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Chapter II Experiences and Initiatives that Promote Collaboration between Researchers and Decision-makers 1. Democratization Processes and Attempts to Harmonize Research Policies at the Institutional Level a) Democratising Political Environments Promotes the Development of Various Forms of Research In Africa, relations between researchers and decision-makers are highly dependent on national political environments. In some countries where freedom of expression is very limited, researchers rarely have the opportunity to put their ideas across to decisionmakers . However, when the environment evolves towards greater democracy, multiple forms of research emerge. In reality, the whole environment changes with democracy and promotes various forms of expression, including research. The case of Mali is a clear illustration: The democratic revolution in Mali provided a political framework for freedom of expression and promotion of creativity and innovation in every field, particularly in research. Under the two previous regimes, creative people in general and researchers in particular lived in a climate devoid of the freedom to provide inputs into decision-making. One of the major constraints was the almost mandatory use of data provided by government agencies without any criticism as to its validity (Tounkara 2005). When the dictatorial regime was overthrown and with the ushering in of democracy, long awaited by all, relations between researchers and decision-makers improved considerably. “In addition, the new political environment encouraged government authorities to promote innovation, as they were aware that their political future was increasingly dependent on the results of their actions to achieve sustainable development. The new environment went a long way to 42 African Researchers and Decision-makers explaining the successful collaboration between ROCARE/ ERNWACA and the Ministry of Basic Education” (Tounkara 2005). The democratization process promotes the progressive and growing involvement of researchers in defining government policies; it provides the opportunity to share their thoughts with decision-makers. This situation was illustrated by the case of Senegal during the researcher /decision-maker workshop on agriculture: Nowadays, research is regularly discussed in inter-ministerial councils, in the development of national strategic plans, including certain local development plans, and very often in the identification and monitoring and evaluation of development projects. In Senegal, as elsewhere, agricultural research plays an important role in development through the provision of technical solutions,informationandideasinsupportofstrategicchoices(Tounkara2005). In the context of democratization, information has been very critical in creating freedom of speech. The progressive liberalization of the media has brought changes to the constitutions of many countries, which has facilitated the creation of agencies for audiovisual communications, thereby promoting the emergence of private media and greater respect for democratic norms through proper regulation. In addition, the advent of information and communication technology (ICT) has also promoted media globalization and democratization of information. Researchers in such an environment are more daring in increasing the visibility of their research findings. b) A Progressive Decentralization Policy Favours the Emergence of Diverse Political Players Open to Research Most West African countries have progressively established decentralization policies that grant more decision-making powers to communes, rural communities and grassroots organisations. Research organizations , active mostly in the field, were already decentralized within each country. In the agricultural sector, for instance, specialized research centres in animal production, agriculture, and forestry have emerged in rural areas. The decentralized structures work directly with local actors through jointly initiated projects. This participatory approach is confirmed and even reinforced by the administrative decentralization process that enables local actors to take initiatives and decisions without prior reference to central authorities. One of the results of decentralization policies has been the emergence of numerous village groups and producers’ associations that participate in research experiments or in popularization or extension of research findings. One remarkable example is the Siwaa7 programme in Mali. Experiences and Initiatives that Promote Collaboration 43 The Siwaa Programme in Mali The activities that culminated in the Siwaa convention began in Kaniko and Try, two villages located southeast of Koutiala, which exert strong pressure on sylvopastoral resources. These two villages requested the assistance of the Malian Textile Development Company (CMDT) to find solutions to control soil erosion. Because it lacked the necessary technical skills at that time, CMDT requested and received support from the Rural Production Systems Research Division (Division de recherche sur les systèmes de production rurale, DRSPR), which had access to research findings from Fonsébougou. Thus, erosion control was introduced into the villages. People were trained to implement a number of techniques to minimize the negative effects of water erosion. However, the results of the technical erosion control measures, which were...


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