The first face-to-face meeting of the Prolinnova Oversight Group (POG) was held in Pietermaritzburg, South Africa, on 17–18 February 2005. At the international workshop held in Yirgalem, Ethiopia, in March 2004, Prolinnova partners had decided to set up the Oversight Group to ensure effectiveness of the international programme and accountability to its country-level partners, their constituencies and the donors. After a transparent procedure of nominations and voting by the Prolinnova partners, the POG was officially formed in June 2004.
The POG is composed of three persons elected from the Prolinnova Country Platforms (Ahmed Hanafi, ITDG-Sudan; Amanuel Assefa, AgriService Ethiopia; Monique Salamon, Farmer Support Group, South Africa), one member from the Prolinnova International Support Team (Scott Killough, International Institute for Rural Reconstruction, IIRR) and three external members (Anna Tengberg, Kenya/Sweden; Betty Del Rosario, Philippines; Reiner Woytek, USA/Germany). Ann Waters-Bayer (ETC Ecoculture, Netherlands) serves as secretary and ex-officio member. Since its formation, the POG members have been communicating by email. The meeting in South Africa – organised by the South African network Midnet – was the first opportunity for them to get to know each other. They took part in the national stakeholders workshop of Prolinnova-South Africa (SA), held on 15–16 February, in Pietermaritzburg, KwaZulu-Natal Province, and had the opportunity to visit Zulu farmers with whom Prolinnova-SA partners are working. These included women chicken-keepers whose innovation in using the stem of the sisal plant to make nesting boxes for chickens is featured in a catalogue of farmer innovations. This booklet was launched by POG member, Reiner Woytek, at the opening of the Prolinnova-SA workshop. The POG elected as its Chair Beatriz (Betty) Del Rosario, Deputy Executive Director of the Philippines Council for Agriculture, Forestry and Natural Resources Research and Development (PCARRD), member of the Science Council Standing Panel on Monitoring and Evaluation of the CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) and representative of the GFAR (Global Forum on Agricultural Research) in the Oversight Group. The Co-Chair is Amanuel Assefa, Director of Training in the NGO Agri-Service Ethiopia and coordinator of the country platform PROFIEET (Promoting Farmer Innovation and Experimentation in Ethiopia). The POG discussed a multitude of issues, including monitoring and evaluation, policy dialogue and advocacy, procedures for conflict mediation, and sources and modalities of funding. They gave guidance to Prolinnova partners in developing concepts and proposals for new activities. These include: participatory video to promote the development and spread of local innovations; and action research on setting up and operating innovation support funds – locally-controlled resources to finance farmers’ research and farmer-led participatory innovation development. The POG will continue to communicate primarily through email but will grasp opportunities for face-to-face meetings, to the extent that funds for these can be generated. Hopefully, the next opportunity will be during the FARA (Forum on Agricultural Research in Africa) General Assembly in Uganda in early June 2005. The Prolinnova partners greatly appreciate the encouragement and guidance given by the POG members, all of whom are volunteering their time to this key institution for oversight within the Prolinnova Global Partnership Programme under the umbrella of the GFAR.