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8 FFU Pilot Research Cooperation Programme (South-driven projects)

8.1 Introduction

The South-driven research projects under the PRCP are seen as a mechanism for making support to research more relevant to Southern partners (see Chapters 2 and 7 for further detail on the background). This chapter documents the findings and conclusions of the Evaluation on the performance of the projects funded under this modality.

8.2 Relevance

The South-driven project concept represents a new approach for Danish funding of joint development research among South and North researchers. The calls have required that the project proposals are developed in the context of southern priorities in the context of Danish strategic development priority areas. This, by definition, means that all projects fulfil the relevance criteria from both the Danish and Southern perspective.

In Tanzania, for example, although there was no explicit research strategy document, research activities were guided by two documents[64] ensuring broad relevance.

However, while the Evaluation finds it reasonable to link the South-driven research project themes to identified knowledge gaps and needs in the South, it seems much less relevant to require that the South-driven research projects should also reflect Danish strategic priorities[65].

During the country-visit to Tanzania, the Evaluation assessed the relevance of the five Tanzanian South-driven research projects, implemented at SUA (four projects) and Mzumbe University (one project) in terms of their relevance to the Southern partner institution. In all five cases it was found that the South-driven research projects were of high relevance and provided value-addition to key research areas in their respective institutions.

The South-driven research project modality also responds to the principles set forth in the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. The modality has a strong focus on ensuring Southern ownership both in terms of development of the project concept as well as in relation to the process of selecting Danish project partner(s). All South-driven research projects in Tanzania, clearly come from a Southern demand.

Alignment of institutional procedures and regulations of Southern institutions with those required by Danida has caused some difficulties, for example in relation to financial management and reporting, and this initially created some tensions between the Southern institutions and the DFC. Most of these issues have been resolved as understanding of the modality increased and the mechanisms of the modality evolved and developed.

In some of the South-driven research projects the Southern partners found that the training in Denmark based on state of the art equipment was not sufficiently tailored to reflect local capacities and conditions. Although it was an interesting experience for the PhD students from the South in these cases to get access to high-tech Danish equipment, opportunities to use these new skills in their own institutions was very limited, which made the technology input appear less relevant.

8.3 Effectiveness

Concept Note and Proposal preparation

The South-driven research projects have demonstrated a high degree of Southern ownership. For four of the five Tanzanian projects, the original project idea and Concept Note has been developed by the Tanzanian researcher in the fifth case, the project idea and Concept Note were a consequence of discussions between Danish and Tanzanian researchers who were already implementing an FFU project together. Although Concept Notes have been prepared by Tanzanian researchers, the Danish partners have all played an active role in converting the concept notes into project proposals, involving close cooperation and interaction with the Tanzanian researchers without fundamentally changing the original project idea. This approach has also built a strong sense of team ownership.

The quality of Concept Notes and subsequent project proposals, submitted to DFC, has often failed to meet the requirements and a number of the notes and proposals have been rejected. This reflects a mismatch between expectations on the Danish side to the proposal writing capacity of the Southern researchers, who have overall responsibility for submitting these documents. The BSU initiative includes activities on proposal writing for PhD students and researchers and Southern partner universities which provides potential for synergy between the two modalities.

There is a wider issue here linked to change management support where a new initiative assumed that capacity existed and that all that was necessary for success was to announce the new modality. Some kind of capacity needs assessment in the context of the switch in emphasis to South-driven projects, linked to training to address constraints, may have reduced this failure rate and improved quality.

Calls for expression of interest

The mechanism used for advertising the calls for the South-driven research projects has not been effective at reaching a wide audience of relevant researchers in Tanzania (see Table 3). Many researchers with potential for engaging in the process who were met by the Evaluation, even within SUA and UDSM, were not aware of the South-driven research project modality. Indications were that those who received information did so more by luck than through any systematic approach.

