A global agricultural research-for-development partnership against desertification

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Oasis is being proposed as a global Challenge Programme, a CGIAR-catalyzed mechanism that stimulates strategic partnerships with leading research-for-development organizations worldwide to tackle major global issues. The Oasis Challenge Programme candidate engages international, regional, and national, organizations from the public, non-governmental and private sectors that are interested in increasing their effectiveness through holistic approaches to combat desertification.
Links to Partner categories:
Oasis co-proponents

Four bodies are jointly co-proposing Oasis to the CGIAR for Challenge Programme status: a consortium of CGIAR Centers, CIRAD/IRD, European DesertNet, and the Sahel and Sahara Observatory (OSS). Oasis has also received special endorsement from the Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR) and the United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) Secretariat.

International frameworks to combat desertification

The United Nations Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) reflects the world’s consensus to work together against desertification. The participation by ICRISAT and ICARDA in the formation and evolution of the UNCCD provides a platform for partnership with Oasis. ICRISAT and ICARDA have close ties with both of the UNCCD’s implementing bodies, namely the UNCCD Secretariat, and the UNCCD Global Mechanism (GM, the resource mobilization facility), and interact with its Committee on Science and Technology (CST). The UNCCD is a broad consultative and action mechanism implemented through Action Plans at the national, sub-regional, and regional levels (NAPs, SRAPs, and RAPs), as well as through Thematic Programme Networks (TPNs) on regionally-important topics.
Oasis convenors

During its start-up phase, Oasis is jointly convened by two CGIAR Centers, ICARDA and ICRISAT, which have mandates within the CGIAR System to lead dryland systems research-for-development for the non-tropical and tropical regions, respectively. Oasis thus builds on a long history of partnership-based research-for-development.
Developing-country partners and frameworks at global and regional levels

At the global level, Oasis partners with the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) providing vibrant channels of communication with developing country partners worldwide.

In sub-Saharan Africa Oasis builds on existing relationships with the African regional agricultural research coordinating bodies FARA, IGAD, CORAF, ASARECA and SADC. It also links to CILSS, the Francophone regional body responsible for combating desertification in the Sahel, in particular its research-for-development institutes INSAH (environment, agriculture, inputs and markets, regulations, and population studies) and AGRHYMET (hydrological and crop modeling, plant diseases, and training). It partners with the Sahara and Sahel Observatory (OSS — environmental monitoring and joint management of shared water resources).

Oasis also partners with two desertification-focused political-economic development bodies formed the wake of the disasterous extended Sahelian drought of the 1970s/80s. Club du Sahel is a discussion and information exchange forum linking the OECD countries to the West African drylands. The Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD), headquartered in Djibouti is a product of efforts begun in 1986 by six drought-stricken East African countries to coordinate development in the Horn of Africa. Additional African regional partners addressing desertification and dryland degradation include CERAAS, SWMNET, and FANRPAN, among others. NEPAD, through its Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP) and Environment Action Plan (EAP), and FARA’s FAAP (Framework for African Agricultural Productivity, endorsed by the African Union) are additional important reference frames for Oasis.

Oasis in Africa also builds on the action program of the Desert Margins Program (DMP) convened by ICRISAT, formed in response to the UNCCD imperative to combat desertification. DMP links nine sub-Sahara African countries (Botswana, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, South Africa and Zimbabwe) with four CGIAR Centers (ICRISAT, ICRAF, ILRI, and CIAT-TSBF) as well as with IFDC, CIRAD, IRD and CEH. DMP operates in close alignment with the sub-regional organizations in SSA mentioned above.

Likewise in non-tropical regions, Oasis builds on many existing relationships. ARINENA (Association of Agricultural Research Institutions in Near East and North Africa) interlinks national partners in this zone. An example in the North Africa/West Asia region is the Mashreq/Maghreb Project convened by ICARDA with strong participation of IFPRI. M&M (as it is known) unites Algeria, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, Libya, Morocco, Syria and Tunisia for sustainable dryland development. The Desert Research Center in Egypt, the Arid Land Center in Tunisia, the International Center for Biosaline Agriculture (ICBA) headquartered in Dubai, and EMBRAPA in Brazil are also partners of Oasis.

