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Unlocking the potentialities of Agriculture in Africa's Drylands for fighting hunger

Final Report Summary - AIDA (Unlocking the potentialities of Agriculture in Africa's Drylands for fighting hunger)

African drylands are often treated as being unable to sustain livelihood, due to scarcity of water resources and their vulnerability to wind and water erosion, which are intensified by the global climate change. Nevertheless, dryland population has developed resilient survival strategies. Principal food production activities include arable farming and pasture and ought to be supported to address emerging needs and confront increasing threats.

The AIDA project focused on supporting livelihood in dry African regions and formed a basis to assist research efforts and facilitate future proposals for rural dryland areas' development. The project overall objective was to provide a critical assessment of existing initiatives and to identify key drivers and criteria for success. In order to achieve this target, the following partial goals were identified:
1. to synthesise existing knowledge and pinpoint case studies for thorough analysis;
2. to develop a generic framework and a set of criteria and benchmark indicators for existing projects' evaluation;
3. to determine the potential drivers for successful agriculture based on case studies' observation;
4. to formulate recommendations supportive of policy decisions and to promote investments in agricultural innovations.

The project was structured in five complementary work packages (WPs) which undertook scientific and management activities.

Firstly, the existing approaches were assessed and an analysis method was developed through extensive literature review and organisation of an international conference. A framework for projects' evaluation was designed, focusing on farm household systems and farm level activities and including critical sustainability factors related to social, cultural, environmental and economic parameters. The emerged innovations were initially grouped using qualitative scales including technological, economic and formal to informal social structures. Additional information allowed for a supplementary, more detailed, classification. It was noted that the design of a generic approach to support sustainable innovation processes represented a major future research challenge.

In addition, knowledge acquired by successful initiatives was synthesised and specific case studies were examined. A database on effective development projects was designed and a template was developed, assisting in the analysis and documentation of the selected examples. Relevant information was collected and alternative hypotheses were tested within the involved communities using participatory rural appraisal (PRA) techniques, questionnaires, group discussions, interviews and on-farm trials.

AIDA outcomes were disseminated through participation in conferences, utilisation of existing platforms, establishment of a project related website and exploitation of the media to broadly communicate the findings to the general public. Particular attention was given on dissemination activities, in order to ensure optimum project impact and to extend its viability beyond the official elaboration time. A specific dissemination plan was, therefore, developed and applied.