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Stage Set for Impact in Dryland Africa

Second DMP Steering Committee identifies innovations most likely to succeed

Steering Committee Participants at Potchefstroom, South AfricaTechnologies are at hand that can markedly improve livelihoods of the African dryland poor while protecting their environment. But carefully-crafted interventions based on broad partnerships are needed if the promise is to become reality. These were the main conclusions of representatives gathered for the DMP's Second Steering Committee Meeting, hosted by North-West University, Potschefstroom, South Africa during 5-7 April 2005.

The group reviewed assessments of local technology, and environmental trendsespecially biodiversitythat were carried out by national research teams during DMP Phase I (2002-2004). This information lays the foundation for achieving impact in Phase II, which began on January 1, 2005.

The promising technologies were grouped by sub-region:

Eastern and Southern Africa

  • More sustainable rangeland and livestock management techniques

  • Methods for rehabilitating degraded rangelands

  • Improved land, nutrient and water management and crop/livestock interactions

Western and Central Africa

  • The planting of Pomme du Sahel and other remunerative trees

  • The small-scale irrigated farming system called the African Market Garden

  • Soil fertility and water management, in particular fertilizer micro-dosing

  • 'Mis en defens' system: the setting aside of certain land areas to allow the regeneration of biodiversity, and land rehabilitation using indigenous species and live fences

Meeting Overview

In opening statements on April 5, Dr. Klaus Kellner of North-West University welcomed the group, who were all impressed by the University's excellent hospitality. Dr. Mohamed Sessay of UNEP, the DMP Implementing Agency told the participants that DMP was a UNEP/GEF flagship project because of its size and importance, and reiterated their strong support.

Dr. Saidou Koala, DMP Global Coordinator gave a broad overview of Phase I results. This was followed by country reports given by the national representatives, and a report on the Coordination Unit's activities.

The second day (April 6) focused on finances/budget, and work plans for Phase II, presented by the sub-regional coordinators Dr. Ramadjita Tabo (West/Central Africa) and Dr. Andre van Rooyen (Eastern/Southern Africa). Dr. Koala then introduced management, coordination, communication, capacity-building and partnership issues for discussion by the Committee.

On the final day (April 7) Dr. Sessay led a discussion on DMP external relations, while Drs. Tabo and van Rooyen led discussions on strategies for achieving impact of the best-bet technologies.

Seventeen experts participated in the meeting, including 13 Steering Committee members and four observers. Steering Committee members include a representative from each of the nine member countries (Burkina Faso could not attend), plus the DMP Global Coordinator, one representative each from UNEP and UNDP, and one from the International Agricultural Research Centers (TSBF-CIAT in this case).

The discussions were lively and far-ranging, reflecting the DMP's broad and ambitious agenda. Some key issues are summarized below.

What was accomplished in Phase I, and what were the shortcomings?

National surveys characterized carefully-chosen benchmark sites for a wide range of agricultural and environmental features that are important to rural livelihoods, especially biodiversity. Technologies presently used by land-users to make their living in sustainable ways were compiled, along with findings from the formal research sector. Best-bets for emphasis in Phase II were identified, as discussed above.

Financial reporting was not sufficient to meet the requirements for the evaluation of Phase I. In Phase II, funds will not be released until the reports reflect the value of the money received. Reports of partner co-funding and expenditure must also be improved. Budgeting processes must be transparent.

Technical support to the DMP member countries from international organizations also needs to be made more systematic and transparent. More international Centers need to be actively involved.

What are the major issues for Phase II?

The success of Phase II (2005-2006) will be judged on its impacts. Many technologies have been identified for helping the drylands in the past, but few have had the expected impact. The challenge facing the DMP now is not only to pick those technologies most likely to succeed; it is also find the right strategies to translate their potential into real impacts that benefit the poor and the environment.

Constraints to impact that must be overcome include:

  • The need for financial credit and incentives so that land users will invest in new technologies

  • The need for supportive government policies

  • The need for coordinated action among a wide set of partner institutions

  • Material inputs (fertilizer, implements etc.) must be available to land users

  • Market outlets are needed so that producers earn a return on their investments

  • Information and knowledge must reach the farm and rural household

  • Biodiversity is a difficult concept to translate into actions that the poor can engage in

  • The need for a longer time frame than two years for achieving full impact in such a difficult zone

  • The need to adapt and customize technologies to a wide range of variability within the zone (e.g. not all areas are equally resilient)

Ways to measure impact were discussed. A plan for monitoring and evaluation should be set into place now so the necessary observations are made and data collected. Impact criteria for complex concepts like biodiversity need to be made clear (indicators and impact targets are listed in the Project Document).

