Facing us were two important issues that needed to be addressed. One had to do with coverage, both geographical and thematic. The other related to the CTA image and the message we put out through various activities. There is some confusion, in some quarters, between what people think we do and what we actually do, and it needs to be clarified.
In spite of many years of trying, and stemming partly from a 2-year limit on programmes, CTA has a tendency to concentrate on the same set of ACP countries for a little too long. Neglected countries seldom get a look in during that time, but hover instead on the periphery, waiting to be noticed. This applies not only to the more difficult regions by which I mean the Caribbean and the Pacific, being made up as they are of many small island nations but also to the four regions of Africa.
We tried in 2003 to pay closer attention to those countries that appear to have been overlooked and to see what mechanisms we might put in place to ensure that they are brought into the regular orbit of CTAs work as a matter of routine. We approached partner organisations (to date, in the Pacific and in some non-anglophone ACP countries in Africa and the Caribbean) that might be able to recommend bodies with an appropriate mandate.
We also approached institutions that have a more even coverage of the countries we should be covering in any one region. In the Caribbean, for example, where even within the region itself there is a tendency to focus attention on the richer, better-known countries, CTAs work
has tended to concentrate on members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) overwhelmingly, the anglophone countries of the region, although CARICOM now includes Suriname (Dutch speaking) and will eventually take in Hati (French speaking). We work mainly through the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI), which adequately covers the CARICOM countries and is working with the CARICOM Secretariat to fully incorporate Suriname and Hati. But other countries remain outside this essentially anglophone club, such as the Dominican Republic (Spanish speaking), one of the largest countries in the region. So we approached an agency which has the capacity to cover these countries the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA).
The approach has yielded fruit. A good example relates to our work on facilitating the establishment and operation of a regional agricultural policy network for the Caribbean. Not only was the workshop to discuss this issue held in Suriname, but Suriname participated fully at the most senior level and also offered to host the hub for the proposed network. In a similar vein, we have planned a series of meetings in the Dominican Republic. Hati is proving more difficult, but we are making progress there, attributable directly to our new association with IICA. Other regional entities we shall approach to ensure good geographical coverage include the Inter-American Development Bank, which covers all ACP countries in the region, has appropriate analytical and financial capacities and has exhibited an interest in networking; it was instrumental, for example in the establishment of the Caribbean Agricultural Science and Technology Network System (PROCICARIBE). The work with such institutions will be based to a large extent on what they can offer, technically and financially, that CTA and CARDI cannot. The same approach is being used for some African countries.
In the Pacific, we have approached bilateral and multilateral agencies to see what we could do there along similar lines, in this case linking up with Australian agencies and the World Bank. There is much still to be done on that front, and we hope our efforts there will be as fruitful as our collaboration with agencies serving the Caribbean is proving to be.
The Centre has identified a number of priority themes which need to be addressed if we are
to make a significant contribution to ACP development themes such as poverty alleviation, agro-industrial diversification, plant biotechnology and on-farm innovation. In the context of poverty alleviation, we are being drawn into a wide range of approaches requiring knowledge and expertise in many disciplines in order to address the challenges posed; an example is the emerging interest in the livelihoods approach to sustainable development. In this area as in others, we are drawing on the broader skills we now have among CTA staff, as well as seeking collaborators at the regional, bilateral or multilateral levels who bring the skills that will help CTA cover these themes.
In dealing with the question of agro-industrial diversification, we have found that ACP countries are tired of being told to diversify out of monoculture or out of a particular crop they have long grown successfully, and are tired of listening to and often agreeing with all the reasons why this would be a good idea and then finding that this is where the discussion usually ends. No one identifies a viable alternative, or provides assistance in developing an alternative. CTA does not want to fall into this trap. Thus, we are collaborating closely with several partners within the context of the Cotonou Agreement, and here there is no closer partner than the Centre for the Development of Enterprise (CDE). It is CDE to whom we have turned to address the theme of agro-industrial diversification.
