Project Activities

Rodents have a significant impact on people’s livelihoods in many ways, causing damage to many different crops, contamination of stored food, damage to buildings and personal possessions and the transmission of 60+ diseases. Commonly recommended approaches for managing rodents using rodenticides are usually inappropriate for small-scale agricultural communities and have the potential to cause damage to human health and the environment. Innovative research and knowledge extension are required to tackle the rodent problems faced by African communities. As the main beneficiaries, small-scale farming communities will work together with agricultural researchers, NGOs, private sector and government policy makers and extensionists from six African countries to develop ecologically-based rodent management strategies that can significantly reduce the impact of rodents on people’s lives. Through STI on rodent ecology, training, networking and awareness raising, new innovations about rodent management will be developed and disseminated to end users and institutional stakeholder groups throughout Africa and worldwide.

The need for science and technology innovation in Africa with respect to rodent pest management is particularly important not only because of their relatively higher impact in the Tropics, but because there is a major disconnect between rodent research activities and priorities in developed and developing countries. In developed countries, rodent pest management research is driven by chemical companies looking for new rodenticides, but research is generally limited because rodent pests are not considered a big market or problem because people’s proximity to rodents is relatively low in developed countries. Whereas human proximity to rodents is high in Africa; most small holder farmers have high numbers of rodents in their houses and crop fields. Rodenticides and illegal poisons are not the solution for Africa because they are expensive and easily misused. However, novel and innovative research on rodent management is not really happening in Africa due to a lack of private companies and limited private sector rodent pest management services that typically drive R&D investment in places like Europe. This divergence between developed and developing countries with respect to rodent pests and their management means that Africa’s problems with rodents will not be resolved by knowledge transfer from Europe or North America where new appropriate solutions are simply not being developed. Africa must take charge of its own agenda and realise that appropriate solutions to its specific problems with rodents must be “home-grown”, therefore, building its own STI capacity among African universities, research institutes, civil society and the private sector.

The overall objectives of the action are to strengthen science, technology and innovation about rodent biology and management and contribute to African sustainable development by enabling institutions to address key indicators of poverty through the impacts of rodents on agricultural production systems and food security. Furthermore, the action will improve multi-stakeholder interactions to overcome bottlenecks in rodent pest management service provision and African-appropriate innovations that reduce the impact of rodents on peoples’ livelihoods. The action’s specific objectives are to build and strengthen Africa’s STI capacities across a range of specialities that will enhance socio-economic development by tackling policy issues, knowledge dissemination and technical competence to deliver sustainable rodent management. Africa’s capacities will be enhanced across a range of specialities related to ecologically-based rodent management including population dynamics, chemical ecology, animal behaviour, taxonomy, social anthropology, economics, agronomy, post-harvest storage & quality assurance, technology adoption, end-user participatory research, regulatory frameworks, and training and awareness programmes. As the project involves six African countries from the West, East and South, collaboration and cooperation at the inter-regional level will be enhanced. Rodents cause a number of pest problems across the value chain, reducing yields for all field crops and causing damage, loss and contamination during storage. Activities within the proposed action are designed to deal not only with agriculture and food security, but the holistic set of problems rodents cause, including human and livestock health and general well-being. The expected results of the action are to 1) identify STI priorities for rodent-related research and formulate policies that will improve rodent management and reduce the impact of rodents on food security; 2) develop national and international capacities to deliver, manage and monitor African-appropriate innovations for rodent management; 3) increase awareness among decision makers and the general public about the multiple impacts of rodents on people’s livelihoods in order to influence STI investment priorities. To achieve these three objectives, inter-linked activities are listed within work packages that contribute to an integrated strategy required to build STI capacity. WP1: Developing an African-appropriate response for rodent pest management problems WP2: Establishing a multi-stakeholder capacity building platform about African rodents WP3: StopRats training and awareness raising programme for the ACP region. WP4: Project management, monitoring & evaluation and communication / visibility. The StopRats action is proposed to take place over a 36 month period, creating a permanent legacy that includes an African centre of excellence, an interactive internet portal of information where knowledge and expertise can be shared, national level expert panels and advisory services that inform government and the general public, respectively, more capable and motivated education, research and extension staff and new national and international linkages among institutions that will improve the ability to innovate novel rodent research that can reduce the impact of rodents on African livelihoods.

