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Background and progress in RUL theme


One of the mission tasks of the GMP as an umbrella program is to bring together the resources of the CGIAR to support the MDGs in mountains. However, to add value to CGIAR resources one needs a conceptual framework that will add value to the activities in which the CGIAR is already engaged. The existing problem is that activities of the CGIAR, and their national partners, like those of most other organizations add to a mosaic of activities which often are not integrated into a broader vision to bring all the parts together. The RUL thematic area we believe provides this conceptual framework through which connections can be made and value can be added. From the reaction we have had the concept is timely.


Urban centers are increasingly affecting rural mountain areas. They act as strong destinations and sinks for agricultural and forest products, water, energy, nutrients, minerals and people. Unmanaged extraction and use of these resources is depleting the resource base necessary for future livelihoods for rural and urban people and function of mountain ecosystems, including agriculture. Already, deforestation, mining, water contamination and overuse, broken nutrient cycles and poverty driven emigration from rural areas are causing serious degradation of the natural resource base and are causing a decline in well-being and health of rural mountain populations. Similarly, urban areas are affected by a deterioration of rural mountain resources through reduced water quality and availability, lack of fuel and energy, overpopulation, availability of agricultural products and reduced scenic quality for recreation. On the other hand urban centers offer much potential as engines for rural development and transformation of agriculture. Better RUL planning and policy integration offer benefits to both rural and urban livelihoods and sustainable mountain development.

These issues are connected and cannot be investigated or dealt with in isolation. Many rural problems of poverty, food security, NRM and the environment cannot be solved without fundamentally including the urban or rural links in the management of rural resources. Unfortunately up to now rural and urban institutions and most actions, including those of the CGIAR have been categorized into either rural or urban. A conceptual framework is needed that links and integrates many of the key rural and urban processes needed for sustainable development and stewardship of mountains, and of bringing the often mosaic of development and research efforts together for impact on the MDGs.

There are numerous key knowledge gaps in understanding and improving the effectiveness of planning & policies that affect urban & rural livelihood and agro-environmental issues and there is a need for targeted livelihood options for groups with different access to markets that need concerted investigation for which the CGIAR as a whole has capacity. The issues need a focused, integrated research approach and territorial rather than sector based planning, policies and support strategies for sustainable mountain development. The Rural Urban Linkage conceptual framework is a tool to bring together the resources of the CGIAR as well as national institutions for impact in a complex development objective (sustained rural and urban development) where in the past we have failed.

The GMP has made RULs a thematic area that enables CGIAR centers to use their strengths to as a system to add value to present efforts. Addis Ababa will be used as the first of its CGIAR wide benchmark sites. In the CGIAR system the GMP is launching this initiative initially in close collaboration with the African Highland Initiative and the System Wide Urban Harvest Program. The GMP has been joined in the venture by Ethiopian rural and urban development institutions as well as research and civil institutions in an alliance.

The GMP is being developing an operational framework where research connects to development priorities and key groups. Methodology is now being developed and tested using Ethiopia as a benchmark case. Planning is also underway to define research intervention areas in a planning process and collect baseline data on actual livelihood and land-use issues and options of rural and urban mountain populations. More precise baseline information is needed on the inflows and outflows of goods from and to rural & urban areas and on the strengths and weaknesses of existing policies to optimize the benefits of RULs to attain national goals. Research would contribute to quantification of identified problems such as water availability and quality, forest degradation for fuel, migration and health and contribute to better targeting of support to mountain people.

The Rural Urban linkage approach would provide the basis for actions using cities as engines for rural development through better incentives for environmental stewardship, such as Payment for Environmental Services (PES). In addition, the approach contains non-research components of development of a platform for stakeholders in each of the benchmark sites. The activities of the platform would be supported by research with information and tools about priority action areas and options. This model provides for a clear supportive role of research for development in defined benchmark sites where MDG impact can be measured.


The RUL theme has come out of a GMP reorientation process in 2005. It included consultation with the principal priority documents in mountains and poverty mapping and consultations with national and regional partners. The most recent step was a planning workshop in Ethiopia which discussed on the conceptual framework for the RUL theme. The RUL theme has been greeted with enthusiasm within and outside the CGIAR.

The RUL theme is being put into action to facilitate the setting up of a framework to connect research to development activities and MDGs.

