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Agricultural Research for Development in CSIRO: A review of principles and practice for impact

Within CSIRO there is growing necessity to demonstrate impact from research investment. This review provided a unique opportunity to reflect across a collection of CSIRO Research for Development (R4D) projects, to distil key lessons and principles for guiding CSIRO R4D projects towards systemic changes that contribute to effective and lasting wellbeing and livelihoods outcomes for rural people. Combining insights from global experiences with those from CSIRO staff engaged in international R4D, key insights were:

  • Projects must have multiple potential pathways of change to account for high uncertainties in the project environment
  • To achieve systemic change, projects must run for at least 5 years
  • Partnerships, networks and collaborations that span in-country research partners, NGOs, donors and other programs are essential
  • CSIRO must develop staff capacity, and in-country collaborator capacity, to sustain outcomes
  • Monitoring, evaluation and learning systems are crucial

Contact: Liana Williams

DFAT-CSIRO Research for Development Alliance Project Indonesia

‘Mainstreaming’ climate change and future uncertainty into community development planning to achieve climate compatible development is a major challenge in the developing world. This is due to the low capacity of many stakeholders, unequal representation of marginalised community members and their knowledge, and limited information on which to base decisions. This project sought to trial appropriate participatory processes and tools that could integrate principles of ‘adaptation pathways’ into annual community development planning (‘musrenbang’), and introduce adaptive co-management into decision-making. Using rural sub-districts in Nusa Nenggara Barat Province, Indonesia, the project generated a social learning process to stimulate innovation and knowledge integration, plus novel participatory evaluation methods to assess progress. Key partners were the University of Mataram, the provincial government, and the Indonesian agencies for Agricultural Technology Development, and Meteorology and Geosciences. The project was funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and CSIRO.

Contact: James Butler

Applied Research & Innovation Systems in Agriculture (ARISA)

Brokering, and building capacity in partnerships between research institutes and the private sector, ARISA is enabling smallholder farmer access to improved agricultural technology and practices. Ongoing research underpins an adaptive approach to partnerships and is informing research-private sector support schemes in the Indonesian government. Learn more about ARISA.

Contact: Michaela Cosijn

DOE Bismarck Sea, Papua New Guinea

Under the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security, Papua New Guinea’s (PNG) Bismarck Sea has been identified as a priority geography, with high global biodiversity and cultural values, and great development potential. However, large scale investments (e.g. oil palm, deep sea mining, tourism) are being planned which, if executed without consideration for future uncertainty and alternative options, could negatively impact communities’ wellbeing, and regional biodiversity. This project is building the capacity of decision-makers to anticipate the potential benefits and costs of future development in terms of the Sustainable Development Goals. Using social learning processes, values mapping, climate and population projections, the project is show-casing a ‘seascapes’ planning approach which can potentially be applied throughout PNG and the Coral Triangle region. The project is funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Environment and Energy Efficiency, and CSIRO.

Contact: James Butler

Ecoregions Indonesia

Eco-tourism is a potentially important driver of sustainable development in rural areas of the Asia-Pacific region, because it provides opportunities for diversifying local income and protecting the natural and cultural environment which tourists value. In Indonesia the European model of ‘ecoregions’ (green economies based on tourism and local food production) is being trialled by a private company, EcoRegions Indonesia. Our team has been contracted to assist the monitoring and evaluation of the company’s initiatives in the islands of Lombok and Sumbawa. We have developed a monitoring and reporting protocol which measures the ecoregions’ outcomes and impacts relative to the Sustainable Development Goals. EcoRegions Indonesia plan to use the reporting mechanism to inform their adaptive governance, and to develop a report card which can demonstrate their benefits to local communities partnering in the program.

Contact: James Butler

Embedding Monitoring, Evaluation and Learning in the Sustainability Development Investment Portfolio (SDIP)

SDIP is an Australian government initiative which aims to improve the integrated management of water, food and energy in three major Himalayan river basins, addressing climate risk and the interests of the poorest and most vulnerable, particularly women and girls. CSIRO is one of several Australian and South Asian partners that are delivering this initiative. The LAAD team is working with CSIRO water scientists to track, evaluate, and learn how water modelling and water resources management science can best contribute to the SDIP goals. Learn more about SDIP here and here.