Work package title

WP 1: Developing an   African-appropriate response for rodent pest management problems

Lead partner

UoVenda  

Involved partners

All   partners – UoNamibia, Concern, UoSwaziland, Vahatra, SokoineUoA, ARC-PPRI,   NRI-UoG

Objectives

  • Develop national and international network of   current and prospective stakeholders particularly required to address   agricultural and food security issues related to rodent pests
  • Evaluate current knowledge, attitudes and practice   at household, institutional and national levels with regards to impact and   management of rodents.
  • Establish government-sanctioned expert advisory   panels on rodent issues

Justification

Rodents   have a significant impact on people’s livelihoods in many ways, causing   damage to many different crops, contamination of stored food, damage to   buildings and personal possessions and the transmission of 60+ diseases.   Despite being a well-recognised problem throughout the world, there has been   relatively little research on rodent pest management since the advent of   anticoagulant rodenticides in the 1950’s. Rodents have been ignored because   of a lack of hard facts on their true impact. The poor application and   adaptation of rodent control measures to particular situations often results   in treatment failures, leading to apathy and widespread acceptance of rodent   pests in the environment. Many African farmers suffer from low awareness,   ingrained defeatism when trying to control rodents and acquiesce to rodent   damage. Commonly recommended approaches for managing rodents using   rodenticides are usually inappropriate for small-scale agricultural   communities and have the potential to cause damage to human health and the   environment. Building Africa’s research capacities to tackle rodent pest   problems by developing innovative and sustainable science and technology   solutions could be one of the most important interventions of the 21st   century across the continent to reduce poverty and improve people’s   livelihoods. This is because the multiple impacts of rodents on peoples’   lives place these animals in a relatively unique position compared to other   pest and disease problems faced by agricultural communities. Therefore,   reducing rodent pest numbers can have a much larger impact on reducing   poverty than any other single pest problem. In agriculture, rodents are both   a pre-harvest and post-harvest pest problem, causing major impacts on food   security, nutrition and food safety.

Description of work

StopRats   stakeholder workshops. Partners in   each country will carry out a stakeholder analysis to identify individuals,   institutions and end users including community based organisations (CBOs)   that are or should be involved in rodent research and development,   regulation, and practical delivery of knowledge and rodent management   services. A series of workshops will be held in each country inviting   identified stakeholders to discuss the current neglect of rodent research and   their inadequate management. Over the project action timeframe, at least 3-4   such meetings per country will be scheduled, anticipated to be 2-3 days   duration with approximately 50 people each. These national level meetings   will be structured to provide open discussion of the multiple problems   rodents cause, e.g. their damage to field crops, loss/contamination of stored   food, transmission of disease to livestock and people, destruction of personal   property, as well as current management practices, e.g. use of illegal   poisons and inappropriate/misuse of rodenticides, and alternatives that   may/may not be locally available. We expect one of the outcomes of these   workshops will be to offer support to the overall objectives of the StopRats   action, sanctioning proposed activities as well as potentially   adding/changing activities to some limited extent with respect to time and   budgetary constraints of the action. A certain level of flexibility within the   StopRats action will be required to ensure these national stakeholder groups   can focus on the problems, which may vary between countries with different   existing policies and/or levels of advancement in how rodent pests are   managed or regulated. The workshops will, therefore, partially act as a   project driving force, as a mechanism to debate the issues in the broadest   sense, build consensus among stakeholders, and provide feedback to the other   StopRats activities discussed and implemented in parallel. Each meeting will   be minuted, key actions/outcomes summarised and made available to project   partners via the project website. The full round of workshops across the   countries involved will be analysed to form part of a policy paper published   through peer-review journal mechanisms. In addition to national level   workshops, we propose to organise 1-2 international workshops to provide   higher level knowledge sharing and support as a means of ensuring best   practice and learning that can be applied in each involved country.

