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4 Centres

4.1 Introduction

The two centres covered by the Evaluation, Danish Forest Seed Centre (DFSC) and Danish Seed Health Centre for Developing Countries (DSHC), have a long history and are now part of the University of Copenhagen (see Chapter 2). This chapter documents the finding of the Evaluation as it relates to them and draws conclusions on their performance and contribution to development.

4.2 Relevance

Both centres were established by Danida as part of Danish development assistance to provide research and technical support to developing countries in their respective fields; namely forests, trees and land-use planning (DFSC) and seed health and seed pathology (DSHC).

When they were created the two centres’ activities were coherent with Danida’s policies and strategies, aiming to contribute to poverty alleviation and sustainable development, and bridging the gap between research and development cooperation within the centres’ fields of expertise. The centres also played an important role as service providers to Danida Sector Programme Support and cooperated closely with Danida (UFT).

Through their focus on capacity building and knowledge management, the centres provided an important and internationally recognized contribution to knowledge generation, capacity building and the use of research-based knowledge for development within their respective fields. The centres functioned more as development assistance sources, providing educators and an applied research approach, than as research institutions.

Subsequently however, several factors reduced the relevance of their approach including changing Danida policies[30], changes in the Danish research environment that demanded greater competition[31] and a lack of requests from Danida and Sector Programme Support for their services, as a consequence the support to the centres was phased out from 2011 onwards, as they became integrated into KU-LIFE.

4.3 Effectiveness

The main outputs and activities of the centres, under the performance contracts, have been achieved and many positive results have been reached in regards to capacity building and knowledge management. Capacity building includes research capacity, development of the ability to respond to demand (empowerment), monitoring and evaluation, and capacity for the use of research for development. A summary of accessible data on PhD and publications is presented in Table 9. These data are incomplete, and it is a reflection of the lack of an institutionalised database for output that these figures are not readily available.

The first support to national centres started in the 1990 and this long-term commitment has created strong institutional and personal links and helped build research capacity, in the form PhD, MSc and lower-level training, as well as institutional capacity in the form of infrastructure support and publications.

There is evidence that collaborating research institutions have been strengthened and that the strong personal links with Danish researchers established as a result of the long-term commitment, have been the driving force behind the successful establishment of research projects (including FFU projects). This has made collaborating research institutions stronger when competing for international financial resources, and thus helped make them financial independent.

Table 9 Partial summary of PhD, MSc and publication records for DFSC and SHC
Description Performance 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010
Danish Seed Health Centre
PhD Target 7 9 11 1 0
Actual 9 13 9 4 0
MSc Target 0 5 7 7 5
Actual 2 5 3 7 4
Articles/abstracts published (Only reported as output from 2009 onwards) Target n/a n/a n/a 7 6
Actual n/a n/a n/a 12 16
Danish Forest Seed Centre
PhD* Target n/a n/a 4 4 4
Actual 2 4 4 4 2
MSc** Target n/a n/a 12 12 11
Actual n/a n/a 14 12 12
Articles/abstracts published Target n/a n/a 9 7 7
Actual 2 4 9 17 15

* No targets were set for PhD in 2006 and 2007.
** Annual reports do not report on numbers of MSc.

4.4 Efficiency

The centre modality had a narrow, specialised and technical focus which ensured that all resources used in providing support were carefully targeted. With management costs of approximately 16%, this was a relatively low-cost modality; however, the funding allocation was non-competitive, relying on self-reporting of performance against targets for disbursement from Danida.

The long period of support to the centres (more than 40 years) has provided Danida with a unique database[32]. Geographically the focus of support was broad; the DFSC has been involved in tree seed projects and helped establish national forest seed centres in some 20 countries worldwide[33] and the DSHC has been involved in setting up seed pathology laboratories in 17 countries[34]. This does not appear to have reduced efficiency in terms of supporting and establishing national centres in targeted countries.

4.5 Impact/Sustainability

The performance indicators are based on outputs instead of outcomes which make it difficult to measure impact. There is limited documentary evidence for impact or outcomes on policy or of any strategic influence; however this does not mean that there have been none. Reforestation policy in Thailand and participatory forest management initiatives in Tanzania suggest some influence from this Danida support.