Since there is variability between countries, the impacts in Phase II may differ among countries. The regional coordination should have a dossier of technologies and let each country choose the three that are most likely to make impact.

While agriculture is the DMP's main focus and the main activity of the dryland poor, additional livelihood options could enhance and stabilize incomes e.g. when agriculture is hit by drought. This would also take some pressure off the land when it is most susceptible to damage. Such options are few at present due to the isolation of these areas, but include tourism and care of national parks and other natural resources.


Grass-roots organizations need to be engaged in Phase II. They should also be represented in the National Steering Committees. Agencies that commit resources to the DMP can also join the Global Steering Committee.

Namibia can serve as a model of how to engage broad participation, by learning from its FIRM (Forum for Integrated Resource Management) approach, which unites a wide range of agencies to catalyze impact. The land-care philosophy should be followed, which views sustainable land management as everybody's business. It gets the policy makers and politicians involved, not just the technologists. Key principles for success:

  • Involve the community

  • Use success stories

  • Promote farmer-to-farmer interaction

  • Involve government and extension services

  • Train the stakeholders

  • Engage markets and the private sector.


Training needs should be submitted to the Global Coordination Office by mid-May 2005.

Three training workshops are already planned by TSBF-CIAT/AfNET in collaboration with the Challenge Program on Water and Food-Volta Basin Project led by ICRISAT. Announcements will be sent to all DMP partners:

  • Participatory approach and up-scaling (June 2005)

  • Gender analysis in Uganda

  • DSSAT (Decision Support System for Agrotechnology Transfer) in Ghana will be organized by TSBF-CIAT/AfNET in collaboration with the Challenge Program on Water and Food - Volta Basin Project led by ICRISAT. Announcements will be sent to all DMP partners.

Communications and reporting

The exchange of knowledge among countries should be improved in Phase II. For example, systems such as the African Market Garden, fertilizer micro-dosing and land rehabilitation using indigenous species can benefit all countries when they are shared in detail. Ways to increase knowledge-sharing among DMP member countries were discussed, such as exchange visits, the use of geographical information systems, the new website and newsletter, and better reporting of results.

Reporting expectations and procedures need to be laid out clearly and met in a more timely fashion in Phase II. Standards should be set so that the necessary information is ready when the time comes to roll it up from the country level to the sub-region and then for synthesis across the region. The first 6-monthly progress report for Phase II is due on 1 July 2005. The Phase I characterization studies should be written up clearly and synthesis reports created for the sub-regions and for the entire DMP.

The internet can help DMP improve its sharing of knowledge. Countries should contribute information to the Global Coordination Office to be placed on the website and in the bi-monthly On the Edge newsletter. Email addresses of those who should receive it should also be provided by countries. Hard copies for the newsletter should also be made available to those who need them. A French version would be desirable as well.

In global-level publications, logos of DMP, GEF, ICRISAT and UNEP should be included, and UNEP should review before publishing to ensure there are no legal problems. In national-level publications, GEF and local partners' logos should be included.

Scientific and Technical Advisory Team (STAT)

This team will advise the DMP on technical support from advanced research institutions and international Centers for member countries. Experts are needed in:

  • Biodiversity related to land degradation

  • Natural resource management

  • Soil management

  • Socio-economics

  • Participatory technology and knowledge-sharing

  • Policy issues

  • Gender analysis.

Members should nominate candidates for these roles by mid-May 2005. STAT's membership should be defined by 1 July 2005.

External relations

Important international events that provide DMP the opportunity to raise its profile include:

  • The UNCCD's Conference of the Parties 7 will take place during 17-28 October, 2005 in Nairobi. The DMP will participate. We should begin collecting and preparing public awareness materials now.

  • 2006 is the International Year of the Desert.

Next Steering Committee Meeting

The next DMP Annual Steering Committee meeting will be held in Dakar, Senegal in the second week of February 2006. Exact dates will be fixed later by the Global Coordination Unit in consultation with UNEP.


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