The Convergence of Sciences programme (CoS) addresses the sub-optimal impact of science on the livelihoods of resource-poor farmers in West Africa, particularly in Benin and Ghana where it operates. CoS aims to develop insights into the pathways through which investment in science and technology can improve rural lives. To this end, CoS features participatory experimental and action research by eight PhD students, who each develop technologies and institutional arrangements with groups of farmers. The ninth PhD student carries out comparative ‘research on agricultural research’.
Programme contribution to interdisciplinary and comparative research and education
It is increasingly recognised that questions and solutions related to the sustainability of agricultural management, technologies and practices are complex, contested and spatially-differentiated. As a result, the skills, capacities and perspectives of different stakeholders must be brought to bear, including scientists (researchers), extensionists, and farmers (also often researchers). In the science community, this implies the presence of different disciplines, who in the past do not necessarily share languages, concepts or even a desire to work together. The CoS project is an extremely welcome effort to address all of these problems by focusing on agricultural systems in West Africa, which despite the efforts of some institutions, still suffer from underinvestment and a consequent lack of understanding (from the outside).
The objective of COS is framed as the “development of coherent theory-informed practice for interactive science in which the situation-improvement roles of different actors come mutually agreed and defined”.
Scientific value of the programme
- The CoS project has largely met the general objectives of the INREF programme:
- Cross-disciplinary research (beta-gamma) conducted;
- Outcomes are a major selling point;
- International partnerships developed for programme (but unclear whether these will survive in the long-term from WU);
- Development of policy-relevant discussion;
- Contribute to WU’s portfolio;
- Attract additional funding (I could not assess whether this had been the case).
The project was implemented in Benin and Ghana, and had altogether 14 national and 7 international partners. The project has from the inception followed its principles through involvement of partners and stakeholders in the planning, implementation, learning processes, monitoring and synthesis and evaluation. Young scientists were identified with partners and the 9 PhD-thesis projects supervised in a north-south partnership. All 9 thesis projects were implemented with an interdisciplinary focus, thus meeting the objective of the COS project.