Together, we are working on developing markets for herbal and pharmaceutical products, to strengthen the many industries already established in this sector. CDE brings an ability both to identify potential private sector partners and to fund the feasibility studies necessary to take diversification efforts a step forward. It also brings a technical capacity, as does another agency we are working with in this sector the Commonwealth Secretariat whose expertise lies, inter alia, in the area of global rules and regulations relating to pharmaceutical products.
Similar challenges face CTA in the area of plant biotechnology, genetically modified organisms
(GMOs), transgenics and the need to examine the global governance of these issues. In our efforts to address the problems facing ACP countries in this area, we have been working with the German agency for development, Gesellschaft fr Technische Zusammenarbeit
(GTZ), to raise awareness among journalists of the issues involved. The debate, in the South as much as in the North, needs to be better informed, better managed and placed in its proper context and journalists have an important role to play here. For our part, we are developing a science and technology (S&T) portal (Knowledge for Development) to contribute to the biotechnology debate and other S&T issues, and are identifying other agencies we could work with that have the capacity to host debates that would be of interest to ACP countries in relation to these areas.
In the area of on-farm innovation our aim is to facilitate innovation systems in ACP countries. Among the key institutions with whom we are collaborating here is the University of Maastricht. The University has the capacity and experience to conduct analyses of ACP policies and systems which affect agricultural innovation. In building our S&T portal, we have sought the assistance of the University and other agencies whose skills complement our own. The University will also be able to help us in our efforts to enhance the capacity of national agricultural systems to facilitate innovations at farm level. The implications of the research conducted in this area are still being drawn out. We will need partners such as the University of Maastricht, with whom we had kicked off this subject and who are at the forefront of this area, to draw the appropriate lessons upon which we can act.
Relating to both innovation and diversification, we were approached in 2003 for assistance in addressing the marketing problems facing East African banana producers. From our studies we concluded that the most effective way we could help was to look at how to diversify the use of the plant itself, rather than at the production of alternative crops. We turned to the International Network for the Improvement of Bananas and Plantains (INIBAP). Working with INIBAP and local and regional agencies involved in banana production, and bringing in Asian experiences in banana processing, we are looking at ways of applying these experiences to East Africa. Alternative uses of bananas could enhance their value to farmers and support the diversification of the regions banana sector and all this, of course, would be of interest to other banana-producing regions facing international marketing problems.
The CTA message
It has become something of a standing joke that most people who introduce CTA speakers at meetings and other events eventually come to grief when trying to elaborate upon the abbreviation CTA. There are three letters in the abbreviation but seven words in the name?And they suddenly realise that they dont know what the link is between the three letters and the seven words. And then, for English speakers, there is the added problem of the meaning of the word cooperation and the term technical centre, giving rise to perceptions of CTA as a place populated by white-coated laboratory workers pooling their resources within some cooperative arrangement. To borrow from the title of a film currently on the circuit, what CTA stands for and what it does has somehow, somewhere, got lost in translation. And this explains, partly, why people are not always clear about what the Centre does. Obviously, the situation needs to be tackled.
I think, too, that the problem stems to some extent from the fact that CTA is an institution focusing on information and communication, and that all information-focused institutions have a problem explaining what it is that they do. We had an experience recently where we asked a consultant to prepare a paper
on CTA; the paper, when completed, caused some alarm. In attempting to classify what we do based on subject areas, an unwieldy and unlimited range of topics and approaches were produced, covering not only the usual range of agricultural subjects from desertification to sustainable management to organic products to aquaculture but a plethora of subjects linked in some way to the field of agricultural information, such as gender, ICTs, radio, youth and electronic publishing. Viewed from this angle, it was a confusing mass.
So in 2003 we took a step back and started examining the problem. We wanted to see how best CTAs activities might be projected to our partners, to the political directorate to whom we are responsible and to those elements of civil society, North and South, likely to be interested in what we do. We hope to deliver the fruits of our deliberations in 2004.