Another recent, major emerging project stemming from ICARDA's close partnership with the UNCCD Global Mechanism (which has co-located its office with them in Tashkent) links with the Asian Development Bank-led Central Asian Countries Initiative for Land Management (CACILM). This new 10 year multi-country program focuses on sustainable agriculture, forest and woodland management, pastureland management, integrated resource management, biodiversity conservation and capacity building for land use planning, and strengthening of the enabling environment.

Asian dryland nations are regionally inter-linked through APAARI, the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions. APAARI provides a forum for regional dialogue on cross-cutting issues such as those affecting the drylands, and fostering global integration of Asian agricultural research with other regions of the world.

Oasis is currently developing relationships with dryland development programs in Latin America and the Caribbean as well.
National partners

Oasis members work closely with a large number of NARS across the drylands of the developing world, far too many to list here. The few that are highlighted below are by way of illustration and do not imply a different status compared to the many others that could also be mentioned. More projects and linkages can be traced by following the descriptions at the Oasis Links web page.

In South Asia, ICRISAT's close relationship with Indian Council for Agricultural Research (ICAR) institutes, specifically CAZRI and CRIDA is leveraged for Oasis, and through the UNCCD Thematic Programme Network for South Asia on agroforestry and soil conservation led by CAZRI. ICARDA and ICRISAT's collaboration with Pakistan’s NARC creates a platform for partnership.

In China, Oasis builds on linkages established through ICARDA’s recent co-convening of the Fifth International Dryland Development Conference in Beijing and the initiation of a research network named CWANA+ that extends its Central Asia network to include China. Oasis will also build on the ongoing partnership-based activities of many of its member CGIAR Centers in that country.
Advanced research institutions, initiatives and networks

Oasis partners have many linkages to advanced research institutions around the world. The French institutions CIRAD and IRD are Oasis co-proponents and close research partners. The European DesertNet (EDN) network is also an Oasis co-proponent. Established in October 2006, it provides an important platform for partnership with leading researchers worldwide. EDN currently has 220 members from 36 countries, mainly from Europe but many from beyond. Oasis is also a founding member of the new Global Network of Drylands Research Institutions (GNDRI).

Though not focused solely on the drylands, EFARD, the European Forum on Agricultural Research for Development, and ECART, the European Consortium on Agricultural Research in the Tropics, are also important research network partners. Important European FP6 and FP7 projects that have expressed interest in Oasis include the Alterra (Wageningen)-convened DES!RE and GEOWISE (Geographical Transect Approach to Desertification) projects, and ‘Evaluation of Restoration and Desertification Mitigation Strategies along Transects of Economic and Biophysical Gradients’ (EREMITE). Oasis is also exploring linkages with the CIRAD-coordinated ‘Agricultural Innovation in Dryland Africa’ (AIDA) Project.

Oasis also links to centers of excellence in the USA, where a number of universities have high competence on dryland issues, e.g. Arizona’s Arid Lands Institute, Columbia University’s Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) within its Earth Institute, Cornell University, INTSORMIL (a collaborative program focused on sorghum and millet improvement engaging seven US universities plus USDA/ARS), Michigan State University (LUCID and CLIP projects), Nevada’s Desert Research Institute, Purdue University, the University of Arizona, the University of California (Riverside and Davis) and the University of Florida (Centre for Environmental Policy).

Oasis has also built links with advanced research institutions in other nations that hold strong dryland interest and expertise, such as Australia’s CSIRO, Japan’s Arid Land Research Center at Tottori University, and JIRCAS, Norway’s Noragric Centre for International Environment and Development Studies at the Agricultural University of Norway, and the UK’s Drylands Research and Center for Arid Zone Studies (University of Wales-Bangor).

