The donors’ take on mega-programmes

Donors speaking at GCARD have already expressed some concerns about CGIAR’s proposed mega-programmes (see Agricultural mega-programmes ‘will not attract funding’).

Kathy Sierra (credit: GCARD)

Yesterday afternoon, Kathy Sierra, chair of the CGIAR Fund Council and vice president of the sustainable development network at the World Bank, talked to SciDev.Net about donors’ expectations.

Are donors really against the CGIAR reform?

No. All the donors back the idea of creating ambitious, challenging and results-oriented programmes—what some people are calling the mega-programmes.

But let’s not make ‘the perfect’ the enemy of the good. There is some feeling within the CGIAR centres that we can’t move forward until all the mega-programmes are ready. They want to make sure they have a suite of programmes that are coherent and aligned.

We’d like that too – in the medium-term. But we really want to see action now.

Why not pick 2-3 programmes that are ready and present them to us so we can get moving?

Why the urgency?

The people that we’re serving would like now to see some investment and the donors would like to invest. But we can’t invest until we have some programmes there.

We want to see some early mega-programmes so they can show the way and so that we can start showing concrete results. We believe strongly that it will build confidence if we have a few programmes ready to go and approve to demonstrate to world that this is what change looks like.

We’ve been clear about the fact that we’re looking for fast-start action. The centes and consortium are fully capable of doing that.

What would you like the new mega-programmes to look like?

What we want are big, ambitious programmes that will change the lives of people. Exactly what that means, is up to the CGIAR consortium.

We will probably have a mixed portfolio made up of some vertical programmes around, for example, key crops such as rice or cereals, and another set of programmes that are cross-cutting, for example around a landscape such as drylands.

Some things are important: we want partnership. Irrespective of how you cut the pie, we want the process to be open—we want to know who the centres are collaborating with, how they’ve listened to partners, and where they’re handing over to local research actors.

And there are a few topic areas too, such as gender or climate change, that we think are critical for development and hope to see embedded in all the programmes.

At the end of the day, the mega-programmes have to be meaningful to the ultimate beneficiaries, have to open the system up and have to involve other partners. If they do they will gain the support not just of donors but other stakeholders in the system.

Sian Lewis
Commisioning editor, SciDev.Net

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