The 2016 Collaborative Research Workshop was held on April 28th-29th at the Institute of Continuing Education (ICE) at the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA). The workshop provided an opportunity for iAGRI-funded workshop projects to share findings, lessons learned, and impact from their research activities that ranged from agricultural extension and soil science to irrigation technologies, nutrition, and farmer participatory trials. The Principal Investigators and their research teams presented a summary of key findings the first day of the workshop followed by a second day dedicated to addressing the impact the research has made or potential impact pathways for improving food security in Tanzania.
Collaborative research is one of the main pillars of the iAGRI project. Cross-disciplinary research teams began their projects in 2013. A key element of the research teams were that they had to involve at least one member from either SUA, the Ohio State University Consortium (OSUC), or the Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries (MALF). The objective of the composition of the teams was to ensure that the knowledge, skills, and values gained during the course of the research project would continue to enhance food security centered research in Tanzania long after the conclusion of the research activities. The research component of iAGRI also aimed to strengthen linkages between various actors within the agriculture sector of SUA so that the connections and partnerships formed would continue after the research concluded.
The workshop was also designed to be a learning opportunity where the eight different teams could obtain feedback on their ideas and learn from other projects. The research projects were selected through a competitive process whereby 54 expressions of interest were received and only 26 were selected for further review and evaluation. The workshop also served as an opportunity to document project successes, outputs, and impact to inform the iAGRI Project Management Unit of ways the funded research projects have benefited smallholder farmers, extension agents, and households in Tanzania.
In opening the workshop, Deputy Director, Isaac Minde noted, “Research projects cannot be for the sake of research alone. They need to have long-term effects on individuals and institutions… Researchers should make sure there is a positive change in the lives of the target beneficiaries and that their research involves partners who can continue to travel on the pathway to impact after the project concludes.” Researchers found that the workshop helped individual team members to incorporate tools and knowledge from other disciplines to have more holistic view of food systems and how different systems might affect each other.
“In the process of doing the research, we had a multi-disciplinary team. We have all improved our skills and awareness of communities. We are so used to just doing nutrition research. But now, we have soil science, pathology, and horticulture. To remember my undergraduate soil science knowledge, it would not be possible. In a way, that is something that we also forget to capture that is a result of the collaborative research,” stated Prof. Joyce Kinabo, Professor of Human Nutrition in the Department of Food Science and Technology at SUA and President of the Federation of African Nutrition Societies.
Each presentation was followed with a question and answer session where PIs and research teams from other projects were able to make suggestions on how to improve the dissemination of the findings to stakeholders, farmers, and policymakers in the future. The research findings will be published in a special edition of the Tanzanian Journal of Agricultural Sciences (TAJAS) with the aim of disseminating the results to stakeholders involved in improving agricultural productivity and increasing production.
During the second day of presentations, Flavianus Magayane, iAGRI Monitoring and Evaluation Specialist was on hand to provide guidance to PIs on how researchers can reach a wider audience and document project impact. He stated, “As researchers, our biggest pre-occupation is with measurement. We have to be objective and look at the quantity of plots that has been transformed, the number of beneficiaries, the extent of improvement and so on. We miss out on the feeling of the people whose lives are improved. Success stories can capture that. Numbers alone may not be telling the story.” As a result of the workshop and the findings presented, iAGRI will be following-up to document, collect data, and prepare success stories of the impact of the collaborative projects.
During the last session the workshop, iAGRI Director David Kraybill noted, “There is an enormous amount of talent at SUA and in the MALF. It needs to be used better so that politicians, NGOs, and the public understands the work that is being conducted because it does have a real-world impact… Our work will be much better today if we incorporate impact from the beginning. We should begin with the end in mind and the end is improving food security in Tanzania.”
The workshop was concluded by Chaboba Mkwana, Researcher at the Agricultural Research Institute Mlingano. He encouraged researchers to continue to engage with policymakers. “I encourage all scientists to ensure their findings reach decision-makers either through the collaborative research projects or as individual researchers so that other stakeholders can use their research.” He concluded by adding, “I look forward to seeing the impact of the research activities in the future. We want to see that there has been a change. There are 22 research centers distributed throughout the country. By using these centers, we hope to reach as many farmers as possible.”
For more information and links to the workshop presentations, visit here: 2016 Collaborative Research Workshop