CEPHaS: Research Capacity Strengthening in Conservation Agriculture

Project 7 Oct 2018

Two recent drought seasons in southern Africa have highlighted the vulnerability of agriculture to climate change. Conservation agriculture (CA) practices - such as minimum till, mulching, and crop rotations - are widely promoted as “climate smart” strategies targeted at small holder agriculture in the region. The benefits of CA are the subject of wide debateand policy makers and communities require a broad base of evidence from the natural and social sciences to support their decision-making.

The Strengthening Capacity in Environmental Physics, Hydrology and Statistics for Conservation Agriculture Research (CEPHaS) Programme are conducting CA in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and Malawi and are engaged with policy makers to deliver evidence concerning the impacts of CA on crop yields and crop nutrient status. The programme will develop a network of African and UK researchers, within institutional environments that are conducive for world class research, applying cutting-edge scientific methods to fill knowledge gaps on the impacts of conservation agriculture practices (and others) on the water cycle in cultivated soils.

Centre for Capacity Research Objectives

Researchers within the Centre for Capacity Research will undertake structured assessments of partner institutions to assess research management and support capacities as well as strengths and weaknesses in current conservation agriculture research capacity.  Findings from the baseline assessment will then be used to identify priority, institution-level capacity gaps that CEPHaS will aim to address over the course of the programme. Along with institutional capacity assessments, a bespoke reflective learning programme will be conducted, the outcomes from which will inform programme level decision-making regarding allocation of consortia resources and/or implementation of consortia activities.

The work will build on the Centre for Capacity Research’s growing experience providing institutional capacity assessments (ICA) and reflective learning programmes (RLP) in support of research capacity strengthening (RCS) consortia. By implementing both ICAs and RLPs through robust, transparent, and transferable processes, and through publishing the processes and outcomes in peer-reviewed journals, the proposed research will also contribute to the development of the fledgling evidence base pertaining to RCS implementation. Thus, the proposed research will enhance CEPHaS consortia outcomes and produce knowledge to advance the evidence base in the area of RCS design and implementation more broadly.

The CEPHaS project is also part of a wider platform, comprised of multiple sub-Saharan African RCS consortia, in which the Centre for Capacity Research is applying a standard set of predetermined indicators to track and document institutional-level research capacity strengthening outcomes and to answer priority ‘cross-programme’ research questions in an effort to strengthen the RCS evidence-base.

GCRF funded programmes in this platform include: Partnership for Increasing the Impact of Vector Control (PIIVeC); One Health Regional Network for the Horn of Africa (HORN); and Strengthening Capacity in Environmental Physics, Hydrology and Statistics for Conservation Agriculture Research (CEPHaS).