Socio-economic   analysis of the impacts of rodents on African society. Because rodents have been neglected globally,   there are many knowledge gaps, and coupled with generally poor networking   opportunities among isolated rodent scientists, there are widespread problems   in the amalgamation of knowledge, particularly related to understanding and   quantifying their multiple impacts on people’s livelihoods. In the Tropics,   rodents can vector/reservoir more than 60 different diseases to people and   domestic animals (e.g. leptospirosis, plague typhus), attack nearly all crops   (staples, vegetables, fruits) in the field and store as well as damage   physical infrastructure (e.g. electrical wires), and personal possessions   (e.g. clothes, blankets, mosquito nets). The wide variety of negative impacts   presents major challenges in trying to quantify the socio-economic impact of   rodents in different contexts/localities. Because such an analysis has never   before been carried out and in order to strengthen STI about rodents, we   propose to bring together the global published literature on the   multi-sectoral damage caused by rodents and carry out a comparative analysis   that economically quantifies rodent damage at the national level in each   target country vs. expenditure on rodent management and R&D investment.   Ultimately, we propose to compare this analysis to similar analyses that have   been conducted for other crop and human/animal health pests (e.g. army worm,   locust, quelea bird, stem borers, mosquito, tsetse fly) which have economic   importance in Africa in order to understand current investment priorities and   the potential benefits of investment in rodent biology and management. This   socio-economic analysis will help synthesize existing knowledge that will   improve our understanding of current problems and bottlenecks in delivery of   rodent pest management options. Similarly, this activity will provide an   opportunity to investigate knowledge, attitudes and practices about rodents   with respect to a number of key parameters, such as the impact of increased   climate variability on rodent population outbreaks, the differential roles   and attitudes of men and women in rodent management, the environmental   sustainability of various rodent control practices and the function of previous   and present governance structures to inform future improvements. The involved   partners, associates and StopRats stakeholder workshop participants will all   be involved in the collection of published literature, internal documents and   personal experiences to build up a database (held on the StopRats website   described below) which will form the basis of a multi-authored peer-reviewed   critical review as well as at least one other peer-reviewed paper in a   journal such as Food Policy on the comparative socio-economic investment   opportunities in rodent management vs. other common pests of the Tropics.

Policies   and priorities for rodent management.   The analysis and publication of the proposed critical review and   socio-economic analysis discussed above will provide ACP nations with a   foundation on which to rationally re-evaluate R&D investments, knowledge   extension and outreach programmes and start of process of policy development   that focusses initially on developing priorities for rodent pest management. The   multi-sectoral damage caused by rodents is likely to pose several policy   challenges, e.g. roles and responsibilities of Ministries of Health,   Agriculture and Environment are arranged in different ways in different   countries, but often still mean that many rodent issues currently fall   between Ministerial departments. To develop policies and resolve priorities,   rodent pest issues require the establishment of national multi-disciplinary   expert panels to develop recommendations. Project partners have good working   relationships with government and it should be possible to establish such   working groups with government approval, particularly if provided with policy   documents and concrete evidence of rodent pest impacts. We expect that the   StopRats stakeholder workshops will form the basis of development of these   expert panels.

Deliverables

  • At least three peer-reviewed publications
  • Database of literature on rodent damage to people’s   livelihoods, particularly agriculture and food security, but not ignoring the   many other rodent pest impacts on human and livestock health
  • Policy documents on rodent impacts and management   tailored to each involved country (Sierra Leone, Madagascar, Tanzania,   Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland)
  • Establishment of government sanctioned rodent expert   panels in each country

Risks & assumptions

Minimise   scheduling conflicts for workshop attendees by long-term forward planning of   meetings

Establishing   government supported cross-departmental rodent expert panels may prove   difficult in some countries

 

Work package title

WP 2: Establishing a multi-stakeholder   capacity building platform about African rodents

Lead partner

SokoineUoA  

Involved partners

All   partners – UoNamibia, Concern, UoSwaziland, UoVenda, Vahatra, ARC-PPRI,   NRI-UoG

Objectives

  • Create a place for networking and communication   among different stakeholders
  • Build capacity through training of stakeholders to   effectively communicate about rodent pest issues in the scientific and policy   making arenas
  • Provide a forum for the provision of knowledge and   advice to end users, civil society, and practitioners on best practice rodent   management and new technologies and innovations

