11 Conclusions and Recommendations
The Evaluation acknowledges that Danida has, or is, already addressing many of the issues, both strategically and operationally, identified in this Evaluation, one consequence of covering an historic period. For example, the development of a new strategy for development research has started and operational issues for project-based FFU and BSU initiatives are being addressed.
The following evidence-based conclusions and recommendations should be taken in this context, and are intended to provide support and guidance to the process.
11.2 Strategic Level Conclusions
Paradigms for agricultural and NRM research
A significant part of the Evaluation’s purpose has been to look forward to the development of Danida’s new strategy for development research. In this context, and before such a strategy is developed, it is worth considering the current research paradigm under which the FFU North-driven, and to a certain extent the South-driven, projects are operating. As described above (Chapter 7) the focus of the current paradigm is a North-driven, thematically-organised, academically-focussed linear model involving, for the large part, university-based research in Denmark and the South. Current development thinking has moved away from this approach to a more holistic view based on a broad-base of stakeholders, value chains and wider consideration of policy environments.
Similarly capacity strengthening under the BSU also needs to be reconsidered, and the appropriateness of the current model reviewed on the basis of the findings and conclusions of this Evaluation (Chapter 9).
The most appropriate research paradigm and approach to capacity strengthening will depend on the strategy which Danida adopts. One option is provided by a research paradigm widely used throughout Africa and summarised as a Case Study in Box 7. This approach is equally applicable to situations outside Africa, where the same need exists for a strong agricultural sector which can drive economic growth.
The extent to which cross-cutting issues have been dealt with between 2006 and 2011 is mixed. Some have received priority treatment (climate change, environment) others have been less obviously considered (gender, youth). The current Strategy for Denmark’s Development Cooperationidentifies quite clearly several key priorities which cut across sectors and which influence and effect support to research in agriculture and NRM. Of these green growth, stabilityand issues linked to the human-rights based approachare perhaps the most clearly relevant and should be integrated into the new paradigm and Strategy.
Planning, implementation and M&E
It is clear from the evidence that one of the most significant features (which is in the process of being addressed) influencing the weaknesses identified during the evaluation period has been the lack of a clearly articulated strategy and plan. This could have formed the basis for the implementation and management of the funding modalities and could have linked and supported coherence of the various projectised activities, providing a basis for monitoring and evaluation.
Box 7 Case Study – Support to sub-regional agricultural research (East and West Africa)
Agricultural research in Sub-Saharan Africa is covered by the CAADP and FAAP policy and framework documents, with a focus on NARS rather than just universities. At a Pan African level this is coordinated by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) and at sub-regional level by three organisations (SRO) the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in East and Central Africa (ASARECA), Conseil Ouest et Centre Africain pour la Recherché et le Développement Agricoles/West and Central Africa Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD) and Centre for Coordination of Agricultural Research and Development For Southern Africa (CCARDESA) linked to various regional economic communities.
Both ASARECA and CORAF/WECARD have well-developed, logframe-based strategies and operational plans built on CAADP and FAAP principles, and which use a holistic approach to research variously described as integrated agricultural research for development or an agricultural innovation system approach. At the heart of these approaches is a participatory, demand-driven and prioritised paradigm which addresses agricultural systems and value chains and the wide range of constraints which address them including cross-cutting issues such as gender, environment and climate change. Implementation is projectised but built around platforms for the exchange of information and knowledge. Capacity strengthening is a one of nine key FAAP principles, and focuses not only conventional issues but also on improving access and generating empowered stakeholders. Funding is provided by member states and development partners and is either managed through a multi-donor trust fund (DFID, EU, USAID), or by direct payments managed by the SRO (AusAID) itself.
None of the funding modalities (past or present) have, or had, indicators which allowed the assessment of changes or outcomes linked to funding. A loose theory of changeapproach, linked to broad objectives, has been implied butthe Evaluation finds that a causal framework based on a logframe approach (LFA) would provide a number of clear and distinct advantages not only for monitoring and evaluation but also for planning, implementation, communication and coordination.
In the context of M&E, monitoring of administrative compliance has been done by DFC, and although there are gaps and inconsistencies in the reports available, generally this has worked well. There is, however, no mechanism in place for technical evaluation of research projects due to the lack of baseline data and inconsistency and inappropriate nature of indicators. Even projects pre-2009 with logframes lacked indicators other than those of the numbers of degrees awardedand Workshops held-type, and the quality of the logframes themselves were such that they were of little practical use as monitoring tools.
