Olu Ajayi, CTA Senior Programme Coordinator ARD Policy, discusses implementing climate-smart solutions for farmers in Southern Africa
Implementing partners have met over two days to kick off the flagship project, what did this meeting conclude?
We agreed this is a development project which aims to address climate change and the problems farmers are experiencing with climate change on the ground. We have convened the people who will be implementing this project in the three project countries which are Zambia, Malawi and Zimbabwe. Firstly, we found that for the sound implementation of this project, there is a need for clarity of the roles and responsibilities of the partners. Secondly, it is expected that for us to be able to give concrete information about the project, especially the performance and the impact it has made, we need a sound evidence baseline. For example, we should be able to answer questions like, "Has this project benefited farmers at all?" If so, in what ways has this project benefited them, where are the indicators, where is the evidence? We need a sound monitoring and evaluation baseline system. Thirdly, we had to ensure that the partners are aware of the financial and administrative procedures so that as they implement this project, they are clear about what is expected of them. Even though some of the activities will be done in country, we have managed to get our Senior Finance Officer from the Netherlands, who spoke via Skype, to explain the financial issues and allow the partners to ask questions.
Partners presented country project plans, share with us in a nutshell what these plans involve?
Basically the partners have come with strategies and methods to scale up and make sure we take the four solutions identified under the project to farmers in their respective countries. They have come up with strategies and activities they will carry out to ensure farmers have access to stress-tolerant germplasm, that farmers have access to weather information services so they make informed decisions at the right time and they have come up with strategies and activities on how farmers can have access to weather-based crop insurance and also how farmers can diversify livelihood options through livestock management.
Are you convinced the partners understood what is expected of them in implementing the project, were any particular concerns raised?
Yes. At this point the partners are quite convinced and because we asked them to give presentations of their plans. We had peer reviews and others made suggestions. On the basis of this, there were some exciting innovations some partners were presenting from their countries which were found to be quite useful for others. Some of them have told me they will tweak their proposal and ensure that some of those innovations they found useful could be incorporated in their plans. Partners are leaving the meeting to start their implementation of the project. They will be starting with a market campaign for some of the projects. They are doing farm registration, digital registration of farmers and getting the GPS location of the farmers so that weather data can be sent directly to farmers in such a way that is relevant and appropriately disseminated to the geo- referenced location of the farmers. The insurance people are also designing the weather index because that is key. We are excited and farmers are happy.
We are doing a project that is very relevant. It is addressing the topical issues and challenges that real farmers face.
You mention innovations, any that made an impression on you?
There is the use of satellite and mobile phones to selectively give information to farmers to use ICTs, that is, the mobile phones that farmers have to access information. We have the Dial-A-Mudhumeni innovation in Zimbabwe. That is fantastic where farmers can take their mobile phones and call a number toll free to ask any question that is specific to agriculture. Another innovation is where farmers just pay 25 cents a month and can have access to insurance coverage.
All said and done, so what's next?
Interesting. What's next is that now we have agreed on the fundamentals of the project. Partners are going ahead to fine tune their plans and are expected to submit the final versions of their proposals to us by early next week. Thereafter, the contractual aspects of the project will be finished and then we start implementation in the field.
How do you feel?
I feel relieved, I feel excited that at least something is making an impact. All these years I have wanted to move from just talking about the challenge of climate change - we have heard that over and over - to how we can help provide solutions by working with farmers, farmers' organisations and the private sector.
The agriculture sector in Malawi is unfortunately suffering from very low productivity levels and is basically rain fed. It is also largely a monoculture system with a dominance of maize (food crop) and tobacco (cash crop).