Justification

There   is a major disconnect between rodent research activities and priorities in developed   and developing countries. In developed countries, rodent pest management   research is driven by chemical companies looking for new rodenticides, but   research is generally limited because rodent pests are not considered a big   market or problem because people’s proximity to rodents is limited in   developed countries. Whereas, in the Tropics, rodent pests hinder   agricultural and livestock production, and cause severe human health   problems. Human proximity to rodents is high in Africa; most small holder   farmers have high numbers of rodents in their houses and crop fields. Rodenticides   and illegal poisons are not the solution for Africa because they are   expensive and easily misused. However, novel and innovative research on   rodent management is not really happening in Africa due to a lack of private   companies and limited private sector rodent pest management services that   typically drive R&D investment in places like Europe. This divergence   between developed and developing countries with respect to rodent pests and   their management means that Africa’s problems with rodents will not be   resolved by knowledge transfer from Europe or North America where new   solutions are simply not being developed. Africa must take charge of its own   agenda and realise that appropriate solutions to its specific problems with   rodents must be “home-grown”, therefore, building its own STI capacity among   African universities, research institutes, civil society and the private   sector.

Description of work

African   centre for rodent management.   African rodent experts are scattered thinly, often working in isolation   within their institution, with few sustainable groups found in the public or   private sector. Civil society, environmental health and agricultural   extension officers are engaged in rodent pest management activities, often   with poor knowledge of alternative rodent management actions. African   scientists and practitioners need to network in order to build teams and   centres of excellence that can address rodent pest management issues as   experienced under African conditions and disseminate best practice knowledge   to policy makers, civil society and other researchers. We propose to build a   new virtual centre of excellence that will act as a knowledge portal for   African rodent pest management services. This web-portal will inter-link   research institutes, researchers, civil society, private sector and policy   makers. The website will be staffed and maintained by the StopRats action to   ensure information is regularly updated and to moderate discussion forums and   information exchange. This multi-stakeholder centre will strengthen capacity   not only within the countries directly involved but enable stakeholders   across the ACP region to participate. This will be facilitated by embedding   page translation services for at least French and Portuguese. The website   will be designed with different users in mind so that researchers can access   scientific information, whilst civil society and private sector users can   access leaflets and practical information. However, the strength of the   website design will be to encourage multi-stakeholder interaction to   encourage innovatory approaches to deliver appropriate rodent management and   overcome existing bottlenecks. This interaction will be facilitated as an interactive   blog and message board that enables people to engage in real-time open   discussion or email exchange. This virtual centre of excellence is strongly   interlinked to other activities described in the StopRats proposal. The   initial team of users will be the participants of the national stakeholder   workshops which includes all the StopRats partners and associates. In the   context of these workshops, individuals will use the African centre for   rodent management to develop a knowledge database about rodent damage and   advertise their experience/roles with respect to rodents. The centre will   also act as a portal for the rodent expert panels developed to inform policy   makers, enabling two-way communication and exchange of knowledge between   policy makers and experts. Thus the African centre for rodent management will   supplement and strengthen the face-to-face interactions described in WP1,   providing a mechanism to help ensure long-term sustainability of a   pan-African network. As the centre develops, it will form the basis of the   rodent advisory service described below to put end users in touch with   knowledge providers.

