On occasion the Belgium Embassy in Kigali, Rwanda hosts networking events for partners and citizens. On Wednesday 3 May, CIALCA was invited to present our activities and plans to private sector organizations interested in agriculture and agricultural research for development. It was an opportunity for CIALCA to prepare for a review of private and public sector organizations and initiatives with Belgian ties and to assess their knowledge and research needs.
After an informative presentation, participants were asked to structure their comments and discussion around the following questions: (1) Where can CIALCA/CGIAR play a complementary role? (2) Which elements of CIALCA’s research resonate with you? (3) Which researchable questions do you have? . The response was enthusiastic, with a number of salient comments and food for thought. One participant highlighted the need for proper impact assessment, particularly ‘research conducted independently and objectively”. The same participant also stressed insufficient reliable statistical and real-time data such as production and yield data needed to help them make accurate projections and business decisions. Linked to this is lack of understanding about what causes the often large gaps between expected and actual yields.
Another participant said: “I am very glad to see that you also conduct not only technology development research but also social science research because we have questions about aspects of working with farmers: such as understanding farmers’ mindsets and motivations to act in certain ways for example side selling, unsustainable agricultural practices, and delivery of low quality produce”
Other researchable questions suggested were about the irregular supply of agricultural feedstock which obstructs export for private sector. How can supply and demand be matched and stabilized? How can we increase farmers’ product quality so that it meets contractual obligations? One participant shared their experience of needing to start primary productions themselves after failing to obtain the required produce quality from smallholder farmers.
Availability of high quality seeds was also raised as a major challenge. One company indicated that they have been unable to obtain rice varieties adapted to specific climatic conditions.
The evening was characterised by the revealing and dynamic exchange. CIALCA is pleased to see that there are so many areas in which research could contribute, and that there appears to be enormous untapped potential for collaboration with new partners. Some of the issues raised lie outside the current scope of CIALCA’s research mandate. but there is ample opportunity for bringing in expertise from other CGIAR centers in the region and beyond.
In the coming days, an online survey will be sent to the participants and organizations which could not make it to the event. The questionnaire will be short and precise, but will allow CIALCA and the Embassy of Belgium in Rwanda to learn more about individual organizations’ challenges. Promising avenues for collaboration will be followed up.
by Solange Zawadi and Marc Schut