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Strengthening capacities in Africa

to respond to EU’s competitive calls for research proposals.

Ag-connectors supported FARA, its sub-regional organizations (SROs) and partners in developing proposals responding to European Union funding calls under the European Union’s Horizon Europe program. There have been  limited “winning” proposals from non-academic/research organizations in the African region. By building its proposal development capacity, FARA hoped to respond more effectively and to win calls for African agricultural research and development.  

A core team of experts and staff from FARA, the SROs and partners worked closely with Ag-connectors consultants to develop better proposals. Adopting a 4-step methodology focused on optimizing the limited time available to develop competitive proposals, the assignment was carried out virtually over a 5 month period.   

Step 1: Understanding  FARA’s and its partners priorities and strengths. The team reviewed FARA’s past projects comparing them to EU Horizon’s calls open for Africa.  Ag-connectors consultants reviewed various aspects; opportunities, challenges, geographic spread, relevance, alignment to the calls as well as effective partnerships.  Ag-connectors also analyzed EU Horizon proposal expectations with respect to scope, output, outcome, impact and the partnerships to be established. The reviews resulted in a workable starting point to respond to two calls for proposals: 1) Agro-ecological approaches for African agriculture systems and 2) African Food Cities.

Step2: Assessing and matching expertise. Working closely with the FARA secretariat, Ag-connectors evaluated  and  matched expertise to best respond to capacity gaps among participants. Working teams or consortia were created. Using Ag-connectors  expertise, potential partners from across the African continent and Europe were identified and vetted employing assessment criteria jointly developed by Ag-connectors and the FARA teams

Step 3: Coaching, facilitation and support. Focusing on ideation and conceptualization for effective proposal response, mindmaps were created for each proposal, identifying crucial information including current knowledge relevant to FARA’s capacities and existing policies  (global, regional and national).  Ag-connectors shared its expertise gained from EU call experience as well as literature reviews. Ag-connectors drafted a Theory of Change to be used by proposal development teams for each of the calls.. The main coaching approach was ‘learning-by doing’ with joint reflection and refinement. Ag-connectors facilitated a series of sessions to ensure learning, to create proposal ownership, budget development and to understand roles and responsibilities. 

Step 4: Drafting and review of final proposal: Drawing from its in-house knowledge and extensive experience designing bankable proposals, Ag-connectors drafted the proposal and budget as outlined during the facilitated sessions. The title of the proposal is “Transitioning to Agroecology through Innovation and Learning Systems in Africa” (TRAILS).  TRAILS was reviewed  and accepted by partners for submission. 

For the Food cities proposal, based on the concepts and knowledge gained from Ag-connector facilitated sessions, FARA and its partners designed the proposal without further Ag-Connector assistance.

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