Specialized UN agencies and scientific projects are also important partners. Oasis links with FAO’s LADA initiative (Land Degradation Assessment in Drylands), and interacts with the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) on climate-related issues. Oasis partners with UNESCO on knowledge-sharing, particularly through its Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Drylands Programme and Sustainable Management of Marginal Drylands project (SUMAMAD, which links nine countries and research teams in northern Africa, Asia and Europe). UNDP’s Drylands Development Center and UNEP also have strong interest in the drylands and have close linkages with Oasis.

Since many climate change and biodiversity issues intersect with desertification, Oasis also liases closely with sister CGIAR initiatives on these topics. The biodiversity linkage is engaged through Oasis partner Bioversity International; a link is also emerging with Bioversity on the High Value Crops Challenge Programme candidate. Oasis also links to the Climate Change Challenge Programme candidate.
Sister Challenge and Systemwide Programs

Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Programme
SSA-CP, convened by FARA, focuses on transforming the research-to-development institutional and process continuum in Africa to become more dynamic and effective. Two of the three SSA-CP Pilot Learning Sites (PLS) include substantial areas of drylands: the Kano-Katsina-Maradi (KKM) axis, and the Zimbabwe-Mozambique-Malawi corridor. SSA-CP has established broad and diverse partnerships in these areas. There are a number of topical congruencies between SSA-CP and Oasis at these PLS, such as rainfed horticulture, more efficient water and soil fertility management, conservation agriculture, and crop-livestock systems. A number of Oasis Centers also participate in particular activities of SSA-CP. Oasis will maintain a close dialogue with SSA-CP to coordinate and optimize synergies.

Water and Food Challenge Programme
The CPWF places most of its emphasis on large-scale water resource issues at the river basin and catchment scales in wetter regions. Oasis will complement this perspective with its focus on smaller-scale water management in dry areas (watershed and field). The closest interface will be with CPWF’s theme on crop water productivity improvement led by IRRI, which includes drought and salinity dimensions. This theme asks research questions that are also relevant to Oasis concerning water-efficient crops, water-saving farm practices, need-based water supply, and water policies and institutions. Projects within this theme engage Oasis Centers in certain dryland areas, such as the Limpopo River Basin (ICRISAT), the Atbara River Basin, Eritrea and the Karkheh River Basin, Iran (ICARDA), and the Yellow River Basin, China (CIMMYT). These interfaces will provide mechanisms for coordination, complementation and knowledge exchange with Oasis.

Generation Challenge Programme
Generation CP’s subprogramme 3 places a strong emphasis on drought resistance breeding in cereals and legumes, a very relevant topic for Oasis. This CP applies cutting edge molecular science to attain new breakthroughs. Oasis partners CIMMYT, ICARDA and ICRISAT are engaged with this CP through their crop breeding and molecular biology laboratories. Oasis will keep close watch on progress in this CP and take advantage of its innovations as they emerge from the pipeline.

HarvestPlus Challenge Programme
HarvestPlus breeds more nutrient-dense crops (biofortification). Dry areas are most at risk of malnutrition, because shortages of water (and poverty) make it difficult to grow (or to afford) vitamin-rich, diverse vegetable crops. Unfortunately, HarvestPlus has deferred investigation into most of the dryland crops into Phase 2 (barley, cowpeas, lentils, millet, pigeonpeas, sorghum). Current activities on these dryland crops are restricted to feasibility studies. Cassava is a Phase 1 crop, and while traditionally thought of as a crop of the humid tropics, some varieties are very drought tolerant and are increasingly grown in the drylands. Oasis Centers CIMMYT, ICARDA, IITA and ICRISAT are involved in HarvestPlus and will ensure ongoing awareness of opportunities to capitalize on its achievements.

Desert Margins Programme
The Desert Margins Programme, described earlier is one of the cornerstones of Oasis in sub-Saharan Africa (Botswana, Burkina Faso, Kenya, Mali, Namibia, Niger, Senegal, South Africa and Zimbabwe). In addition Oasis CGIAR Centers have close ongoing partnerships with non-DMP dryland nations such as Chad, Ethiopia, and Nigeria, and also work with governance bodies and NGOs in southern Sudan and Somalia when security conditions permit.

