'Our unique partnership is about accelerating impact and progress', says CORAF's Dr Abdou Tenkouano

AICCRA participated in a 'Brown Bag Lunch' at the World Bank in Washington DC recently. This event was held to explore the impact AICCRA has achieved to date, the lessons learned and compelling opportunities for the World Bank that are emerging from AICCRA research, innovations, and partnerships.

We were honoured to be joined by Dr Abdou Tenkouano, Executive Director of CORAF (West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development) a key AICCRA partner in West Africa, who opened the session with the following speech.

"Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen,

Dear Colleagues of the Climate Smart Community,

Good afternoon, good morning, or good evening to all, from wherever in the world you join us today.

I would like to start by thanking partners at the World Bank and CGIAR for welcoming me here today, to address this timely World Bank event.

Today, we focus on how we can support a climate-smart Africa future, one driven by science and innovation in agriculture.

I want to use this opportunity to demonstrate the unique value of the partnership between the World Bank, CGIAR and my own organization - the West and Central Africa Council for Agricultural Research and Development, known as CORAF.

But let’s not forget why we are here.

Agriculture remains central to the livelihoods of millions of Africans.

Transforming African agriculture—and the global food system it can support—remains a priority for a sustainable growth and resilient communities across the continent. 

Despite decades of progress — driven by partnership, policy, investment, and innovation — the triple challenge of conflict, covid and climate change now risk food security.

These factors compound the climate challenge made abundantly clear in the most recent ‘State of the Climate in Africa’ report: 

  • Africa’s climate has warmed more than the global average since pre-industrial times.   
  • Sea-level rises along African coastlines have also been faster than the global mean, contributing to increases in the frequency and severity of coastal flooding, erosion, and salinity in low-lying cities. 
  • Continental water bodies are steadily drying up — especially Lake Chad. This is leading to significant adverse impacts on the agricultural sector, ecosystems, biodiversity, and the socioeconomic development of surrounding nations.
  • Africa was hit by several high-impact extreme weather events in 2021 (and this is happening also in 2022), and experienced lingering droughts, extensive floods, and tropical cyclones.  

The subsequent challenge to Africa’s food systems is clear.  

Hunger in Africa has soared by almost a third in the last two years.  

According to IMF estimates, at least 123 million people — 12% of sub-Saharan Africa’s population — are unable to meet their minimum food consumption needs right now. 

The 2022 'State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World' report noted that while food security has declined in many regions of the world, Africa beared the heaviest burden.  

Therefore, we must act urgently to address the twin food and climate crisis. You will agree with me that failure is not an option, and time is not on our side. That is where the ACCELERATION part in the AICCRA acronym comes in.

Accelerating the rollout and scaling of what we already know to work well to bolster food security must be our priority. 

African institutions are establishing compelling agendas for action, claiming greater ownership and agency in setting the priorities for investments and projects that deliver a climate-smart future. 

Take for example the newly ratified African Union Climate Change and Resilient Development Strategy and Action Plan. 

But the support of the institutions like the World Bank and research partnerships such as the CGIAR has, can and must continue to play a critical role in meeting the challenge we face.  

Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa — or AICCRA for short — was conceived as just such a project that would work ‘hand-in-glove’ with African institutions to deliver on their ambitions.  

CGIAR has delivered ground-breaking innovations for the last five decades, and this was done through partnerships.  

But we must better connect the science and research of CGIAR with the agendas of African institutions like CORAF and other regional research associations in Africa.  

As such, I would like to take this opportunity to express my personal satisfaction for the successful collaboration between CORAF and AICCRA.

Together, we are increasing the resilience of millions of farmers in Africa through the implementation of climate-smart agriculture practices and technologies, while promoting the use of climate information services.

We’re also strengthening institutional and human capacities of organizations in the region. 

I am thrilled to share with you today just some examples of our collaborative work together. 

Firstly, CORAF backstopped the design of the World Bank’s West Africa Food System Resilience Program. We invited input from CGIAR climate research community in this process, connecting science with policy while exploring synergies for scaling. 