The interest among Danish researchers to respond to the open calls for expression of interest for the South-driven research projects has been limited. For the five successful South-driven research projects in Tanzania between one and three Danish institutions showed interest in participating. The main reasons for the low response is said, by them, to be a combination of low incentives, limited ability to control the quality of the research in the project, lack of influence in the selection of PhDs at the Southern institutions and no previous working relations between the Danish and Southern partner researchers.

The nature of research tends to be more downstream and offer fewer opportunities for publication in high-quality journals and there were suggestions that the lack of students registered at Danish universities also reduces the financial and performance incentives, from a Danish perspective.

There are, however, good examples of how the South-driven research project modality has created new partnerships and links between Danish and South researchers. It was very evident from the interviews with project partners in Denmark and Tanzania that the modality has been mutually beneficial and encouraged continued cooperation between the project partners. In the case of the Tanzanian South-driven research projects, four out of the five established South-North South-driven research project partnerships did not exist previously. Where projects have been approved and implemented, satis faction amongst stakeholders is high.

Broader context of PRCP modality in research

Although the South-driven research project modality represents a new approach for Danish funding of joint research initiatives between Danish and Southern researchers, the modality still contains some of the inherent weaknesses that were identified for the FFU North-driven project modality (see Chapter 7). These include the fact that:

  • Project designs and presentation are generally weak at presenting a clear overview of project activities, outputs and outcomes and the interaction between them.

  • The success of the projects (according to the project documents) is mainly judged on completion of project activities and delivery of products (PhD and MSc degrees and publications) and not on outcomes (changes in behaviour).

  • Time frames are usually unrealistic, mostly due to the time needed for the PhD recruitment and processing procedures, and almost all projects are requesting no-cost extensions of the project period.

  • There is an inherent tension between Danish researchers’ academic ambitions which value published articles in high ranked international journals and the Southern researchers focus on the applied research within a national/local context.

The role and influence of Danish researchers in the selection of PhD and MSc candidates at the Southern institutions has generally been limited and most of the Danish researchers have found the selection processes to be insufficiently transparent and participatory. Although in one instance, Southern researchers adopted an unconventional approach to MSc awards which doubled the number of candidates involved[66].

The calls for the PhD positions have generally been open and announced outside the home institution in the South, although the majority of the positions have ended up being filled in by existing staff members in those institutions. Although this may be seen as an advantage in terms of developing internal staff capacities at the Southern institutions, there are indications that the selection process has in some cases also served as an internal reward system.

8.4 Efficiency

Resource allocation

Time and resources have been allocated specifically for Southern researchers to come to Denmark and personally meet and interview Danish researchers who have shown interest in becoming project partners, allowing them to make a choice of partners based on personal interaction. This process has created a strong element of Southern ownership in the projects.

The majority of researchers interviewed, from both Denmark and the South, emphasised the importance and need for allowing sufficient time at an early stage in the project cycle for getting to know each other. This ensured a common understanding of the major aspects of the project development, including budget and resource allocation and the technical issues. This initial investment is considered by the partners to be of key importance for subsequent successful project implementation.

The control and responsibility for funding in the South-driven research projects was appreciated by the Tanzanian researchers. However, they also indicated that the administrative work approving Danish requests and funding was burdensome. This view is supported by DFC, where it has been noted that the administration of the South-driven research projects has required substantially more work and follow-up than in case of the FFU North-driven projects.

The average administrative cost level for the South-driven research projects however, at just below 15%, is slightly lower than that of the North-driven FFU projects, reflecting higher overhead costs for the Danish research institutions.

Capacity and communication

As in the case of the proposal writing (see above), the need to strengthen administrative capacity is addressed within the BSU work plan, providing another potential for generating of synergies between these two modalities.

In Tanzania, the South-driven research project modality has included a yearly meeting between all Danish and Tanzanian South-driven research project partners and with participation of the Tanzanian Government and the Danish embassy. This yearly event has been an effective mechanism for disseminating of project information and has been important for developing of synergies and relevant interaction across some of the South-driven research projects.