Contact: Samantha Stone-Jovicich

Food Systems Innovation (FSI)

FSI was a partnership between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT), the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Organisation (CSIRO). The Initiative ran from 2012-2015 and focussed on learning and partnering as a key mechanism to improving development effectiveness. Activities were delivered using three core themes: Managing for Impact; Markets & Partnerships and; Agriculture Linkages. The Initiative built considerable knowledge, skills, and social capital through these activities and continues to impact our approach to agricultural research for development. Learn more about FSI

Contact: Michaela Cosijn

Promoting Socially Inclusive and Sustainable Agriculture Intensification on West Bengal and Bangladesh (SIAGI)

Researchers from India, Bangladesh and Australia are collaborating with NGOs and the private sector to understand the factors and risks influencing change, especially for marginal and landless farmers. SIAGI will test new evaluation tools and provide policy options to promote more socially inclusive and environmentally sustainable agricultural intensification in West Bengal and Bangladesh. Ethical community engagement guides SIAGI’s approach to planning and implementation. Learn more about SIAGI.

Contact: Michaela Cosijn

South Fly District

The South Fly District of Western Province, Papua New Guinea (PNG), borders Indonesia’s Papua Province to the west and Australia’s Torres Strait to the south. It is one of the poorest places in the world, due to the minimal opportunities for livelihoods caused by isolation from markets and regulations which limit cross-border trade. Consequently illegal harvest and cross-border trade in marine products is common, driven by local population growth and accelerating demand from Asian economies. Consequently, stocks of fish and other resources shared by PNG, Indonesia and Australia are under extreme pressure. This project aims to build on several years’ research in the trans-boundary region to understand the drivers of the illegal trade, and the value chains for the marine products. Based on the analysis, the project will identify intervention points and appropriate management solutions to provide either greater returns for communities from legal trade in the products, or alternative livelihood activities. It is funded by the Australian Centre for International Agriculture Research, the PNG National Fisheries Authority, and CSIRO.

Contact: James Butler, Michaela Cosijn

A ‘Total system health’ approach to tuberculosis control in the transboundary Torres Strait region

Improving community and ecosystem health in the transboundary Torres Strait region requires a systems understanding of risks and appropriate interventions based on the creation of social and environmental conditions conducive to public health. This project seeks to develop a proof of concept for analysing transboundary health and biosecurity risks and responses using a ‘total system health’ approach, focussing on drug-resistant tuberculosis in the Torres Strait as a case study. This approach allows a systems-based analysis of the social, political, cultural and ecological drivers of health and disease problems, feedbacks from health problems to other parts of the system, and linkages between multiple factors that interact to generate health problems. Using inter-disciplinary and participatory methods to identify effective intervention points, the project aims to establish long term partnerships between Australian, Papua New Guinean (PNG), Indonesian and other Asia-Pacific stakeholders to build capacity for anticipatory, transboundary systems approaches to mitigating health and biosecurity risks.

Contact: Erin Bohensky

West New Britain Livelihood Futures, PNG

Many coastal communities in Papua New Guinea (PNG) are highly exposed to climate change. Climate adaptation is a goal for the Coral Triangle Initiative on Coral Reefs, Fisheries and Food Security, and in PNG the Bismarck Sea is a priority geography for developing alternative approaches to achieving sustainable development. This project developed a multi-stakeholder planning process to integrate local and scientific knowledge to examine future development pathways, and ‘climate compatible development’ as a case study for PNG. While the project had a climate change focus, it assessed livelihoods in general, and quickly it emerged that rapid population growth, rather than climate issues, is the greatest challenge for communities. This had a significant influence on the design of ‘no regrets’ development projects that would enhance communities’ adaptive capacity to cope with long term extreme climate change. The project is funded by the Australian Government’s Department of Environment and Energy Efficiency, and CSIRO.

Contact: James Butler