Write   workshop. Many surveys and   assessments carried out by the African Union and regional bodies such as SADC   and RUFORUM indicate a high priority for capacity building is scientific   writing for peer-reviewed journals as well as for grant writing, and these   needs have been expressed directly by many African practitioners and senior   university managers. Such capacity is not only about how to write such   material but interpreting and understanding published material. Understanding   and critically critiquing scientific literature are skills often lacking not   only within the scientific community but also within civil society and   government policy makers. We firstly propose to deliver a series of workshops   aimed at assisting individuals to improve their scientific writing. In   addition to formal seminars, senior members of the StopRats team will guide   practical sessions to help more junior staff, post-graduate students and   others involved in such writing, e.g. civil society organisations writing   grant proposals. These practicals will ideally be set around the   participants’ own existing datasets from work that has not been successfully   written up and by targeting current open calls for grant proposals. A mixed   mode of workshop delivery will be required to meet participants’ requirements   using a combination of distance learning software, face-to-face   seminars/workshops and remote mentoring to support participants over the   period of time it takes to practically develop a manuscript for submission or   meet an existing grant proposal deadline. We expect the majority of   participants to be drawn from the involved partner countries; however,   participants from other ACP countries will be encouraged through proactive   engagement with key institutions in other countries. We expect to be able to   offer this write workshop to approximately 150-200 people over the lifetime   of the StopRats action, duration will vary from 2 days to 2 months depending   on modes of delivery employed. A second part to this activity is to hold   critical thinking workshops facilitated by high ranking senior researchers on   reading and understanding scientific literature. These workshops will be open   to academic institutions as well as government agencies, journalists, the   business sector, and civil society organisations. As part of these workshops,   individuals will be asked to read journal publications and then summarise   what the papers are about in their own words. Examples of “good” and “bad”   publications will be used to enable participants to develop critical   analytical skills to understand what makes a “good” publication and identify   potential faults in the way data are presented or interpreted. Workshops will   discuss such issues as empiricism, replication and statistics in the context   of understanding the limitations within published work. The objective of   these workshops is not to turn policy makers into scientists or vice versa,   but to help optimise effective communication between science and policy. In   this regard, such a multi-stakeholder workshop will help scientists explain   their work in more simple terms as well as enable the lay practitioner to   better understand STI processes and scientific jargon. We expect this   workshop to be delivered in each target country with approximately 20 people   per intake with 3 intakes per country over the duration of the StopRats   action, each workshop lasting 2 days.

Rodent   Advisory Service. Many developed   countries have trade bodies and associations that link together private   sector pest control services. This is less common in Africa, particularly for   rodent pests, and many end users simply do not know where to go to seek out   private sector knowledge and services, instead relying on those provided by   government and civil society extension programmes. As part of WP1, StopRats   proposes to work with existing private sector players in each involved   country, forming part of the stakeholder workshops aimed at improving   cross-sectoral networking to improve the relevance and capacity of STI   towards agriculture and food security issues such as pest rodents. This   activity will be derived from the African centre for rodent research   described above, utilising the same architecture to develop national level   sites and partly based on the many existing sites developed in European   countries, e.g. http://www.npta.org.uk and http://www.bpca.org.uk, but with broader stakeholder input (including   civil society, government research institutes) to support the relatively   underdeveloped private sector on rodent pest management found across Africa.   This Rodent Advisory Service marketplace is a highly innovatory approach to   disseminating and amalgamating knowledge and could help establish national   and regional mechanisms for advising public and private bodies, service   providers and end users. We expect national level websites established in   each involved country, initially supported by the StopRats action, but   eventually the costs of maintaining the website will be met by subscription   fees payable by service providers as occurs elsewhere.

Deliverables

  • A pan-African centre of excellence on rodent management established
  • At least 150 people from ACP nations provided with   training on scientific writing
  • At least 360 people from ACP nations provided with   training on science communication, critical thinking and interpreting scientific publications
  • Six national rodent advisory service networks established

Risks & assumptions

Routinely high turnover of staff in government agencies can make it difficult to engage policy makers and develop long term support for change within government departments.

Work package title

WP 3: StopRats training and awareness   raising programme for the ACP region

Lead partner

Vahatra

Involved partners

All   partners – UoNamibia, Concern, UoSwaziland, UoVenda, SokoineUoA, ARC-PPRI,   NRI-UoG

Objectives

  • Improve opportunities for African field biologists   to receive training
  • Provide a forum for the exchange of STI amongst   field scientists that do not normally have the occasion to meet
  • Develop professional contacts that lead to long-term   collaborations, sharing of samples and expertise
  • Provide students with life-changing experiences that   influence their professional development and networks
  • Provide teachers with in-service training and   training materials
  • Raise awareness with the general public and policy   makers about rodent pest issues through first-hand accounts
  • Build capacity of civil society groups on rodent   management delivery options

