Wageningen University: SNV and WUR launch €100 Million Program Pro-Arides to support Sahel Region

SNV Netherlands Development Organisation and WUR, together with other partner agencies CARE-Nederland and KIT Royal Tropical Institute (KIT), today officially launched Pro-ARIDES – a 10-year, multi-country program that aims to increase resilience, food security as well as farmer and [agro] pastoralists incomes in the Sahel region.

Funded by the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs and led by SNV, the Programme Agroalimentaire pour la Résilience Intégrée et le Développement Economique du Sahel (Pro-ARIDES) program will work through decentralised institutions, private sector and civil society organisations across Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger to help improve service provisioning, natural resource and land management as well as economic development and social inclusion at local levels across the Sahel.

National institutions and organisations as change agents will be central to the program strategy, which focuses on systems change and scaling up as a route to sustainable impact that will grow to reach people beyond the direct beneficiaries of a program and contribute to re-establishing the social contract between citizens and local governments.

Two phases
The Program will run in two phases. The first five years will focus on infrastructure and empowering institutions; strengthening capacity and establishing trust; and developing, testing and improving working methods and strategies. The second phase will move towards expanding and scaling up successful approaches and interventions from the first phase, and embedding the corresponding approaches, practices and technologies to ensure sustainability and lasting change. The Program will additionally focus on stimulating mutual learning and strengthening practices and knowledge management.

Building upon existing positive local dynamics, this approach further ensures that Pro-ARIDES gets to the heart of the real issues
Bertus Wennink, Senior Advisor at KIT Royal Tropical Institute
“Today, the launch of this program marks a significant step not only in putting in place real commitment to increasing resilience and food security to the Sahel region, but in ensuring that the region has access to lasting solutions that will benefit farming and pastoralists households and contribute in the long-term to stability across the region,” said Pro-ARIDES Program Manager, Dr Jean de Matha Ouedraogo. He continued, “Building closer working relationships with local farmer and pastoralist organisations as well as national and regional governments will be an essential part of our joint efforts to realise the changes across eight key regions in the Sudano-Sahel zone.”

The Sahel region
In addition to the increasingly apparent impacts of climate change, the Sahel region is contending with multiple challenges from land and water degradation and frequent conflicts, to inequality, displacement and fragility in its food and nutritional sources.

“Over the years, we have seen the region hit by numerous man-made and natural challenges which require us to appreciate and use the lessons learnt,” according to Peter Zoutewelle, Project Manager at CARE Nederland. “With agriculture including pastoralism a significant sector and source of income across the Sahel, it is clear that investing in sustainable agriculture and inclusive value chains could address malnutrition and contribute to raising income levels. Men and women play an important role in the agricultural sector and this can have a positive impact on livelihoods and the wider society. This makes the work we intend to do through Pro-ARIDES, vital on several levels. We intend to work complementary to other existing initiatives.”

The population of the Sahel region is also growing rapidly, with some 65 per cent under the age of 25. Simone van Vugt, Senior Advisor Planning, Monitoring and Evaluation & Multi-Stakeholder Processes in Agricultural Sectors at Wageningen University & Research, noted, “This is a trend, particularly in the youth demographic, which could prove pivotal to transforming the overall agricultural sector. In fact, youth are not only a vital, potential workforce, but together with the empowerment of women, can take up important roles in developing and sustaining value chains. The Pro-ARIDES approach takes these and other factors, such as inclusive multi-stakeholder engagement into consideration – all of which contribute to establishing sustainable impact.”

Strong transformations in local development
Commenting on the focus on systems change and lasting impact Bertus Wennink, Senior Advisor in Sustainable Local Economic Development at KIT Royal Tropical Institute added, “Building upon existing positive local dynamics, this approach further ensures that Pro-ARIDES gets to the heart of the real issues which in turn can bring about strong transformations for more inclusive, ecologically sustainable and resilient local development in the Sudano-Sahelian zone of Burkina Faso, Mali and Niger.”

The Program aims to bring about the changes needed by focusing on five key areas:

Improved food, farm and herd management for more resilient production systems and better household nutrition
Increased business, service and employment opportunities and market linkages generating more economic value
Sustainable management of land, water and other natural resources through peaceful and collective resource use arrangements
Gender, youth and inclusiveness for resilient food systems development
Underlying – Strengthening institutions to re-establish social contract