A Monitoring, Learning and Evaluation (MLE) work plan to document the roadmap to achieving the Tropical Legumes (TL) III project aim was prepared by participants attending a workshop in Kenya. The TL III project aims at releasing 50 high-yielding, stress resistant, market preferred varieties with superior cooking and nutritional qualities of groundnut, cowpea, common bean and chickpea by 2019.
Urging participants to embrace and adopt the approved MLE work plan, Dr Emmanuel Monyo, Project coordinator TL III, said, “Quoting release of varieties per se is not enough but emphasis needs to be put on the genetic gains of those varieties and the available seed systems for their dissemination.” He said there needs to be a better way of documenting project achievements. A properly designed MLE plan
will help the team to achieve this.
Dr Jeff Ehlers, Senior Program Officer, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation applauded the efforts of all the TL III partners and stressed that at the donor level, the Foundation sees the National Agricultural Research System (NARS) as key implementers for the third phase of the project. He also reminded the need for return on investments (ROI) for funds, but above all, synchronizing the work being done with national strategies in order to have bigger impact. He was happy to point out the investments in national institutions like the Ethiopian Institute of Agriculture (EIAR) were bearing fruit. “We need to continue documenting adoption of improved varieties and technologies developed as part of this project. We need to avail indicators of successful return on investments: what has been achieved and how confident we are on what has been reported. The Foundation is interested in knowing what NARS is doing, their capabilities and how we can measure these successes better while adopting the MLE plan,” he said.
Addressing the participants Dr David Bergvinson, Director General, ICRISAT, highlighted the need to develop market-driven varieties and define the research agenda to answer the concerns along the production chains like: what are the market requirements? Who are the partners needed for its delivery? Who are the actors involved throughout the chain? He emphasized on role of engaging with policy makers and urged the CGIAR leaders to be ambassadors to strive for policy reforms. He urged the project partners to synchronize the plans to the country strategies; look for avenues to unlock markets, and document the constraints, enabling policies and partnership environments needed to unlock markets.
During the two-day deliberations MLE consultant Dr Yvonne Pinto, Director of Agricultural Learning and Impacts Network (ALINe), Firetail, sensitized project partners on TL III MLE principles, highlighted the detailed functioning of MLE, reiterated the objectives, theory of change, elaborated MLE framework and the significance of MLE to TL III project. Mr Amos Kioko, Project Officer – MLE, facilitated and educated the participants on filling of MLE data collection tools and forms. Objective-wise groups were formed to have better integration and synergy while filling the MLE forms and reporting on the project development.
Project indicator reference sheet was discussed to provide guidance on definition of terms, calculations, type of indicator, level of aggregation, data disaggregation, method of data collection, data sources, frequency of data collection, persons responsible, etc. Percentage of women using improved technologies, percentage change in gender yield gap along with number of improved legumes varieties developed and released, number of improved legumes varieties available for national testing, number of farmer-preferred varieties released in the national system, number of participants reached/ awareness created were some of the important indicators discussed as part of the MLE indicators.
The Breeding Management System was also discussed as a tool for data management and reporting. It was suggested to track the average age of variety in a particular country to understand the genetic gains in farmers’ fields.
Dr Stanley Nkalubo, Scientist from National Crop Resources Research Institute (NaCRRI), Uganda, urged NARS to look at the country strategies and what works are being done to improve the nutrition and food security in the country. He cited the example of how iron-rich beans released under this project are helping in the fight against anemia in Uganda.
MLE is a way of learning for all and we need to learn and define the impact using the available facilities and resources, said Dr Clare Mukankusi, who represented International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT). Dr Christian Fatokun, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA), emphasized on the need to work with industries in the private sector and mentioned about their work with Monsanto for developing improved cowpea technologies. He reminded the team that Tropical Legumes project is a ten-year vision
currently in its eighth year and there is need for ex-post assessment of the success achieved and project the future of legumes when the project ends in 2019. There is a need to plan on how to attract youth to replace the ageing generation of farmers. The way farming should be practiced must reflect the changing environment to encourage more youth to join agriculture, he said.
Underlining the importance of efficient data management and use of Breeding Management System (BMS) discussions were facilitated by Dr Rajeev Varshney, Research Program Director – Genetic Gains, ICRISAT and Principal Investigator, TL III, with NARS partners to finalize the target locations per country and identify the country focal points. It was decided that assessment of existing capacities on data management and BMS of NARS partners will be done and accordingly plans for trainings and implementation of BMS and data management strategy will be developed as follow-up activity.
The workshop was held on 30-31 August and was attended by more than 60 participants from CIAT, IITA, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, ICRISAT and NARS partners from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.