CIRAWA Half-Yearbook: Listening to People on the Ground

The CIRAWA team has been working hard during the first months of the project to demonstrate how operating with nature can enhance ecosystem health and biodiversity, while improving local livelihoods and climate resilience.

Since it kicked off in January 2023, the project partners have mainly focused on effectively involving key actors in the agri-food sector, identifying their needs and the resources available for the project deployment, as well as the desired agroecological practices and techniques.

Questionnaires targeting households, key informants, and focus groups were deployed in the eight regions involved. The purpose was to gather data on current farming practices (including crops, yields, etc.) and key knowledge gaps. These data will be processed in a working session and will inform the choice of trainings and the agroecological strategies that will be implemented by the farmers in the eight regions. Together with the West African Centre for Water, Irrigation and Sustainable Agriculture of the University for Development Studies in Ghana (WACWISA-UDS), the Associação de Defesa do Património de Mértola (ADPM) conducted a training on agricultural surveys, in which CIRAWA partners the Association of Young Farmers of Casa do Meio, the Associação de Mulheres do Planalto Leste (AMUPAL), and the Ministério da Agricultura e Ambiente also participated. The answers will be essential to define the best strategies adapted to local needs and contexts, and to define the plan of action. One of the initial observations, before the survey results were fully analysed, is the incredible diversity in practices across the eight regions. Such a spread of strategies, contexts, responses, and challenges shows the value of projects like CIRAWA, which is working to match the best approaches to farmers on the ground.  

Training on agricultural surveys conducted by UDS and ADPM. Source: ADPM.

In parallel, CIRAWA is developing a digital platform to share the best practices and support their integration across countries in West Africa. The platform will help to gather field observations, identify suitable agroecological strategies and their synergies, and boost the scaling-up of CIRAWA proposed agroecological practices through a participatory approach.  

CIRAWA will use Landfiles, a collaborative and open platform dedicated to the agricultural world, to share and discuss agroecological innovations and provide access to better soil and climatic information on each one of the four African countries. The information collected on these channels will be also thoroughly analysed and incorporated into the project work plan. 

A preliminary analysis to understand how climate data and forecasting could support smallholders found that smallholder farmers are already engaged in diverse agroecological practices. This means that there is a wealth of traditional knowledge that can already built on. Learning how to enhance the practices with additional support through platforms like Landfiles will therefore be a critical next step. Additionally, these initial data collections also highlight some important challenges to overcome, such as farm locations – access issues are important both in terms of ensuring that exchanges are happening in a regular manner, but also to inform further studies on market linkages and barriers to sales. These preparatory steps are important for CIRAWA to be as effective as possible. 

Events and activities

All the activities related to the development and assessment, and then the deployment, validation, and evaluation of agroecological strategies and techniques, will start in the coming months.  

However, partners have been working on the effective transfer of the early results of the project since the beginning. L’Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA) organised a local workshop in Saint Louis, Senegal, to share project information with local stakeholders.  

ISRA local workshop in Saint Louis, Senegal. Source: ISRA.

ADPM also organised local meetings in Santo Antão and Maio, Cape Verde, to frame the CIRAWA activities that will take place, learn about the agricultural reality of the islands and meet with local entities.  

ADPM local meetings in Santo Antão and Maio. Source: ADPM.

The project coordinator, CARTIF, visited the eight priority regions in the CIRAWA project and met with local partners from the respective Stakeholder Advisory Boards (SAB). They first travelled to Cape Verde, where they visited ADPM experimental fields and living labs. In The Gambia, they visited several of the communities that have participated in the surveys and that will develop the project’s agroecological solutions. During the visits, project participants showed the CARTIF team their warehouses, how they make their farming tools, and how they sow seeds. 

In Senegal, CARTIF held a climate information training session in Dakar, where they met with staff from the different countries’ meteorological services, who provided interesting data that CIRAWA will be able to work with. They also visited some pilot areas in the region of Saint Louis, near the Guiers lake, where farmers showed them the different agroecological practices that they are already developing, such as agroforestry, mixed cropping, crop rotation and crop association, as well as different water management practices.  

In Ghana, CARTIF, along with local partners WACWISA-UDS and FIDEP, launched the CIRAWA project in both study regions, the Savannah Region and Upper East Region, in Buipe and Kongo respectively.  

“It is important to highlight the relevance of CARTIF visits to pilot areas as a way to, a) boost the Stakeholder Advisory Board engagement, b) familiarise ourselves with the work of communities and the agroecological practices they use, and c) to explore in-situ the potential of those that could be developed in the project. It will contribute to encouraging them to continue with the agroecology application. At the same time, the visits helped consolidate the "project team" by meeting those partners who were not able to attend the Kick-off-Meeting.”
Silvia Gómez Valle
CARTIF Agrifood and Sustainable Processes Division - Natural Resources and Climate Area
CARTIF visit to Cape Verde, The Gambia and Senegal. Source: CARTIF.

Communicating and disseminating CIRAWA

Apart from all these training activities and local meetings, the partners have developed a strategy to effectively communicate and disseminate the project outcomes throughout its duration. CIRAWA’s main communication channels with stakeholders have been set up through this website, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Facebook, as well as through a regular newsletter with project updates. 

REVOLVE and UDS have also established a Stakeholder Advisory Board (SAB) that aims to provide regular external advice on relevant issues related to CIRAWA. Some of these are the identification of agroecological practices, the definition of best practices, and the provision of support for the training activities planned by the project. This SAB will provide independent, expert advice to ensure that the project develops in accordance with the most efficient way to interact with appropriate end-users and achieve its final objectives. Also, the SAB will be consulted to make sure that the CIRAWA project duly accomplishes its aims in line with the legal, ethical and social issues, as well as the general philosophy and direction of the project. If necessary, it will also advise on corrective measures in the content of the work, as well as on the dissemination and exploitation of the project’s results. Even though the SAB will have no formal decision-making power within the project, the opinions of the distinguished and experienced members will be taken into consideration when decisions are made by the various organs of CIRAWA. 

Looking ahead, CARTIF has coordinated the design of an Exploitation Plan and Replication Strategies to ensure that the project’s key results have a successful impact up to four years after the end of CIRAWA. In this initial plan, partners have conducted a SWOT analysis per key exploitable result (KER): Vermi-compost and bio-based fertiliser production from agro-residues; technical packages for reclamation of saline soils; high quality seeds; decision support system (DSS) for smart operations in crop management control; the demonstration and dissemination of technical packages of efficient agroecological practices; combustion and construction material from agro-residues; a tool for networking farmers; a system for sharing observations on plots and an animation methodology adapted to the African context. 

The methodology that the consortium will follow for the exploitation plan has been defined and some of the EU services to this end (Horizon IP Scan, Horizon Results Booster, etc.) have already been launched. Partners are strategically planning impact multipliers to facilitate the project’s replication. 

CIRAWA is successfully underway. During this first six months, partners have focused their efforts on listening to people on the ground through all the focus groups and surveys that have been conducted. The analysis of the collected data on farmers and stakeholders’ needs will allow the project to have a more successful implementation and to do it hand-in-hand with the local communities. Many other interesting and innovative activities are scheduled for the coming months, such us the mapping of agro-wastes and high-quality seeds needed for the proposed agroecological approaches, a visit by all partners to the case study in Cape Verde and all the side events related to it in early 2024. Keep following us and stay tuned for updates on our work. 

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