (until 1 October 2012). The early win projects were not defined during that workshop however. On the other hand, program level coordination was becoming clearer in Dar es Salaam.
Key discussion points:
  • Maize-based and rice-based concept notes
  • Key opportunities (related projects and institutions) to work with Africa RISING
  • Monitoring and evaluation ideas
  • Project design boundaries (how to implement a systems approach, research - development continuum, most appropriate scales, site selection criteria, how to integrate research components)
  • Site-specific and non site-specific early win activities
  • Project coordination and management
  • Target groups
  • Site selection
  • Overall program management
  • Sustainability and intensification indices
Key decisions:
  • Demand-oriented, participatory, learning-focused research is a must
  • Regional and national coordinators, theme leaders, site coordinators
  • We aim for an integrated research framework across all three regional projects
  • Program level work includes: M&E, research approach, program coordination team, program level communication/knowledge sharing.

Project design workshop 2: Ethiopian Highlands (January 2012)

Read more about this event and the accompanying article
This event took place in late January 2012 and (similarly to the West Africa workshop) was structured around the review of a concept note prepared by an ILRI team, in relation with an online consultation to discuss drivers of sustainable intensification, key elements, geographic focus, animal vs. crop markets and sustainable intensification etc.
Key discussion points:
  • Concept note prepared for the region
  • Possible alignment opportunities with Feed the Future initiatives and other projects
  • The original hypotheses behind the program (for six groups: pathways, technologies, tradeoffs, site selection, project purpose connecting)
  • Site selection criteria
  • Cross cutting issues: communication, gender, nutrition
  • Monitoring and evaluation
  • Project coordination and management
  • Early win investments - contrary to West Africa, the Ethiopian Highlands project will focus on some integrated activities around early win projects
Key decisions:
  • Goals, purpose, objectives, outcomes, assumptions;
  • Gaps around cross-cutting issues: comms, gender, nutrition;
  • Site selection process for the short term (early wins) and a draft process for the longer term;
  • More work needed on outputs and outcomes (outcomes for who?)
  • Assumptions need to be fitted into the big picture;
  • The program needs a good name
  • The government ownership: how is it going to be stimulated? At what stage? --> link up with Red FS, stakeholder meeting etc.

Project design workshop 1: West Africa (January 2012)

This event took place in January 2012 and brought together key stakeholders to be involved in activities in Ghana and Mali. The objectives of the event were to develop work programs - particularly 'quick wins' for both countries as well as a monitoring and evaluation plan that would complement it. This event was organized around a concept note prepared by an IITA team.
Key discussion points:
  • What is currently going on in Ghana, Mali
  • Key opportunities (related projects and institutions) to work with Africa RISING
  • Project coordination and management
  • Monitoring and evaluation ideas
  • Communication opportunities (activities, issues)
Key decisions:
  • Who would be involved in the project, in principle - in the research team and otherwise
  • Project coordination and management structure (steering committee, frequency of their meetings)
  • Set of project documents to prepare
  • Process for site selection
  • Project agreement between IITA and USAID, and between IITA and all sub-contracted parties
  • Fast-track work plans, implementation workshops, detailed work plans as and when, regular communication



Event x:

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Key discussion points:
Key decisions: