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History of the Desert Margins Program 1993-2002

How it all began

The roots of the DMP trace back to 1993, when the United Nations' Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Desertification (INCD) invited the CGIAR to participate in the elaboration of the Convention the Desertification Convention (CCD). The CGIAR nominated ICRISAT as its representative, and it was accredited as an Intergovernmental Organization. ICRISAT participated the INCD sessions held in Geneva (13-24 September 1993), New York City (17-28 January 1994), and Paris (6-17 June 1994) and continues to participate in the CCD process today.

The CGIAR launches a Desert Margins Initiative

Formalizing this interest, in 1994 the CGIAR System approved a Systemwide Ecoregional Initiative oriented towards the desert margins, convened by ICRISAT, and provided seed funding for coordination. Dr. M.V.K. Sivakumar was designated to coordinate this Desert Margins Initiative (DMI) in its initial months. Dr. James G. Ryan, ICRISAT's Director General was a driving force in support of the DMI. In 1995, Dr. Francois Lompo from Burkina Faso served as interim coordinator while a permanent recruitment process moved forward.

An International Planning Workshop was convened for the newborn DMI in Nairobi in January 1995. An Interim Steering Committee (InSc) comprised of CGIAR Centers, national agricultural research institutes, and regional organizations was created. The main task of the InSC was to prepare a detailed strategy and plan to attract support from development investors; foster stakeholder dialogue; and implement consultations among countries and institutions. The first meeting of the InSC took place in June 1995 at ICRISAT's Sahelian Center near Niamey, Niger.

In January 1996, Dr. Saidou Koala, Senior Program Officer, IDRC Canada was recruited to become the permanent Coordinator of DMI.

From DMI to DMP

In March 1997 the fourth InSC meeting was held at ICRISAT Sahelian Center. The InSC endorsed a change in name to The Desert Margins Program, reflecting the transition from an organizational stage into an active research-for-development agenda. This transition was endorsed in response to solid support from development investors. That year about $800,000 in funding was secured from the Ecoregional Fund, IDRC (Canada), the International Service for National Agricultural Research (ISNAR), the Government of Norway, the World Bank and the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The leadership of Dr. Saidou Koala (ICRISAT), Dr. Timo Maukonen (UNEP Nairobi) and Dr. Anna Tengberg (UNEP Nairobi) in attracting these investments was crucial to the success of the fledgling DMP.

GEF/UNEP Phase I support

In November, 2002 the DMP members met in Nairobi to launch a major new expansion made possible by a large grant from the Global Environment Fund (GEF) through the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), along with matching contributions from member countries and partner institutions. This elevated the DMP to a whole new level. Major advances in the sustainable development of Africas' drylands are expected in the coming years.

See About Us for an overview of today's Desert Margins Program.

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