A partnership network - what does it mean in practice?

What does it mean to actually build a local network of partners? A case study from Ghana shows us that it’s possible. Photo: P.Casier (CGIAR)
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Nov 1, 2012

by

Cecilia

Regions

By Caity Peterson

To adapt communities and local agriculture to the impacts of climate change, organizations can’t maintain an individualistic outlook, said Jesse Naab of CSIR-Ghana in a session on Partnerships for Environmental Resilience and Climate Change, day 2 of the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2). Instead, they must strive to collaborate and be on the lookout for ways to build capacity-enabling networks.

But tell us, Dr. Naab, how does that actually work?

The word “partnership” has been heavy on the air at the GCARD2 conference, which may lead one to wonder whether we are using it too cavalierly. Do we really know what a real, live local partnership network looks like? And, more importantly, what does the process of building one up out of nothing actually involve?

Naab used a case study from the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) “climate-smart village” of Doggoh in the Upper West region of Ghana to show how building a local partnership network can sometimes be a spontaneous process.

“We didn’t start out intentionally to build partnerships, but over time we found that a lot of the studies and projects we carried out formed the building blocks for longer lasting partnerships in the area,” Naab explained.

The CCAFS presence had become well-established in Doggoh after several years of research work – the village was the site for a baseline survey exercise, a gender analysis of climate change issues (PDF), and a “Farms of the Future” workshop, among other things. The result was that CCAFS was forced to approach many new partners, and was approached in turn by other partners. The network grew from there.

That’s not to say that building partnerships is simply a matter of sitting back and waiting for them to come to you; quite the contrary! Naab and his team have been actively involved in community workshops to define the visions and actions to be taken by certain partners.

“There were many gaps in our research,” he said, “so we had to go back to the community to find out what their priorities were.”

Those priorities were many, and varied. Gender differentiated nature of the analyses, for example, brought to light the differences between what men valued and what women valued. While the men of Doggoh were mostly concerned with Integrated Soil Fertility Management (ISFM) and reforestation of degraded areas, women were primarily interested in micro-financing, strengthening existing community groups, improving household nutrition, and rearing small ruminants.

The next step was to engage the community in problem solving – to empower community members to come up with ways to achieve their own visions. They decided to form committees for their various interests: one for gender management, one for ISFM, another for agroforestry, even one to deal with bushfires during the dry season. Later a district committee was formed to which the local committees had to report, and which could then evaluate and monitor progress and stakeholder involvement.

So what does a partnership network look like, in the end? There are numerous community organizations and stakeholders that go into the Climate Smart Village of Doggoh: NGOs, farmers’ organizations, district assemblies, the media, extension services, input dealers, the Ghana National Fire Service, meteorological organizations, the Forestry Services Department, and women’s organizations, to name a few.

What has been most surprising to Naab in his work promoting climate smart agriculture through innovative partnerships in Ghana, is just how willing organizations are to work together. “They are actually happy to sit down at the same table and work with us, even though sometimes their differences and their agendas can be quite distinct.” They have organizational hearts. But they’re willing to change them for community ones every now and then.

View Jesse Naab's presentation

 

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Caity Peterson is a visiting researcher based at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Colombia, working on CCAFS Theme 1: Adaptation to Progressive Climate Change. To get more updates, follow us on Facebook, and Twitter @Cgiarclimate.