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Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture
in Recurrent and Protracted Crises

About us

Climate change, armed conflict, environmental fragility and weak governance and the impact these have on natural resource-based livelihoods are among the key drivers of both crisis and poverty for communities in some of the world’s most vulnerable and conflict-affected countries.

Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC) aims to generate evidence and address knowledge gaps to build the resilience of millions of pastoralists, agro-pastoralists and farmers in these communities in sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East.

We strive to create impact by using research and evidence to develop knowledge that improves how the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), donors, Non-Governmental Organisations, local and national governments, and civil society can empower these communities in the context of climate change.

Our vision

  • To carry out new research on how programmes and projects that deliver support to agro-pastoralists, pastoralists and farmers can be designed, implemented and evaluated more effectively;

  • To distill key insights and lessons from existing knowledge;

  • To support innovation and the use of technology in FCDO and partner programmes

A lot is changing in the countries and contexts we work in, largely thanks to local communities and the support of national governments, international donors, aid organisations and businesses.  Yet many programmes aren’t evaluated or are only assessed during the lifetime of the initiative, which means valuable knowledge on the sustainability and impacts of these projects is lost.

We will harness the evidence and information we generate to better understand which programmes are effective in semi-arid regions, and fragile and conflict-affected areas; and to assess how projects can be replicated at scale given the complexity of dynamic development contexts.



Our ambition

With a team of more than 100 experts specialising in agriculture, climate change, economics, livelihoods, gender and social inclusion, conflict and peacebuilding, and operational activities including research management, procurement, knowledge brokering and communications, we will:

  • Generate and share new research to address existing evidence gaps;

  • Synthesise, curate and disseminate existing knowledge;

  • Develop and support innovation and technology in FCDO and partner programmes that respond to emerging policy and programme agendas;

  • Prompt debate and discussion to develop solutions for challenging issues;

  • Provide expertise on programme design, delivery and evaluation to FCDO country offices;

  • Develop and share evidence, knowledge and ideas through targeted research communication and uptake activities;

  • Ensure policy and decision-makers can access, and learn from, the knowledge and evidence we generate.

SPARC is a six-year research programme made up of diverse member organisations with a wealth of expertise. The consortium is led by fund manager Cowater, working in partnership with ODI, the International Livestock Research Institute and Mercy Corps. The programme is funded by the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO).


Natural resources and ecologies

Ecologies and natural resources - like land, water, livestock, and wildlife - vary greatly across drylands in Africa and the Near East. These areas are affected by climate variability and unequal distribution of water resources. However, they also hold great promise, with dryland pastoral communities increasingly diversifying into alternative ways to earn a living and participating in the community-based conservation of natural resources.

We will address evidence gaps in natural resource management in dryland regions with the aim of improving programming and policy-making to build the resilience of pastoral and agro-pastoral communities in these areas.

People and societies

Rangeland ecosystems help to maintain biodiversity and support the livelihoods of pastoralists and farmers. Agro-pastoralism is a secure and sustainable way of life for rural communities: it supports mobility, food production and the collective management of resources. Pastoralism is often the only source of income in the poorest arid and semi-arid regions globally. Yet, pastoral and agro-pastoral communities remain marginalised, and their livelihoods are increasingly under threat due to climate change, conflict, environmental degradation, changing global markets, growing populations and increasing competition for natural resources, which undermines their resilience.

We will provide new knowledge on agro-pastoral dynamics in fragile and conflict-affected states, including analysis of the impacts that shocks and threats have on different groups such as women, youth, the elderly and people with disabilities.  

Economies, markets and livelihoods

Livestock production and trade are the backbone of the livelihoods of many people and economies in drylands. Pastoral communities in these regions have adapted to differences in rainfall and annual changes in weather by moving their herds and flocks. They are also adopting other ways to earn a living - including farming, trading in livestock and consumer goods, working in public services, and migrating to cities from where they send home remittances. However, these livelihoods are challenged by further climate and environmental risks in the short and long term, including pests, diseases, conflict and climate change.

We will distil and share key lessons from our analysis of how communities and businesses in drylands generate and share income and adapt to hazards, and how public policies and investments in these regions affect local economies and communities.


Politics and governance

We will focus on the global, regional and national aspects of governance and the political economy environment for SPARC and research carried out in other SPARC thematic areas.  Our aim is to carry out policy analysis that considers the contexts in which policies are developed and implemented - including the incentives that drive policy-makers and other key stakeholders.

Our work will analyse migration, trade, and climate and human security, as well as exploring the impact of natural resource governance on economic development and security, and how global geo-politics and international frameworks affect regional crises and conflicts.



Crisis and risk management

Dryland communities are often viewed as places of humanitarian crises in need of aid. Recent debates around investment in dryland resilience still follow humanitarian models of standardised aid packages to vulnerable communities. We know very little about how effective different investments are to support people in drylands who face shocks and crises.

SPARC aims to create, evaluate, synthesise and share existing and new knowledge to better understand how investments affect conflict; the ways that different land management institutions can help to manage conflicts and protect the interests of diverse communities - including pastoralists; and how governments and institutions can support markets to function through crises and in recovery.

Gender equality and social inclusion

In SPARC, we believe that the integration of gender equality and social inclusion (GESI) in agro-pastoralism research must make visible not only the nature of social difference, but also the operation of structures and processes that intersect to give rise to those inequalities.

This understanding then needs to be effectively communicated so that policy-making and development programming is able to actively address those root causes and create equal opportunities for inclusive participation and benefit between women, men, girls and boys, regardless of (dis)ability. In our operational activities, we will focus on gender, youth and disability as three core and under-addressed elements, while recognising that they are not the only issues of concern.

Our team

The SPARC team includes more than 100 experts who specialise in agriculture, climate change, economics, livelihoods, gender and social inclusion, conflict and peacebuilding, and operational activities including research management, procurement, knowledge brokering and communications.

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