  1. The GMP will facilitate setting up of benchmark sites in mountains in different continents; initial step is taken in Africa. These will serve both as sites were national and international groups can work together but also where impact can be measured. They also serve as basis for international Public goods since information can be compared globally, and national groups will be able to share knowledge and experience with other groups around the world.
  2. The GMP will facilitate the setting up of RUL platforms in each benchmark site to bring together key rural and urban groups and sectors, and to link research closely with development groups.
  3. A research support group with a core CGIAR group and national research group participation will be set up to support development groups with information, tools and technology options that enable RUL to be strengthened. The GMP will play a role in developing baseline data if possible with partners on livelihood issues and options and land use, on product flows and policies. This data can be used to direct decisions and provide the basis for monitoring and evaluation of impact on MDGs in 10 years time. CGIAR research centers and partners in alliance will tackle key linkage issues to develop the best tools and options for planners and communities that optimize livelihood and NRM improvement scenarios for rural and urban poor in mountain/highland environments.

Benchmark sites

Establishment of benchmark sites in different continents should provide an opportunity for cross-site learning by stakeholder groups and the CGIAR and provide not only national, but international public goods that can be shared to support other mountain regions. The activity also is a tool to support CGIAR Science Council needs for interconnection between its priorities. Ethiopia was selected in 2005 through target mapping, as the first benchmark site since it is the largest mountain massive in Africa and has some of the highest poverty and malnutrition rates in the world.

First benchmark site: Ethiopia

  1. Ethiopia was selected as highest priority country in Africa and globally for the GMP using target mapping criteria of altitude, population, slope and people earning < US$1.00 per day.
  2. In May 2005: The Addis Ababa benchmark site was identified in close collaboration with African Highlands Initiative (AHI) and the System Wide Urban Harvest program. A joint visit to Addis Ababa in May 2005 was undertaken to discuss the concept with the Addis municipality, the Mayor and NGOs and DG of EIAR, who was enthusiastic about the concept.
  3. In March 2006: The GMP regional research fellow and RUL coordinator, Dr. Gete Zeleke, was hired through GMP/ICRAF and based in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia in March 2006. Ground-work was continued with Ministries, Donors and NGOs and draft framework developed
  4. In August 2006: The Government of Ethiopia puts strengthening Rural Urban Linkages in its next 5 year plan.
  5. A RUL planning workshop was held 29-30 August attended by 80 participants on day one and 60 on day two. Support by GTZ and WFP and CIDA. Strong support from the Ethiopian Government through the State Minister of Agriculture, Dr. Abarra Deressa, and head EIAR, Dr. Tsedeke and the EPA Dr. Tewolde Berhan, the alternative Noel Prize winner and advocate for indigenous people, mountains and genetic diversity, and participants from diverse rural and urban institutions and ministries and donors. The GTZ and WFP, DFID, DGIS, GTZ and WB participated at the workshop. The products:

    a. Agreement on and elaboration of a national RUL platform encompassing major sectoral and territorial organizations. The GMP has been asked to act as secretariat. It was agreed that the platform at national level will be co-chaired by Ministry of agriculture & Rural Development (MoARD) and Ministry of works and Urban Development (MoWUD).

    b. The draft RUL framework discussed and issues and some priorities have been identified that form the basis for both development and research thrusts.

    c. Greater awareness and buy in RUL by many groups.

  6. RUL framework finalized based on inputs from the workshop and other key partners
  7. The Rural Economic Development and Food Security (RED / FS) working group of the Donor Assistance Group (DAG) was approached and has asked a funding proposal. The proposal was presented and approved for pool funding but the modalities have to be worked-out.

Next moves in the Ethiopian benchmark site

  1. The research support group is being developed further. Presently it includes CGIAR (CIFOR, IWMI, AHI/CIAT, ILRI, ICRAF, CIP) and EIAR.
  2. The RUL platform is being set up. The platform at national level will be co-chaired by Ministry of agriculture & Rural Development (MoARD) and Ministry of works and Urban Development (MoWUD). The RUL platform will also be established in the regional cities where this initiative will be operational.
  3. The GMP, using its staff, is starting its support for the larger RUL alliance efforts by developing baseline research on livelihoods, product flows and policies. The research activities at this stage will cover key questions in relation for baseline information on livelihood issues and options, land use, access, the flow of products, analysis of water, energy including flows of energy sources (water, forests, crop residue and cow dung) and analysis of migration and its interrelations to livelihoods, social webs, markets and AIDS, and policies with the context of RUL.


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