Justification

Scientists   and students in Africa interested in field biology and ecology have few   opportunities for life-long learning, improving their skills related to   wildlife conservation and management. Because of its uniqueness and   diversity, African wildlife is an incredibly important resource in terms of   promoting tourism and providing jobs related to nature conservation and   management. Small mammals (including rodents) are one component within this   discipline of wildlife research. Persuading students generally interested in   wildlife to consider a career working with rodents will help expand wildlife   research opportunities, opening the door to job creation by applying their   knowledge to rodent pest management activities. Opportunities for scientific   training networks under the StopRats banner will encourage more field   scientists, teachers and students across Africa and will inspire a higher level   of passion associated with their work, thinking about how their knowledge   could be applied to manage rodents in villages, towns and cities as opposed   to managing big game in wildlife parks and to have a greater engagement in   collaborative research. Wildlife is an incredibly important aspect for the   future of Africa and provides a route into primary and secondary education   that children can easily relate to in the context of lessons on biology,   physiology, ecology, microbiology and disease, the environment, conservation   and management of natural resources. Small mammals, particularly rodents, are   an accessible group of animals that can be studied locally at different   levels throughout the educational system. Awareness about rodents, the damage   they cause and potential new solutions for their control, is lacking through   all sectors of society. Campaigns that target the general public, civil   society and policy makers will help raise the importance of carrying out STI   in Africa about rodents, i.e. no one else is going to do it for them.

Description of work

Field   schools for rodent knowledge. The   principal lead of this WP, Association Vahatra, has been operating field   schools for Malagasy students and scientists for nearly two decades with a   view to increasing Madagascar’s capacity to document, understand and manage   its unique biodiversity. These schools provide training in a number of   techniques that are highly relevant to the development of ecologically-based   rodent management, such as carrying out habitat surveys, trapping animals,   learning about aspects of their natural history, taxonomy, physiology and   sample collection for disease screening. The working model employed by   Vahatra will be expanded to other African countries involved in the project. For   the first field school, scientists and students from the partners directly   involved in StopRats will travel to Madagascar to take part in ongoing field   schools, mixed with Malagasy students, teachers and professors. In the second   and third years of the project, field schools will be established in at least   three other StopRats countries to cater for national needs, but also acting   as regional hubs by inviting participants from other nearby countries. For   example, a South African school could invite participants from Zimbabwe,   Zambia, Namibia, Swaziland, Lesotho and Botswana; a Tanzanian school could   invite participants from Uganda, DR Congo and Kenya; and a Sierra Leonean   school could invite individuals from Liberia, Ghana and Nigeria. An   experienced field school organizer from Vahatra will travel to the first   school in each region to provide assistance. Field schools are designed to   develop and increase skills about rodents and small mammals generally, collecting   and preserving specimens, accurately documenting aspects of methodology and   field data, to advance ongoing research programmes, e.g. understand breeding   and population dynamics to control rodents at the right time. Each school   contains approximately 15 participants and lasts about 10 days. Field   activities would consist of training on 1) carrying out a general rodent   survey in different local habitats (forest, savannah, agricultural mosaic);   2) trapping with different kinds of traps to determine trap success; 3)   collecting external/internal data on morphology, ecto- and endo-parasites,   epidemiological sample preservation. We would expect field schools to be   repeated with different candidates twice per year, each year of the project,   the first year in Madagascar only, expanding to three locations in Africa in   years 2 and 3. The intake for field schools will be drawn from universities   (both lecturers and students), schools (mainly secondary school teachers, but   also promising students and primary school teachers). University lecturers   and school teachers attending the field schools will simultaneously discuss   and develop teaching plans that fit into their relevant subjects and courses   taught using aspects of rodents to illustrate issues such as reproduction,   evolution, or anatomy whilst sensitising and raising awareness more generally   about the need for STI on specifically African-endemic issues.