Clear and coherent planning for interventions is a prerequisite for the success of Danida’s programme of support to research in agriculture and NRM. A LFA at strategic level will make it feasible for a similar, nested results-basedapproach for projects and other development initiatives. This will bring it in line with many other development partners and Southern organisation.
For projects under FFU support the processes for the identification of partner institutes differs between the North- and South-driven modalities. There is no competition for the Southern partners of North-driven research proposals. This is restrictive and in the view of the Evaluation counter-productive if the ultimate aimis to build capacity in the South.
There have been several changes in the modalities and nature of funding during the period under evaluation with limited formal support, consultation and guidance. For new approaches and modalities to succeed, ownership and understanding are critical. Implementation of the Evaluation recommendations will require deliberate management of the change process, if implementation is to succeed.
Whilst not all aspects can be South-driven, there is ample scope for an increase in the base of stakeholders during planning and for support during implementation of changes. Future changes in direction, introduction of new modalities and ideas, introduction of the new Strategy will all need to be accompanied by sensitisation and consultation workshops involving a broad-base of stakeholders.
Currently both the North- and South-driven FFU projects are funded on a project by project basis, with individual researchers in either the North or the South having responsibility for funds, this makes coordination and coherence at the level of organisations, difficult, especially in the South.
There are several options and models for the disbursement of funds to support research and capacity strengthening. Some development partners utilise a basket funding approach through externally managed multi-donor trust funds (DFID, EU, USAID, CIDA), others, including Danida, provide funds at a programme-level to national or sub-regional organisations (Norad, World Bank, AusAID).
From 2006 to 2011, Danida has relied on project funding on an individual researcher basis, with funds channelling through Southern institutional systems for specific activities. The Evaluation has interacted with a number of organisations and administrators, both North and South, and concludes that a more institutional and programme-based approach would be closer to current trends in development assistance.
Currently the key mechanism for capacity strengthening is the BSU initiative (see Chapter 9) and whilst the idea underpinning BSU is sound, operationalisation, at least for the two platforms evaluated (BSUEC and BSUGE), has been flawed. The Evaluation finds a significant shift in its strategic approach should be considered after the current phase has been completed.
In general the implementation of PhD and MSc degrees under the FFU projects has been straightforward and followed well-established processes and procedure; however there are some operational areas with potential for improvements and several stakeholders, through discussions and the SWOT Workshops, expressed reservations about selection processes.
Capacity strengthening is not just about PhD and MSc degrees, and many stakeholders in the South and in Denmark, expressed the view that a broader definition should be adopted, which considered capacity strengthening as an aspect of empowermentwhich includes providing stakeholders with the skills to access and use information, work effectively and efficiently within their institutional systems and interact and respond to wider challenges. These are issues that could be, and to some extent are being, addressed under BSU.
Mechanisms for Communication and Coordination – The interaction and sharing of information across and between modalities and stakeholders has been sub-optimal, although there have been exceptions. There are two main reasons for this, firstly the nature of individual projects largely focussed on research as an end in itself and, secondly, the lack of institutionalised mechanisms which place specific requirements on those implementing projects to share. This needs to be addressed at a strategic and operational level.
Paradigm for Agricultural and NRM Research Recommendation 1. In developing its new Strategy for Development Research, Danida should consider institutionalising a research paradigm which moves away from the current linear model, to one that is holistic, participatory, linked to value chains and largely driven by Southern priorities.
Recommendation 2. As part of its new Strategy for Development Research, Danida should consider including a particular focus on the need for support to strengthening of national institutional frameworks and capacities for planning and coordination of development research within Southern partner countries. This would include support to formulation and implementation of relevant strategies and policies for prioritising and coordinating of research interventions within and across research institutions in the partner countries. Such a focus would benefit from stronger embassy engagement in research activities (see also Recommendation 3).
Mechanisms for Communication and Coordination Recommendation 3.The roles and responsibilities of Danish embassies in relation to planning and implementation of Danida research initiatives should be redefined and institutionalised to become a more useful platform for follow-up and sharing of information as well as for potential application of relevant results from in-country research activities, including in relation to Danish-funded sector support programmes. Specific issues to consider:
3.1 If the potential for a more programme-based approach to development research will be positively considered by Danida in countries with high levels of Danida supported research activity (see also Recommendation 2 and 8) the relevant Danish embassies should become more involved with coordination, follow-up and contact to supported national research institutions to ensure synergy and coherence, including with research activities supported by other Development Partners within the partner countries.
