The new dynamics of CILSS

What are your priorities as new CILSS Executive Secretary?

First of all, I would like to remind you that CILSS celebrates its forty years of existence - forty years of high-level technical and scientific expertise and experience in the fight against food insecurity. Even if this wealth of experience brings us hope, we must nevertheless be aware of the many challenges ahead. For example, we need to find innovative approaches in the field of water management; water is the main element:  for producing, eating, processing, selling and creating wealth. At present, we use only 20% of the region’s irrigable land. I also believe that pastoralism must be one of our top priorities. It is both a production system and a way of life; pastoralists and agro-pastoralists are particularly vulnerable to food crises, chronic nutritional insecurity and environmental problems. Effective water management, pastoralism, food security, resilience, the protection of the environment, these are our key priorities which seem unavoidable. They need to be addressed in an integrated and holistic manner. That is why I attach so much importance to the Global Alliance for Resilience (AGIR).

Where do you stand with the implementation of the Alliance? 

We made good progress on AGIR and the process is now maturing. We are currently setting up the AGIR Technical Unit, which will be hosted within our premises of the CILSS Executive Secretariat in Ouagadougou. The Unit will provide support for governments to help them operationalise the regional roadmap at the national level. Sahelian and West African states have committed themselves to conducting inclusive national dialogues to identify their “National Resilience Priorities” (NRP) building on their respective existing national policies and strategies. The process needs to advance by April 2014. It concerns identifying resilience priorities for each country, priority projects within existing programmes, the necessary budgets, etc. The AGIR Technical Unit will work on the ground to unlock difficult situations, provide advice... I am confident because I see that all stakeholders, including the international community, are committed. I am grateful to the EU and in particular to the Commissioner Kristalina Georgieva, who alongside Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, inspired the creation of this Alliance. We were together in Ouagadougou for the political launch of AGIR, barely a year ago. We have indeed come a long way.

What has changed since your arrival at the Head of CILSS? 

Let’s be honest, CILSS has extraordinary technical and scientific skills but in terms of visibility, it has lost some ground. We are therefore responding to this challenge and I am confident we will succeed. As you may have noticed, there is a new dynamic! I am reinforcing connections with our Member States; for example, I organised a one-week retreat bringing together all thirteen national CILSS Permanent Secretaries in Niamey; we held lengthy discussions; we provided training sessions; all these team-building efforts are crucial. Similarly, we recently held our “Share Fare” in Ouagadougou involving some 200 participants. The event offered an extraordinary opportunity for networking and I think the CILSS is beginning to thrive. This perception is also confirmed by the renewed interest of the international community in our institution.

How would you describe the relationship between CILSS, ECOWAS and UEMOA?

Institutional relations between ECOWAS, UEMOA and CILSS are excellent and constantly developing. We are here together in Abidjan, working hand in hand: CILSS acts as the technical branch of these institutions. ECOWAS and UEMOA develop their policies on the basis our technical expertise. As a think tank, we are also approached by other institutions. For example, the Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD) recently visited our headquarters to learn from the experience of CILSS. A field visit to Niamey allowed them to learn on-site about the technical creation of transhumance corridors developed by Agrhymet. This type of exchange is very fruitful and it is our pleasure to see that our reputation extends beyond our region.

What objectives would you like to achieve during your mandate?

In three years, I would like to send a short questionnaire to member countries or simply visit one or two CILSS countries to ask the question “What has changed in your lives?” I believe that it is at the individual level that we must measure the value of what we do. Our work must have concrete outcomes. In three years, I expect that we will be able to witness some improvements in terms of standards of living, production systems, irrigation, resilience, environment, and of course food security. I hope that we can announce that the CILSS has contributed to these achievements.

Interview with: 
Djimé Adoum, CILSS Executive Secretary
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