StopRats   public debate seminars and presentation training series. In parallel with field schools, we propose to   operate a seminar series to encourage public awareness and debate about   rodent pests and their management, for example, discussing why solutions for   rodent pests are not being researched in Europe or North America and the   differences in priorities between developed and developing countries. Senior   rodent experts will organise public seminars in local areas where and when   field schools are taking place as a means of communicating STI to the general   public and raising awareness. Through the stakeholder workshops described in   WP1 it will be possible to field a range of speakers from different   perspectives and institutions to make public presentations in the evenings   whilst field schools are taking place. Advertising the public seminars will   happen through schools, sending leaflets home with students and local   authorities. Furthermore, as part of this activity we will provide students   and advanced graduates opportunities to present recent research activities in   front of a supportive and friendly audience, i.e. not open to the general   public. Making presentations at conferences and workshops is an important   part of science communication, and many young scientists can find this   intimidating because they do not receive appropriate training in how to make   Powerpoint slides and gain experience in presentation skills. Because the   field schools will bring together people from a number of institutions/countries,   it provides a convenient opportunity for young scientists to make   presentations either before or after the field school at the host partner   institution. Part of the process will involve providing feedback to the   presenters on how they can improve their visual materials and the way it is   presented.

Civil society capacity building. Community based organisations, NGOs and knowledge   extension programmes often have difficulty in finding appropriate advice   about rodent control programmes that they, themselves, are implementing in   partnerships with communities. What is often missing is an assessment of how   well their interventions have succeeded in reducing the rodent problems and   then finding ways to improve the impact of their rodent management   interventions. The StopRats action proposes to develop a collaborative   programme between rodent experts and civil society institutions to create an   applied rodent pest management training programme that involves demonstration   and validation of existing and novel methods. This validation and innovation   mentoring for civil society groups on research issues such as using   case-control empirical methods to validate intervention outcomes will involve   a 2-day formal training programme for institutional staff from CBOs and NGOs,   followed by demonstrating certain essential activities in a proposed target   location, e.g. small-holder farming community, where staff can learn how to   do surveys of rodent damage, design environmentally sustainable and   cost-effective rodent intervention strategies and monitor results.   Demonstration may involve working with CBOs and communities to build examples   of rodent-proof food stores to improve food security or how to manage   agricultural habitats to reduce the carrying capacity of the environment to   reduce the number of rodents. The number of civil society organisations   involved will vary from country to country, dependent on size and number of   CBOs and NGOs present, but we expect at least 5 institutions per country will   receive capacity building on rodent STI for development.

StopRats   awareness documentaries. The   demonstration of best practice rodent management activities with civil society   organisations and agricultural communities provides an opportunity to widely raise   awareness about rodents and the importance of African innovation to address   pest problems. We propose to document the problems farmers have with rodents   by videoing the problems and discussions with farmers about their problems. Through   this and the demonstration activities carried out as part of CBO capacity   building described above, it will be possible to create a video diary of   problems and events related to rodents in each of the target countries. Video   materials will be edited to produce awareness raising and educational materials   in the form of short segments focussing on different problems and solutions. These   materials will feed into the field school programmes described above,   providing school teachers with material they can use in their lessons, as   well as be shown at public debate seminars, and made available via the   StopRats project website and distributed to policy makers via the proposed   expert panels (WP1).

Deliverables

 
  • At least 120 scientists, teachers and students from at least 12 different ACP countries trained in field biology skills related to rodent management
  • At least 18 public debate seminars held (3 per country) on aspects of rodent impacts, their management and need for   African-based STI on rodents.
  • At least 18 presentation skills seminars held for students and advanced graduates to build their capacity on science   communication
  • Approximately 30-40 short video (15 min) programmes   made aimed at increasing awareness on the importance of STI for rodent pest management to improve agriculture and food security.

Risks

Travel permits and visas can be difficult to obtain between certain African countries and may prevent some candidates attending field schools.  Pre-planning and advanced logistical organisation should help minimise this  risk.

Work package title

WP 4: Project management, monitoring   & evaluation and communication / visibility

Lead partner

NRI-UoG

Involved partners

All   partners – UoNamibia, Concern, Vahatra, UoSwaziland, UoVenda, SokoineUoA,   ARC-PPRI

Objectives

  • Coordinate all activities among partners to deliver   project outputs on time and within budget
  • Ensure timely technical and financial reporting to   EuropeAid and the ACP S&T programme as instructed at the project outset
  • Implement communication and information   dissemination strategy for project outputs, targeting different stakeholder   groups.
  • Raise awareness and visibility about the project and   its donor, and its key messages about STI, impacts of rodents on food   security and the need for African innovation to reduce rodent problems   affecting people’s livelihoods.
  • Provide a website to facilitate research activities   and partner communication as well as to share information with the wider   public about rodent pest management.

