ACTAE project: Towards a regional agroecology transition in Great Mekong Sub-region countries

This regional project aims at promoting agro-ecological principles and practices in GMS- countries: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam. It is expected to provide institutional and operational backstopping to the Conservation Agriculture Network for South-East Asia (CANSEA) while enlarging its scope to cover the whole field of agro-ecology, conservation agriculture being one component of the diversity of practices fund under the term agro-ecology.

A continuum of practices under the term “agro-ecology” has been identified making difficult to delineate clear boundaries between the different approaches. Most farmers adopt a subset of the principles proposed by each school and rarely the complete technical package. It is agreed that trying to delineate precise boundaries between schools will divide more than synergize and may widen the gap between agro-ecology discourses and field/farm realities.

The goal is to bridge the different schools instead of dividing them, networking activities should primarily focus on the principles underlying the different practices. Tenants of the different schools easily agreed on their common principles and the scope of agro-ecology. Well known practices such as Integrated Pest Management (IPM), SRI, conservation agriculture and agro-forestry have expanded and gained visibility thanks to a top-down support of key international institutions, respectively FAO, Cornell University, CIRAD and ICRAF.

The Project will assist the actors of agro-ecology in the region in increasing their visibility and impacts by supporting the development of synergies between all operators in the sector: farmers, development agencies, private companies, donors, policy makers, etc.

The overall objective of ACTAE project is to build durable and effective mechanisms to facilitate synergies among initiatives contributing to an agro-ecological transition in South East Asia.

Agro-ecology approaches are seen as convincing and evidence-based alternatives to the current agrifoodsystem. They clearly aim at strengthening innovation capacity of family farms, as well as the recognition of their contribution to food sovereignty in the region. They cover technical, economic, societal and policy dimensions of the agrifood system, including all stakeholders involved in the value chains. The project will increase the credibility and visibility of agro-ecology practices towards small-holder farmers, consumers and policy makers.

The geographical coverage of the Project is the 4 countries / regions of the Great Mekong Sub-region, namely: Vietnam, Lao PDR, Cambodia, Myanmar.

The period the Project is 3 years.

Two specific objectives are proposed that correspond to two components of the ACTAE Project:

Ø  Component 1: Strengthen and institutionalize the existing conservation agriculture network in South East Asia – CANSEA – in its function of promoting CA effective adoption, notably through involving a wider spectrum of stakeholders, building alliances with agro-ecological movement, and diversifying funding sources. DALaM is the chair institution of CANSEA, and Lao PDR is an active member of this network. ACTAE is an opportunity to develop Lao national network and relationships with similar institutions. This component will be managed by Cirad.

Ø  Component 2: Promote the emergence of a new regional agro-ecological learning alliance in South East Asia – ALiSEA– aiming at strengthening knowledge and experience sharing among agro-ecological initiatives and actors, at increasing the visibility and the credibility of agro-ecological movement towards policy makers and consumers, and at scaling up the development and adoption of agro-ecological practice among farmers. GRET is the implementing agency of this component.

These two regional networks are different and complementary. The existing CANSEA is a regional thematic network, specialized on conservation agriculture, and the objective of the Project is to strengthen and institutionalize it. On the other hand, the ACTAE Project will support the emergence of the future ALiSEA which will cover all schools and initiatives contributing to an agro-ecological transition.

Specific activities of the two components are listed below:

CANSEA (Cirad)

o   Ensure provision of services to CANSEA members: scientific support, experience and knowledge sharing, training

o   Organize annual Steering Committee meetings

o   Set up and implement a “Competitive Grant Scheme” for promoting R&D projects from the network members with strong multi-stakeholders’ involvement and training component

o   Provide necessary support to existing research platforms in order to ensure lasting impact of CA practices on ecosystem services and farmers livelihoods

o   Lobbying for partnership and prepare long term bankable projects for CANSEA and its members

o   Actively participate to the process of building ALiSEA


o   Build an attractive and user friendly website ALiSEA, and regularly feed him with : daily news on agro-ecology, public minutes of workshops, studies carried out, data base on agro-ecology, virtual library… and an exchange forum

o   Conduct studies for mapping agro-ecological practices, experiences and networks in the 6 countries, including geographical and quantified data

o   Organize joined evaluations of agro-ecological practices and experiences (case studies), with analysis of the conditions for scaling-up

o   Organize national and regional multi-stakeholders’ workshops for sharing experience, bridging gaps, stimulating synergies and building a common concept of “agro-ecological transition”, and ensure media coverage

o   Set up and implement a “Small Grant Fund‘ for co-funding activities aiming at linking stakeholders, sharing experience, documenting case studies, building innovative concepts

o   Set up a board of experts in each country and at the regional level, which will be involved in selection & evaluation of SGF projects

o   Support national secretariats hosted by existing partners in each country

o   Support the organization of national and regional “General Assembly Meetings” for shaping governance, finance and management model of ALiSEA

The two proposed institutions have complementary approaches (scientific research for CIRAD and research/development for GRET) and a long experience of collaboration and partnership in many countries around the world, including in Southeast Asia that will be an asset for the smooth integration of CANSEA activities with ALiSEAunder the ACTAE umbrella. The activities of a regional federative network should be grounded in strong national networks and endorsed by global networks.

The purpose of the network should be to accompany the agro-ecology transition in the region, i.e. supporting smallholders in transitioning from their current practices to agro-ecology techniques through gradual transformation of their farming system. Clearly, the networks should address in priority the issues faced by smallholder farming systems.

The project will support this networking reinforcement mainly by funding research & development activities proposed by the different stakeholders.Because it is known that regular funding is crucial to keep the momentum in the activities and interest of all partners, funding sources should be diversified along the project. ACTAE grants funds should help to initiate and consolidate funding. A combination of three funding sources should be sought: (i) financial support from institutional donors or private foundations to the regional coordination, (ii) a portfolio of diverse national and regional projects (multiple donors and partners) developed with the support of the regional secretariat, (ii) annual subscription from network members (i.e. from their core budget of national projects).