CGIAR, WFP, and Norway's collaboration for climate-resilient food security in sub-Saharan Africa

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In June 2023, CGIAR, the world’s largest agricultural innovation network, joined forces with the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Norwegian government under the project titled “Learning Support for a Sub-Saharan Africa Multi-Country Climate Resilience Program for Food Security.” The CGIAR Initiative on Fragility, Conflict, and Migration (FCM) play a central role in delivering these activities, with contributions from the Seed Equal Initiative. On February 29, 2024, key stakeholders in this important partnership gathered in Nairobi, Kenya, for a stocktaking and consultation meeting. The meeting was attended by several CGIAR researchers and WFP staff from country and regional offices.

“This project has really been a unique effort, leveraging a long-standing relationship between the World Food Program and CGIAR,” said Daniel Gilligan, Director of the Poverty, Gender, and Inclusion unit, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in his introductory remarks. CGIAR researchers have been working with the WFP across the globe for a very long time, and that explains “why we were able to get so much research going so quickly.” Through this collaboration, “we share the objective and desire to improve outcomes for food-insecure and vulnerable households in Sub-Saharan Africa.”

David Kamau, Policy Officer in the WFP Kenya office, stressed that effective responses to the multiple shocks and crises of today “require coordination and learning among implementing, development, and humanitarian organizations, as well as knowledge and technical partners under the leadership of host governments with the community at the center.” Kamau applauded the long-standing relationship between the WFP and CGIAR and its centers, including IFPRI, which, “as a knowledge partner for Norad and WFP is providing evidence on effectiveness of interventions which we’re undertaking at different country offices, including Kenya.” He said that WFP is glad that Norad has continued to provide support to WFP and CGIAR under this partnership, which, among other things, allows WFP to work “hand in hand with the Government to generate evidence on the impact of economic inclusion program,” and allows CGIAR science rigor to inform and complement these efforts.

Katrina Kosec, Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI, and Lead of the Fragility, Conflict, and Migration Initiative (FCM), provided an overview of the FCM Initiative and the centrality of the WFP partnership within it. She flagged that FCM “builds strong relationships with partners operating in fragile and conflict affected settings and co-develops demand-driven research.” Speaking about the partnership with Norad and WFP, Kosec said: “We consider this an incredibly exciting part of our portfolio because it has allowed us to dive deep and have the meaningful conversations with the World Food Program on what they’re trying to do on the ground, how we can support them, and how we can use the knowledge of our interdisciplinary team to apply it to the problems in collaboration to find solutions.”

Kibrom Abay, Senior Research Fellow, IFPRI, and Lead of the Work Package 5 of FCM, which hosts most of the joint CGIAR-WFP-Norway project, shared a more detailed overview of the Norad-funded CGIAR research portfolio, whose goal, Abay explained, is to “provide research and analytical support to inform the design and delivery of programs in countries most vulnerable to the impact of climate change, conflict, and other forms of crisis.” This is being done under three pillars the project is organized around: 1) scaling up disaster risk financing; 2) transforming food systems through home-grown school meals and clean cooking; and 3) supporting smallholder farmers in building up productivity and livelihood resilience​. Through a consultative process with the WFP and CGIAR centers, the project team assembled teams working on 32 activities across 13 countries (Burkina Faso, Chad, Mauritania, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, Tanzania, and Uganda).

The event featured presentations on various ongoing projects, covering diverse aspects of crisis response, water security, climate resilience, and food systems. Jordan Kyle (IFPRI) discussed the role of local government in effective anticipatory action and crisis response in Mali. Daniel Gilligan (IFPRI) focused on targeting humanitarian assistance and social protection in fragile and emergency settings. Wolde Bori (IWMI) presented findings on addressing critical data gaps and capacity needs for water security and climate resilience in the Somali Regional State of Ethiopia. Alessandro Craparo (The Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT) discussed risk assessment supporting WFP’s Regional Action on Disaster Risk Reduction in Mozambique. Anna Belli (Alliance), who CGIAR has seconded to the WFP in order to allow efficient knowledge exchange across the teams, presented work on resilient food systems and the interplay between climate, peace, and security in Kenya. Wim Marivoet (IFPRI) shared an analysis of coping strategies in the Sahel region. Andrew Okem (IWMI) presented research on vulnerabilities to changes in water systems in conflict-affected communities in Adamawa State, Nigeria. Fred Grant (CIP) emphasized building localized smallholder production and procurement systems to support HGSF programs. Irmgard Jordan (Alliance) explored the concept of planet friendly HGSF. Kate Ambler (IFPRI) presented an impact evaluation of a program providing biofortified crops and other inputs to internally displaced people and host communities in Northern Nigeria. Kibrom Abay (IFPRI) discussed the impact evaluation for Kenya’s economic inclusion program. And Peter Laderach (Alliance) discussed ongoing efforts on capacity sharing and knowledge exchange activities.

The meeting included two panel discussions. The first panel, moderated by the FCM Initiative co-lead Peter Laderach (Alliance), focused on lessons and experiences on delivering social and humanitarian assistance in fragile settings. Panelists Roselie Asis and Susanna Sandstrom from the WFP, Wolde Bori (IWMI), Sikandra Kurdi (IFPRI Egypt), and Khalid Siddig (IFPRI-Sudan) agreed that effective social protection in fragile and conflict-affected settings (FCASs) requires partnerships with local NGOs, communities, and the private sector, as well as ensuring fundamentals like proper targeting and the transition from in-kind to cash assistance. The discussion also emphasized the need for predictable multi-year funding and shifting from simply lifesaving to more long-term, sustainable investments into fragile areas and communities, with a focus on environmental resilience. Some of the knowledge gaps calling for more research include trust-building, youth-targeted programs, and refugee integration into social protection systems in FCAS.

FCM Initiative co-lead Sandra Ruckstuhl (IWMI) moderated the second panel discussion on enhancing partnerships for impact, featuring insights from panelists Clemens Breisinger (IFPRI), David Kamau (WFP), Jordan Kyle (IFPRI), Moses Namanya (WFP), and Nikki Zimmerman (WFP). Effective partnership and coordination across research, evaluation, and implementation in FCASs require credibility and trust, transparency and clear communication, careful consideration of potential adverse consequences, and agility in navigating dynamic contexts with an ever-changing landscape of policies and priorities. The discussion emphasized the importance of recognizing the leadership of local governments in partnerships, of scaling up successful pilot programs, and of sustained engagement tailored to specific country needs.

In her closing remarks, Katrina Kosec stressed that all partners in this project saw “the value in the co-creation of the research agenda that occurred as a result of how this partnership was structured.”

“Deciding how we would generate evidence, what the evidence would look like, what priorities it would inform, and what was the path to uptake was critical for making this a useful research agenda.” She also noted that while there is a long history of CGIAR collaboration with the World Food Program, the funding opportunities from Norway and Norad have opened new doors for concerted, cross-country partnership with all levels of WFP, allowing FCM “to take this collaboration to the next level.”

Daniel van Gilst, Senior Advisor, Department for Climate and Environment, Norad, expressed gratitude to the partners for the rich discussion, emphasizing the many accomplishments achieved over the project’s short duration. This work is “extremely relevant at both national and regional levels”, van Gilst said.

Written by Evgeniya Anisimova, Media & Digital Engagement Manager, IFPRI.

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