AgriFoSe2030 programme reflections by external advisor Dr. Rita Sharma
As the AgriFoSe2030 programme embarked on the final year of activities, the Communication and Engagement team received the opportunity to speak to one of the external advisors of the steering group, Dr Rita Sharma, about her thoughts of the achievements and future opportunities of the programme.
It has been more than three years since the AgriFoSe2030 programme began to work on its mission to transform agricultural practices in low-income countries towards more efficient use of human, financial and natural resources. Targeting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number 2 the programme works towards increased and secured food production in countries in Southeast and South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
As the programme finalised its first half in 2018, a mid-term review was carried out with the purpose of evaluating the functionality of the Sida-funded programme. Upon receiving valuable feedback on programme structure, achievements and communications strategies, AgriFoSe2030 now has opportunities to adapt strategies and methods. The programme wishes to move forward with increased focus on institutionalising actions in order to achieve long-lasting results.
Trickling down to the field
– While the programme, during the first two years, has had a large focus on input and activity, I see that I, in my role, have the opportunity to steer the project more towards the output, outcome and impact stages. And by bringing the programme into a more development professional domain I think that the communication aspect will also get strengthened. I believe that we now can see those processes trickle down to the actual field,said Dr Rita Sharma of AgriFoSe2030.
Dr Rita Sharma is the external advisor for the AgriFose2030 programme’s steering committee for the Southeast Asia and South Asia regions, and has been a member from the beginning. She has worked in the fields of agricultural development, food security and rural economic development in several governmental and academic roles in India since 1974. With valuable insight into methods of bridging science and practice from her experience in both fields, as well as extensive agricultural knowledge, Dr Sharma brings a lot to the table when the steering committee comes together. AgriFoSe2030 spoke with her in December 2018 about her thoughts on the programme going forward responding to the observations from the mid-term review.
As the programme has moved into its second half, Dr Sharma predicts that the programme strategies and efforts will shift from a research sphere of influence into increased focus on concrete actions in order to create impact on practice and policy levels. Furthermore, she emphasizes the importance of communications in the activities and points out that now is the time to see the fruit of the work accomplished in the first two years of the programme.
Moving beyond the universities
One of the challenges for the AgriFoSe2030 programme moving forward is to achieve one of the central rationales of the programme, namely, to make sure that scientific results reaches practitioners and policy-makers effectively in order to achieve concrete impact. Dr Sharma points out that since the programme was initiated and is carried out by Swedish universities, much focus has been on liaising with academic institutions in the target regions and on theoretical implications of sustainable agriculture at the initial stages of the programme.
When a group of Swedish researchers from the AgriFoSe2030 programme visitedthe Indian Council of Agricultural Research (ICAR) and the World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF) in September 2018, Dr Sharma was deeply engaged in the itinerary and utilised her role to actively make a link between the programme’s science perspective and the practitioners in the field:
– If you want to look at translating science into policy and practice, you need to expand the universe beyond the university forum. My role is to put to the table not just the academic input, but the governmental and policy-making perspectives too. I was pleased to invite a group from the programme to come here and see how that dimension could be added.
What does the future hold?
The programme has sincerely taken on board the recommendations from the mid-term review and is concentrating work along the output-outcome-impact axis. AgriFoSe2030 is developing a set of Proof of Concept projects by using a Theory of Change framework. Using this approach, stakeholders are included from the very beginning of the projects, fostering a dialogue between scientists, policy-makers and practitioners to fill data and knowledge gaps. AgriFoSe2030 provides tailor-made outreach support and individual coaching for each of these projects to increase the chances to reach impact.
Dr Sharma is optimistic about the future opportunities of the AgriFoSe2030 programme. She addresses that the positive outcomes of the programme so far showcase the potential of future initiatives to have a significant influence on agricultural policy and practice in Southeast and South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.Furthermore, she highlights the importance of establishing a growing base for south-south collaboration, and said that through efficient communication and collaboration, the AgriFoSe2030 programme has the potential of fuelling/inspiring initiatives within and between low-income countries:
– It’s not only a collaboration between Swedish universities and the countries that they work in. The projects should be so enriched that there can be south-south collaboration also, and we should learn from each other, she said optimistically.
Finally, when asked about her thoughts of the future potential of the programme she concluded:
– Since I joined my governmental roles in 1974, I have seen how science has transformed the food and agricultural sector in India. In the future, I want to see how we more effectively can take the science that has been generated and bring it out into the field in order to create greater impact. I am therefore optimistic about a programme like AgriFoSe2030. It can, by finding its own niche, actually make a difference.
This news article was written by Kimberly Lowe, communications intern in the AgriFoSe2030 C&E team.