CETC IL Request for Proposals

Introduction

Request for Applications

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Current and Emerging Threats to Crops (CETC IL) is an institute of researchers around the globe that operates in support of USAID and Feed the Future (FTF). The mission of the CETC IL is the control of current and emerging biotic threats to food security crops that the poor in FTF countries depend on.

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Areas of inquiry

The six areas of inquiry of the CETC IL are:

1)  IPM at scale through technology, youth and women’s groups: Promote the ambitious deployment of IPM packages at scale and encourage research into ecologically sound methods of pest/disease/weed control through AI-enhanced tools in the hands of young people serving farmer groups of women and men at the village level.

2)  Capacity: Build capacity for crop threat surveillance and forecasting.

3)  Gender and Youth: Increase the engagement of women and youth in all aspects of the IL.

4)  Climate Change effects on current and emerging threats: Promote research into the effects of climate change on current and emerging crop pests, weeds and diseases.

5)  Economic impact: Promote research that determines cost savings due to adaptive management and the economic benefits of enhanced preparedness.

6)  Regional Cooperation: Strengthen transboundary cooperation to ensure collective action at the regional scale on data sharing, quarantining and policy actions.

In addition to supporting high-quality research, the CETC IL sponsors outreach activities that bridge the gap that often exists between evidence and last-mile solutions, which not only reach farmers but change individual and community livelihoods in a positive way. Researchers will be expected to work with CETC IL staff to distill themes and findings of research projects into a coherent, evidence-based voice for the integration of results into last-mile solutions. policy approaches and program designs at country and regional levels. CETC IL researchers will be required to contribute their time and participate in these activities.

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Proposals should put forward a research plan that promises to add to our knowledge by addressing critical issues relevant to the research priorities listed below. A strong case should be made for how the work ties into one or more of these priorities and provide a compelling explanation of how these research results will achieve development impact through future improved policy and program design. Below are the six areas of inquiries of the CETC IL:

1) IPM at scale through technology, youth and women’s groups: Promote the ambitious deployment of IPM packages at scale and encourage research into ecologically sound methods of pest/disease/weed control through AI-enhanced tools in the hands of young people serving farmer groups of women and men at the community level.

We aim to encourage research into ecologically sound methods of pest/disease/weed control and conduct research on the promotion of IPM packages at scale. We are especially interested in enhanced technological tools that can be put into the hands of youth-serving groups of women and men farmers at the village level. You can see an example of this by our partner, Dream Team Agroconsultancy who were a quick win partner in Year 1.

2) Capacity: Build capacity for crop threat surveillance and forecasting.

The CETC IL strives to build capacity and enhance preparedness for new crop threats through surveillance, forecasting and applied research for development. We aim to promote a portfolio of combined research and local capacity building that increases preparedness in target countries, such as through:

  • In-field, offline, AI-assisted diagnosis at scale via visible symptoms;
  • Low cost point-of-care diagnostics of crop biotic stressors (species/strains);
  • Cloud-based forecasting of current threats based on existing mechanistic models and machine learning; and
  • Agricultural Science Machine Learning (AgSciML) for emerging threats.

3) Gender and Youth: Increase the engagement of women and youth in all aspects of the IL.

An important component of the CETC IL is engaging women and young people in all aspects of the research. Through a partnership with Mediae in Kenya, the CETC IL is working at scale across millions of farmers and has access to Mediaes’ detailed data on different research projects and their women/youth components. Researchers interested in working with our data sets can contact us to discuss possible projects. The CETC IL is also working with youth and women groups in Kenya, Burkina Faso, Nepal and Honduras. More broadly via PlantVillage, we are working in Ethiopia, Uganda, Mozambique, and Malawi which also offer further possibilities.  As close partners with FAO and CGIAR we are interested in many other countries, 

4) Climate Change effects on current and emerging threats: Promote research into the effects of climate change on current and emerging crop pests, weeds and diseases.
The CETC IL is focused on mitigating the effects of biotic stressors on smallholder farmers in FTF countries. Climate change is expected to have a major impact on biotic stressors. It might compound their negative effects, increase the ranges of negative stressors, and/or affect the efficacy of current IPM approaches, such as by having a differential effect on the biocontrol agent and not the host, for example. Given the seriousness of climate change, we want to promote research into the effects of climate change on current and emerging crop pests, weeds and diseases.

5) Economic impact: Promote research that determines cost savings due to adaptive management and the economic benefits of enhanced preparedness.
There are many approaches to biotic stressors that individual farmers, regional organizations or national/multinational organizations can take. The costs/benefits of these interventions will vary, and we would like to promote research that determines cost savings due to adaptive management and the economic benefits of enhanced preparedness. For example, research in this space might look at farm level income of an intervention, given locally available markets for selling the increased product versus incentives across a region where the local or national authority wishes to limit the build-up of a pest. Another example of research might examine differences in yield under two different approaches: conventional pesticides vs. IPM and the costs of these interventions. Relevant to this approach is the compound value of different methods if they are to be adopted over long periods of time.

6) Regional Cooperation: Strengthen transboundary cooperation to ensure collective action at the regional scale on data sharing, quarantining and policy actions.
An important function of the CETC IL is to strengthen transboundary cooperation. The CETC IL works with FAO and ECOWAS and expects to expand the range of efforts on transboundary cooperation around pests, disease and weeds. We are interested in research efforts that would focus on ways to strengthen transboundary cooperation and reduce friction for effective cooperation.

 

 




Collaboration and Capacity Building

As a collaborative research support program, at least one PI must come from a US institution and one PI must come from a host-country or regional organization if the lead applicant is US based. We accept applicants directly from host countries.

The countries that the CETC IL is soliciting applications for are: Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Kenya, Liberia, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Somalia, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, and Zimbabwe. Each USAID mission has its own set of strategic objectives, priority value chains, and programming. We encourage you to explore your proposed country of research through USAID/FTF materials, as well as the individual mission strategies. Please note that the CETC IL will need to solicit concurrence from the relevant USAID mission before we can provide support to the projects that we have selected.

The US institution should be prepared to act as the primary contracting institution, subcontracting with other institutions as needed. Please describe the history of collaboration among partners, specific strategies for the involvement of PIs, clear distribution of labor, and primary avenues of interaction between researchers. In addition, proposals should identify the ways in which they will contribute to building the capacity of their developing country partners, including both training and institutional capacity.




Amounts and duration of grant

We are seeking to make a number of grants of roughly $100,000 over 1 or 2 years to in-country partners. In our Quick Win projects of year 1, we have found that this was a good way to accelerate research and build capacity.  This is the approach the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation successfully leveraged with the Grant Challenge  Grants. We aim to build capacity among partners which also enables CETC IL and partners to seek larger grants from US Missions in their countries or other donors. 

We recognize that for some groups (based in the USA or International organizations like CGIAR) this amount might be too little given the cost of staff, students, post-docs, and overhead. 

In all cases, we wish to have an open discussion with you to explore both your topic and level of funding. Please fill in the form on this page




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