It also seems that part of the confusion about our work stems from the limited capacity, both organisational and financial, of our ACP partners to project themselves, let alone project their collaborative activities with CTA. We looked at our traditional regional partners in the Caribbean and the Pacific CARDI and the Institute for Research, Extension and Training in Agriculture (IRETA), respectively and saw that they needed some additional support to ensure that CTA documents that enhance our profile are available more evenly throughout their regions and that activities they are implementing with CTA are more widely publicised. The analysis took place in 2003; in 2004 we intend to start applying the remedies.
Ongoing work and new horizons
In response to a meeting with our national and regional partners in 2002 and in recognition of continuing problems with our accounting and project management systems, and the interface between the two, we reviewed both systems. With the accounting system, we sought to address the concerns raised and make the interface between accounting and project management a smoother one. With the project management system, the software installed some years ago when the system was computerised was not living up to expectations.
Two of the people recruited in 2003 in accounts and information technology (IT) devoted much of the year to overhauling these systems and, by the end of year, both systems were in a far healthier state. The 2002 audit, for example, was completed in good time.
We also accelerated the process begun in 2002 to integrate traditional and new information and communication technologies (ICTs) into our work and our collaborative activities with partners. Our collaboration with WorldSpace resulted in satellite broadcasts of our flagship magazine, Spore; this marriage of print with satellite and electronic formats enables us to reach a wider Spore audience, with many people formerly unable to obtain printed copies of the magazine now able to do so through the satellite broadcasts.
The 2003 meeting of the CTA Observatory on ICTs focused on extension (see p. 50). Again, we worked with several partners to organise the event. With the collapse of extension services in most ACP countries, and very often nothing being put in their place, the meeting examined ways in which services could be strengthened using ICTs to deliver information to farmers, among farmers, and from farmers to other stakeholders.
In keeping with our commitment to facilitate the agricultural policy process in ACP regions, we continued to devote attention to issues arising in agricultural trade negotiations at international level. Thus, at the level of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), we looked at a range of issues arising at Cancn in relation to ACP needs. One issue deserves special mention. CTA chose to lend its support to ACP cotton producers, who face a problem widely acknowledged as unjust and a reflection of the asymmetry of power between North and South. ACP cotton producers tend to be weak in terms of their organisational capacity and their numbers are small, giving them a fairly insignificant voice. With Solagral, we undertook several initiatives in this regard from raising awareness internationally about the problem, to organising a pre-Cancn debate on approaches to the problem and providing logistic support on the information front during the course of the summit.
Meanwhile, as the ACP-EU negotiations on the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) began to move towards regional level, CTA worked with several partners to provide assistance with regard to specific commodities. The most prominent of these, perhaps, was fisheries, where we organised a seminar with the Commonwealth Secretariat to identify a core set of issues ACP countries might wish to raise in their negotiations with the EU. Similar work was undertaken in response to a meeting in Fiji for assistance to those in the sugar industry who are preparing positions in anticipation of the EU proposals on this front; the reports will be produced in 2004. A report was also produced on the tuna trade in preparation for ACP-EU discussions.
In the context of ACP-EU trade we also addressed the burning issue of sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) measures. Studies were conducted on existing SPS regulations and the impact of their application by the EU
on ACP countries, looking both at the agricultural issues and the legal issues in terms of the definition of certain categories of regulations.
Overall, we can look back on 2003 as the year in which CTA truly began to move from backstage to centre stage, from a position of low-profile information support for ACP development to one where its geographical coverage is wider, its thematic coverage more balanced, its profile higher and its ability to play a pro-active role in development initiatives greatly enhanced by newly acquired skills and expertise within CTA itself and by the experience and capacity of the organisations with which we have formed new partnerships.
Carl B. Greenidge Director, CTA