Systemwide Livestock Programme
The SLP is an important partner for Oasis. Livestock and rangelands are integral elements of the drylands, and the reason Oasis generally refers to its clients as ‘land users’ rather than ‘farmers.’ SLP works to strengthen links among crop, agroforestry, policy, natural resource, and livestock oriented CGIAR programmes, which covers many of the facets of Oasis. Food-feed systems, crop-livestock interactions, crop residue management, and fodder systems are examples of the interactions between crops and livestock that receive attention from SLP. Oasis needs these inputs to round out the food and tree crops emphasis of most of its member Centers. ILRI delivers the SLP interface to Oasis, and several Oasis Centers (and programs such as DMP) are involved in SLP activities.
Additional Systemwide Programme interactions
In addition to the above, there are important facets of interaction that Oasis will pursue with the following:
  • Systemwide Collective Action and Property Rights Programme (CAPRi) on land tenure and community engagement and gender issues, largely through Oasis member IFPRI;

  • Collaborative Research Program for Sustainable Agricultural Development in Central Asia and Caucasus (CAC), through ICARDA;

  • Rice-Wheat Consortium for the Indo-Gangetic Plains (RWC) through CIMMYT;

  • Integrated Natural Resource Management (INRM) Task Force through ICARDA; and

  • Consortium for Spatial Information (CSI) through ICRAF and CIAT.

Non-governmental, civil society and private sector partners and initiatives

In pursuit of the integrated ecosystems approach, Oasis has established relationships with environmental NGOs such as Ecoagriculture, IIED-Drylands, IUCN and WWF. WorldVision and Catholic Relief Services are two large NGO partners in the drylands that assist with up and out-scaling of research innovations. Landcare International and the Desert Research Foundation of Namibia (DRFN) foster multi-stakeholder linkages and processes to enable dryland dwellers to more effectively engage in sustainable dryland management and governance.

Oasis’ research on community dynamics involves farmer and women’s groups, self-help and local natural resource management associations, and related civil society organizations. The International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP) represents farmers in Oasis. Oasis also engages with the private sector for the dissemination of innovations such as seed and seedlings, fertilizer, access to urban and export markets, post-harvest processing, and other goods and services. Initial consultative partners from the private sector include Technoserve, CNFA, and the FARA Private Sector Initiative.
Development investors (donors)

Development investors are vital, active partners in Oasis. They recognize that dryland degradation sets a trap for the poor, limiting their ability to grow their way out of poverty. They want to help.

The UNCCD commits the world to invest substantial institutional, human and financial resources to combat desertification, and facilitates that process through its Global Mechanism (GM). The World Bank’s TerrAfrica program is another global vehicle for unlocking and increasing the efficiency of financial and non-financial resources to combat desertification in congruence with the Action Plans stimulated by the UNCCD.

Oasis is pleased that many investors are stepping forward with indications of support for its global, science-based approach. Pioneer investors in Oasis include the Government of Belgium (DGDC), the Global Environment Facility (GEF, through UNEP), the Government of France (through GFAR), the International Development Research Centre, Canada (IDRC), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UNCCD Global Mechanism, and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). The CGIAR donors, through the Oasis convening CGIAR Centers ICRISAT and ICARDA have also provided substantial core support to catalyze Oasis since 2001.

The European Commission (EC) has expressed strong interest in Oasis. EIARD, the European Forum on Agricultural Research for Development, promotes coordination among European donors to the CGIAR and other international bodies, and will be a crucial partner for Oasis. PAEPARD, the Platform for African-European Partnership for ARD, will be an important support mechanism for African Oasis partners.

In addition to these direct investors, many others support anti-desertification projects underway by Oasis partners. Space does not permit listing all these relationships. Many are described on their individual project websites (linked-to here). Discussions are underway with additional investors who have indicated interest in accelerating research-for-development progress against desertification.


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