Justification

Project   size, complexity and level of integration/interdependency among different   project actions require strict delivery and adherence to project timelines.   Inter-regional collaboration must be facilitated to optimise team-building   and increase knowledge transfer. Although rodents are a recognised problem,   awareness about the true scale of the many problems caused by rodents remains   low and/or misinformed through sensational stories and anthropomorphism. With   the traditional reliance on poisons to kill pest rodents, little awareness   exists on other methods of rodent pest management and their   cost-effectiveness. This knowledge needs to be delivered to all stakeholders   through various promotional processes. Peer-reviewed publications are the   gold-standard of scientific research and influencing scientifically based   policies, and good project coordination and support will ensure the maximum   number of publications is published in high impact international journals as   well as in open access journals.

Description of work

Project   inception workshop. A one-week   project inception workshop will be held at the outset to enable all partners   to define the procedures for working together to establish the project and   achieve the project outputs. We will review the contractual arrangements for   the financial control of the project and for the assessment of the agreed   tasks and deliverables. Work package managers will present strategies and   protocols to be discussed and accepted by all partners. The workshop will   include training where needed, especially for standardised procedures that   need to be followed by different partners.

Follow-up   coordination meetings. Formal   meetings will be organised each year with representation from each partner.   In order to provide the project with independent evaluation and ensure key   stakeholders are informed of progress, experts and end users will be invited   to participate. Through this, meetings will have components that engage with   farmers, local leaders and policy makers, NGOs and other scientists to   encourage two-way communication. Presentations from each work package leader   will summarise activities, followed by group discussions about progress. Potential   deviations from the work plan and forward planning will be standing items at   each meeting.

Activity   reporting. Partners will prepare a   two-page activity report every six months. The lead applicant and work   package managers will use these to assess whether work progresses to plan and   take action to minimise the effects of delays on other project activities.

Annual   progress reports. Annual reports   will be provided as instructed by the ACP S&T rules. Work package leaders   will be responsible for collating information and making a single WP-report.   The lead applicant will be responsible for integrating these into a single   full report. A similar approach will be used to prepare the final project   report covering information from all project years.

Project   communication strategy.   Implementation of the project communication strategy will be tailored to   different recipients including R&D staff, civil society, private sector   business, technology end users & the general public, government agencies &   policy makers. This will involve the creation of a monitored open access   website where all project information will be provided. Confidential   information such as protocols, internal reports and presentations will be   accessed through password protected pages, enabling the website to act as a   project management tool. Outputs of the project such as a centralised   database of information and links to existing relevant resources,   project-derived publications in peer-reviewed journals, leaflets, training   and awareness raising materials, video documentaries and institutional   networks will all be facilitated by the website.

Visibility. The ACP S&T and EC EDF funding will be   acknowledged in all publications derived from project activities. Their logos   will be displayed on leaflets and posters produced for farmers and on the   project website with links to ACP S&T and EuropeAid home pages. Presentations   and posters given at international scientific conferences and any   project-organised meetings, pubic seminars and workshops with stakeholders   will acknowledge the ACP S&T and EC funding, appropriately displaying   their logos.

External Advisory Board: An external advisory board constituting   international experts in the field of rodent biology and management as well   as expertise in developing STI capacity, knowledge transfer and enabling STI   in developing countries for socio-economic development will act as a further   quality assurance M&E mechanism for the project. The board will include three high ranking individuals who will attend project inception and coordination meetings. Their duties include providing the project with independent  monitoring and evaluation to ensure that project activities are of high   quality and carried out with the best possible chance of success.

Deliverables

  • Project activity and financial reporting delivered on time and as instructed by the project guidance
  • StopRats website built
  • Communication strategy implemented via project   website and StopRats meetings.
  • M&E reports of project progress.

Risks

Efficiency   of partners’ organisations is affected by political or institutional problems that affect carrying out activities or financial reporting.

External Advisory Board or partners are not all able to attend coordination meetings.  Feedback can be delivered via other members of this review group.

Staff changes at partner institutions, although none anticipated.

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