Secondly, several CORAF projects benefitted from AICCRA scientific and technical backstopping. For instance:  

  • The ProPAD CSA project in Chad; where training led by the AICCRA West Africa team for national policymakers on CSA took place just two weeks ago; and
  • The TARSPro project-promoting agricultural technology and innovation.

Thirdly, we strengthened the capacity of CORAF’s NARS constituencies in foresight analysis, which enables them to plan more robustly.  

When the time comes to look back, I have no doubt that we will be able to confidently say that AICCRA research outputs have benefited stakeholders and partners across the 23 West and Central Africa countries where CORAF works.   

As Executive Director of CORAF, I am really thrilled to see these potential outcomes from our partnership with AICCRA as they benefit smallholder farmers and livestock keepers in sub-Saharan Africa.

As AICCRA’s name suggests, our unique partnership is about accelerating impact and progress on our own goals.  

Critical support from International Development Association funds pass through well-established CGIAR research centers in AICCRA’s six focus countries in Africa.  

As they do, they activate unique science-driven partnerships that draw in the public and private sectors, as well as civil society. 

This unique and ground-breaking mode of working together really ‘connects-the-dots’ in linking science, policy and action. 

This new way of working ensures IDA funds really strengthen African organizations to sustainably respond to climate challenges – both now and in the future.  

As a result, it’s my belief that AICCRA must play a strategic role supporting and building the capacity of West African centers of excellence for climate action and food security.  

Letters from high-level representatives drawn from government ministries, universities, national meteorological agencies, national agriculture research centers — as well as from regional institutions like CORAF — provide crystal clear testament to the impact of AICCRA.

These letters echo broad array of support to the AICCRA way of working from the likes of:

  • The African Union’s Africa Climate Policy Center
  • The African Group of Negotiators Expert Support
  • The United Nations Economic Commission for Africa
  • The African Center of Excellence for Climate Smart Agriculture and Biodiversity Conservation, led by Haramaya University in Ethiopia
  • Mali’s National Meteorological Agency

These letters demonstrate clearly not only how AICCRA supports the agenda and priorities of these organizations, but additionally how IDA support is reaching these national climate action champions more effectively precisely because of their partnership with AICCRA.

From my experience, this is the case in AICCRA’s six focus countries but is also evidently spilling over to neighboring countries - and in the process delivering impact at the regional level.

Of course, our new way of working with AICCRA is not happening in a vacuum. 

We all are evolving how we work – not least the CGIAR, which is undergoing huge changes as part of the ‘OneCGIAR’ process. 

These changes update CGIAR ways of working to remain relevant in the face of contemporary challenges, and ensure its work has huge impact for decades to come. 

It’s my personal view that AICCRA’s partnership model is one that could inspire OneCGIAR – and I have said it at many other occasions. 

I believe AICCRA represents a model of a new kind of partnership that should exist between African regional and national institutions, the CGIAR, and development agencies such as the World Bank. 

Therefore, continued investment in AICCRA beyond 2023 could catalyze major transformation across CGIAR, which — let's not forget — is the world’s largest research partnership for agriculture and food security. 

It is my strong wish to see our successful collaboration with AICCRA and the World Bank continue and grow in the years ahead, with more resources earmarked for regional institutions in future iterations or evolutions of programs like AICCRA. 

This is especially the case given the commencement of the decade-long World Bank-led FSRP projects. 

With such backing, our joint efforts can really make strides in addressing the root causes of persistent food insecurity in Africa, tackle deep structural challenges, and ultimately make us better prepared for food security crises of the future. 

These remarks have largely focused on the adaptation part (which has its own dose of mitigation), but the world has awakened to the need of accelerating mitigation, deliberately, consistently, massively. Is it then possible to dream that when we collectively succeed in so doing, that we could reverse climate change?

Regardless, we would do well to stay awake and maintain course on “Accelerating the Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research in Africa”

Thank you."

Watch the Event

Reflecting on the progress of the project 'Accelerating Impacts of CGIAR Climate Research for Africa' (AICCRA)