In most countries in West Africa the majority of the population depends on rainfed agriculture. Technologies exist to increase productivity, but a combination of political insecurity, failing infrastructure and inadequate development of civil society have hampered the transfer of knowledge to poor farmers. For similar reasons, private sector service providers do not reach many remote, rural areas. In addition, labour migration leaves women as the principal farmers in many areas and they are often discriminated against in other sectors such as health and education.
Recent efforts to reform public sector research and extension services in West Africa, have been slow and only partly successful. Reform in (government organisations) GOs to include participatory problem-driven approaches have considered the scope for partnership between RRIs (Regional Research Institutions), GOs, NGOs and where possible and appropriate, farmers' organisations (FOs). It is claimed that Multi-Agency Partnerships (MAPs) such as these can reorient GOs by making demands on them and complementing their technical skills with those of NGOs in participatory needs assessment, screening of technical options, group formation and promotion of joint action. In the light of the increased emphasis on strengthening civil society, the climate is opportune for extending and expanding such partnerships.
The project has two elements:
- research towards recommendations on the modalities of multi-agency partnerships in promoting technical change in West African agriculture.
- the dissemination of this information through a programme of workshops, visits, Best Practice guidelines and a handbook in English and French.