Dr. Yiheyis Taddele Maru of the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia will explore how concepts and tools from applied systems and resilience approaches can help in discussions and development of impact pathways in a growing area of CSIRO’s involvement in research for food security and development in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asian countries.
Despite longstanding research, humanitarian and development efforts, there has been limited success in alleviating chronic food security and poverty in Sub-Saharan and South Asian countries. Interventions (research, policy, humanitarian and development) often lead to outputs, but the problems often lie in translating these to outcomes and impacts. The issue of the ‘output- impact gap’ has driven increasing demands by donors for results from interventions. One of the responses to these demands is that interveners are more explicitly articulating the theories of change or impact pathways assumed by their interventions.
Developing effective and appropriate impact pathways for intervention is not an easy task given the wicked and chronic nature of food insecurity problems, the often non-linear functional forms of (and long time required for) solutions, as well as the complexity and uncertainty generated by interactions of multiple factors in between intervention outputs and impacts. Different tools from systems and resilience thinking have the potential to help stakeholders with this problem by enabling them to critically appraise the causal mechanisms of persistent problems, and by mapping and adapting impact pathways (Maru et al, 2012). However, the available capacity and the number of applications of systems approaches for developing and implementing impact pathways are currently limited.
Yiheyis Taddele Maru works as a senior research scientist for Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). Yiheyis started his career as a qualified veterinarian (DVM) in Ethiopia and did his post graduate studies in systems thinking and practice for sustainable regional development at the University of Queensland in Australia. Yiheyis have had extensive experience in leading animal health, sustainable livelihood improvement and environmental rehabilitation programs in drylands of Ethiopia. Since joining CSIRO in 2002, he has been undertaking systems and modelling research to understand and inform sustainable pathways out of chronic indigenous development challenges and vulnerabilities to climate change in remote Australia. Currently he is heavily involved in research for food security and development in Sub-Saharan Africa.