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Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture
in Recurrent and Protracted Crises
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About us


Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC) is a six-year programme which informs more feasible and cost-effective policies and investments in the drylands of Africa and the Middle East. 

Since 2020, SPARC research has been informing policies, practices and investments to better support the resilience of dryland communities in Africa and the Middle East. It does so by addressing evidence gaps on the effectiveness of different programmes and policies, and using the evidence it generates to support donors, governments, and the aid sector to more effectively engage in the drylands.

SPARC will focus on distilling insights from existing knowledge and also support new evidence generation. The programme will manage and develop knowledge to better understand:

  • What are the most cost-effective and feasible means to support the agricultural sector during and after crises?
  • How do markets function in crises and what are the most effective and feasible means to support market functioning during and after them?
  • How can we best protect, save and rebuild agriculture to prevent the complete destabilisation of agriculture systems and support post-crisis recovery?
  • How effective are system innovations and technology, and how do we identify those more likely to successfully support agriculture and pastoralist livelihoods, thereby enabling their resilience in the face of multiple crises?

Our work

SPARC's research focuses on a number of themes:

Reframing aid and resilience

How can aid best support and improve pastoralists’, agro-pastoralists’ and farmers’ resilience in a sustainable way? Although ‘building resilience’ now attracts huge investment, little is known about the impacts of most externally funded resilience-building efforts on food security and poverty.

SPARC research has shed some light on the barriers to anticipatory action and resilience-building efforts in regions like the Horn of Africa, where crises are complex, protracted and set across wide geographies. Find out more about our research on ‘Investments in resilience’ here.

Supporting markets and livelihoods

Livestock marketing and trade are critical elements of pastoral livelihood systems and are becoming an increasing focus of investment and aid interventions. But while selling livestock from the drylands can be lucrative, marketing can also be hit by shocks, such as livestock disease, drought and Covid-19-related restrictions.

SPARC researches the structure, functioning and performance of livestock supply chains to understand: how can we better understand pastoral markets and support them to become more effective, economical, equitable and resilient? Find out more about our research on ‘Livelihoods and markets’ here.

Understanding land and conflict

Understanding land dynamics is central to supporting drylands communities. SPARC looks at natural resource management in dryland regions, and particularly tenure and rangeland governance in pastoral areas, to improve programming and policy making. This includes looking at the causes and dynamics of conflict over natural resources. Find out more about our research on ‘Land and conflict’ here.


Promoting innovative solutions

Innovative approaches and solutions, including technological innovations, can play an important role in improving the lives and livelihoods of people living in the drylands. SPARC studies social technologies, digital services in relation to livelihoods, markets and land, and innovative approaches to governance in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, which often fly under the radar of investors. Find out more about our research on ‘Innovation for resilience’ here, and browse some key innovations in dryland regions on our Innovations Dashboard.

Working in a changing climate

Climate change is already posing increasingly intense disruptions to lives and livelihoods in the drylands of Africa and the Middle East - yet these areas often receive the least climate finance, despite having some of the world’s most climate-vulnerable people and households.

SPARC looks at how transboundary climate adaptation and mitigation risks can be managed in the drylands, and how to scale up climate action in fragile and conflict-affected areas. Find out more about our research on ‘Innovation for resilience’ here.

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 partners

SPARC was commissioned by the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) of the United Kingdom. The programme’s member organisations are Cowater International in partnership with the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), Mercy Corps, and ODI. Additional donors and partners include the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) and Jameel Observatory.

Find out more about SPARC's partners.

Our team

The SPARC team includes is made up of 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.

Meet the team.

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