The centres have, through long-term investments and commitments, provided a platform for capacity building which has made the collaborating research institutions stronger when competing for international financial resources, and thus helped make them financially independent and viable. The core funding through the modality also made it possible to test ideas on a small scale, which later developed into FFU projects. Strengthened capacity has also empowered centres to make contributions to strategy and policy development and human and institutional capacity strengthening in a number of countries.

The long-term collaboration, and the creation of strong personal links, has made collaborating researchers better able to compete for international funds and helped make them financial independent.

The sustainability/viability of the national centres varies considerably. Most centres have been integrated into universities or national research institutes, although this has not always happened. For instance the Seed Health Centres in India and Burkina Faso are fully operational and well integrated into research institutions but the future of the Seed Health Centre in Tanzania is more uncertain, with a reduction in both staff and funding.

Most National Forest Seed Centres in Asia, Africa and Latin America (for example in Burkina Faso) are still functioning and there are examples (Nicaragua) where centres have been able to continue as private service providers. At least one national centre (Burkina Faso) has the potential for becoming a regional centre of excellence under World Bank funding and the West African Agricultural Productivity Programme.

4.6 Conclusions – Centres

The Centre approach relied on technical support to develop physical as well as intel lectual capacity. Infrastructure and equipment were provided and the technical skills to utilise it were developed. The modality has, through long-term investments and commitments, provided a strong platform for capacity building which has made the collaborating research institutions stronger when competing for funds. As a mechanism for capacity strengthening in focussed areas the centres were highly effective.

Partnerships between institutions were established which created an enabling environment for the development of individual skills and collaborative links continue to exist between individual researchers in the South and Denmark that enable research initiatives to be developed and implemented.

The whole approach was driven by the skills and interests of Danish centres, and created institutions which were not always absorbed into national systems or able to maintain investment levels, although this is variable.

With the change in Danida’s, and wider, development policy reflecting a more southern and demand-driven agenda[35]and shifts in Danish research policy, the non-competitive funding of standalone activities and creation of infrastructure, such as the centres, is no longer an appropriate mechanism for supporting Southern research capacity. Where institutional strengthening is necessary and appropriate, the approach now is for it to be South-driven and for Danish professionals and support to respond to demand from stakeholders.

The crucial difference between this modality and that of newer approaches such as BSU and the South-driven FFU projects is that, in theory at least, the demand and process is driven by Southern institutions who seek specific skills and inputs to address their own institutional priorities.

[30] Moving from a project to a programme approach, as it is also the case with the BSU, as well as broader policy issues in development including the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness.

[31] A new political agreement in 2008 changed the way universities were covered for incidental expenses, which from 2009 and were treated as an overhead contribution of 35% when grants were obtained from research councils. This rate replaced the previous overhead that was a general rate of 20% plus building overheads of 12.65%. The overhead contribution from 2009 applied to research councils, the Danish National Research Foundation, the Danish National Advanced Technology Foundation, future grants from the globalisation pool and the ministries’ research funding that is subject to competition. To finance this redistribution, cuts were made in the universities’ capital subsidy, basic grants and reorganisation reserve.

[32] At present the DSHChasa database with 48,000 seed samples collected over a 40-years period.

[33] Centres established in Nicaragua, Costa Rica (CATIE), Sudan, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Uganda, Tanzania, Kenya (ICRAF), Nepal, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia.

[34] Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, China, Egypt, Ghana, India, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Nepal, Nigeria, Pakistan, Philippines, Tanzania, Uganda, Vietnam and Zimbabwe.

[35] The Paris Declaration plus the recognition of the importance of sustainable development in terms of human development in which resource use aims to meet human needs while ensuring the sustainability of natural systems and the environment, so that these needs can be met not only in the present, but also for generations to come. Sustainable development is defined as development: that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs.

This page forms part of the publication 'Evaluation of Danida supported Research on Agriculture and Natural Resource Management 2006-2011' as chapter 7 of 16
Version 1.0. 09-09-2013
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