3.2 Annual circulation, by DFC to embassies, of 20-line summaries abstracted from the FFU progress/completion reports and BSU annual project reports.
3.3 Requirement for more systematic briefing of embassies on planned country visits from FFU and BSU project coordinators and staff.
3.4 An annual in-country research event (e.g. workshop or seminar) with participation of representatives from BSU and FFU projects, national governmental institutions, the embassy and possibly other stakeholders as well (e.g. other Development Partners, private sector actors, national research institutes).
Planning, Implementation and M&E for Agriculture and NRM Research Recommendation 4. In the development of its new strategy for development research, Danida should use a Log Frame Approach (LFA) including stakeholder and problem analysis. The development of such a framework should precede the writing or formulation of any strategy.
Recommendation 5.The LFA and Result-based Management (RBM) should be institutionalised within Danida’s modalities for funding development research, and utilised from the strategic level down to projects and other funded activities. It should be used to support and encourage more coherent nesting and linking of activities and funding and used to demonstrate clear causal links between inputs, activities, outputs, outcomes and objectives.
Recommendation 6. Specifically for the institutionalisation of the LFA the change management support (see Recommendation 7) should be provided with adequate resources and include:
6.1 Training and capacity strengthening in LFA and RBM, and the sensitisation of stakeholders to the new Strategy.
6.2 Agreement on clear definitions and instructions on what constitutes an objective, output, outcome and indicator for inclusion in DFC guidelines.
6.3 Technical monitoring and evaluation of research projects against agreed product and outcome-based indicators linked to logframes should be included in Annual (against milestones or intermediate indicators) and Project Completion Reports requiring baselines at project start.
Recommendation 7. The introduction of any new strategies, funding instruments, tools or guidelines should be deliberately managed and institutionalised using change management principles and fully supported with well-resourced integrated workshops, documentation, capacity strengthening and technical support, as appropriate.
Funding of Support to research in Agriculture and NRM Recommendation 8. Where feasible, development research funds should be provided directly to organisations in support of programmes, rather than projects and individuals, in parallel with developing the appropriate institutional capacity to manage them. As an interim step, resources for South-driven FFU projects should continue and be increased by reducing, or merged with, North-driven project support in those countries.
Capacity Strengthening and BSU Recommendation 9. In the short term, the BSU governance structure should be simplified. Specifically the administrative and technical functions of BSUGE and BSUEC platforms should be merged and a common secretariat established that has a communication function linking to the other platforms.
Recommendation 10. A comprehensive, independent, technical review of the whole BSU initiative should be implemented as soon as possible, to inform a decision as to whether it should be continued in its current form. Issues to be considered should include:
10.1 The cost-effectiveness of including the BSU concept as a new capacity development and empowerment modality nested within the Danida development research strategy, technically under FFU and administered by DFC.
10.2 Narrowing the Southern-focus of BSU to permit larger, institution-based inputs at fewer Southern partner universities and reviewing the current group of Southern partner universities to determine whether support should be to smaller, under-resourced universities with greater potential for generating internal change and impact.
10.3 The nature and options for improving incentives and ownership of BSU.
 If, for example, the decision is made by Danida that development research should aim to achieve an increase in the competiveness and productivity of agriculture and agricultural markets which will contribute to expanding the agricultural economy and drive economic growth (see Figure 2), then a fresh look at how research is supported is needed.
 Participation, Non-discrimination, Transparency, Accountability.
 Whilst it is true that Centre contracts did have performance frameworks, indicators were limited to measures of completed activities, such as PhD and MSc awards and meetings held and no evidence that these had been reported against could be found. The same is also true of project indicators, where these exist.
 This type of approach is often labelled Agricultural Innovations Systems (AIS) or IntegratedAgricultural Research for Development(IAR4D).
 The current Southern partner universities are relatively large universities which already receive significant amount of external funding.
This page forms part of the publication 'Evaluation of Danida supported Research on Agriculture and Natural Resource Management 2006-2011' as chapter 14 of 16
Version 1.0. 09-09-2013
Publication may be found at the address http://www.netpublikationer.dk/um/11214/index.htm