All the South-driven research project partners interviewed in Denmark and South rated the working relations and cooperation as highly positive, a fact also borne out by the eSurvey. The Southern researchers appreciated the role and participation of the Danish researchers and there was a feeling of strong engagement and commitment to the projects from both sides.

8.5 Impact/Sustainability

New and extended partnerships established under the South-driven research project have developed into enhanced collaborative relationships and attracted additional external funding; four examples[67] are given in Box 1.

Box 1 Examples of Positive outcomes from South-driven projects in Tanzania

The Development of Enterprise in Solar Drying of Fruits and Vegetables for Employment Creation Project (Project P9-08-TAN) implemented with Danish funding has been a catalyst for attracting additional funding from the World Bank, Norad and DFID. The recently started Sokoine University Graduate Entrepreneurs Cooperative (SUGECO) is also a product of the project.

Two other projects, the Rural-Urban Complementarities for the Reduction of Poverty and Identifying the Contribution of Savings and Credit Facilities and Productivity, Market Assess and Incomes for Small farming businesses through Contracts which were partnerships with the new Danish partners that have allowed the Southern partner to be enrolled in other funding applications and partnerships with EU and DFID funding as a consequence of networking through the Danish partner (P11-09-TAN).

In the Opportunities and challenges in peri-urban livestock farming in Tanzania Project (P6-08-TAN), Danish funding is considered key to establishing baselines and basic research required to create foci for subsequent funds application to USAID and UN Health.

The Monitoring the Environment of Mount Kilimanjaro region and its association with Climatic Changes Project (P10-08-TAN) although still seeking additional external funding for continued running of the monitoring stations has received substantial international interest as well as nationally through the Tanzanian Science Commission.

The experience from the South-driven research projects implemented within the evaluation period shows that one of the benefits from them is that they have the potential to create impact through addressing Southern priorities directly. Some outcomes are already showing a positive impact (see Box 1). Examples include encouragement of young entrepreneurs who have graduated at SUA to start their own businesses and generate income from market sales of their products and the establishment of the first Tanzanian controlled meteorological station on Kilimanjaro. In this latter case, the station is generating increased exposure to the international community because of Kilimanjaro’s significance to global climate change monitoring.

8.6 Conclusions

The South-driven research project modality represents a new and relevant approach, which creates strong ownership in the South, with positive outcomes and new partnerships. It addresses issues linked to ownership and relevance as part of Danida’s current approach to development research and aligns with the Paris Declaration on Aid Effectiveness. Some issues linked to coherence of administrative systems still need to be addressed but there is potential for doing this through other funding modalities such as the current BSU approach (see Chapter 9).

By being more responsive to Southern demands, and better reflecting national priorities and issues, the South-driven research project modality has created potential for leveraging additional funding and for generating impact through changes in behaviour. At the same time it has sparked new partnerships and opened up the possibilities of wider collaboration between Danish and Southern institutions.

Although the modality has many positive features it remains somewhat trapped within the same research framework as the FFU projects, with similar shortcomings (see Chapter 7). There is an additional problem that many (but not all) Danish researchers feel that incentives to engage are insufficient.

[64] Tanzania Agricultural and Livestock policy of 1997 (pp. 13-15) and Tanzania Agricultural Sector Development Strategy (pp. 31-32 or Section 6.1)

[65] This requirement has been abandoned in the latest call for proposals in 2013.

[66] On one project, there was an innovative selection of MSc candidates by the Southern university, where individuals were selected from those who had already self-funded for one year (and therefore showed commitment) and the project was thus able to double the number of MSc that it supported. This was marked as a change in the project report to DFC but not queried.

[67] Further project information is available through the Danida Research Portal at using the title or project number.

This page forms part of the publication 'Evaluation of Danida supported Research on Agriculture and Natural Resource Management 2006-2011' as chapter 11 of 16
Version 1.0. 09-09-2013
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