FCDO flagship programme receives IDRC grant to empower women in Africa’s fragile environments News

12 May, 2022

OTTAWA, May 12, 2022The Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC) Programme, funded by UK Aid through the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) and implemented by Cowater International and co-delivered with ODI, the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Mercy Corps, was awarded funding by the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) in the amount of approximately CAD 1.97 million to advance gender equality in fragile food systems.

The Advancing Gender Equality in Fragile Food Systems in the Sahel project is part of the ongoing Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC) Programme and will support researchers from the region to work with pastoral and agro-pastoral communities toward more resilient and equitable livelihoods. The additional funding for SPARC from IDRC has three major goals:

  • Identify barriers and opportunities to building more gender-responsive and socially-inclusive livelihoods and climate resilient food systems in the African Sahel;
  • Enhance the capacity of local researchers to effectively integrate gender equality and social inclusion in pastoralism and agro-pastoralism research;
  • Facilitate opportunities for learning, communications, engagement, and research uptake by integrating supported research teams within ongoing activities supported by the SPARC programme.

“Pastoralist communities in the Sahel region are some of the most vulnerable to climate change, conflict and fragility. Women and girls in those communities are facing the compounded burden of unequal rights and unjust social and economic barriers compared to men. We are delighted to partner with IDRC to advance knowledge that will ultimately empower women and build more resilient and prosperous livelihoods”, said David Baron, President and CEO of Cowater International.

The IDRC grant will complement ongoing activities in the UK-funded SPARC Programme. SPARC is a research initiative focused on finding solutions to the challenges of conflict, fragility, poverty and climate vulnerability for people in the Sahel. SPARC facilitates cross-country research and engagement that builds local capacity to integrate knowledge into effective policy responses. SPARC interventions mobilize multiple global and regional development stakeholders and are designed to accommodate new donor funding and partnerships to address complex development challenges that stand at the intersection of sustainable agriculture and livelihoods, gender equality and climate change.

“The IDRC is pleased to join FCDO in providing support to SPARC as part of our programming on Climate Resilient Food Systems. As we seek to tackle the key development challenges of inequality and climate change, it makes good sense to work with Cowater International and consortia partners to advance the objectives of SPARC. We see this project as a timely opportunity to enable regionally based researchers, working closely with pastoral communities and stakeholders, to identify key barriers and opportunities for advancing women’s empowerment and gender equality in areas of the Sahel experiencing intersecting challenges of conflict, fragility and climate change.”, said Jean Lebel, IDRC President.

“Women’s and girl’s economic and social empowerment is a core priority of FCDO. While building the resilience of the world’s most vulnerable communities, climate actions should be informed by the priorities of women and girls, and advance gender equality. We are excited by our collaboration with the IDRC on the SPARC programme, that seeks to generate rigorous evidence on how this can be achieved. This important research in the Sahel, by regional-based experts, will enhance knowledge on the complex dynamics of pastoral livelihoods, ensure that the voices and needs of women and girls inform action on climate change in fragile and conflict affected states.”, highlighted Prof Charlotte Watts, Chief Scientific Adviser, FCDO.


About the SPARC Programme

The Supporting Pastoralism and Agriculture in Recurrent and Protracted Crises (SPARC) is a six-year research programme made up of diverse member organisations with a wealth of expertise. The consortium is led by Cowater International, working in partnership with the Overseas Development Institute (ODI), the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) and Mercy Corps. The programme is funded by UK Aid through the UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO). 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.

About Cowater International

Founded in 1985, Cowater International is a leading global development consulting company. Headquartered in Ottawa and with corporate hubs in Brussels, London (UK), Montreal and Nairobi, Cowater International has successfully delivered a portfolio of over 2500 projects and assignments in more than 95 countries. We work with governments, private sector actors and communities implementing projects that support socio-economic development, institutional strengthening, environmental improvements and advance equal opportunities for all. We are a diverse and experienced team committed to building a better tomorrow for the people we serve.

About IDRC

As part of Canada’s foreign affairs and development efforts, the International Development Research Centre funds high-quality research in developing countries, shares knowledge with researchers and policymakers to inform local and global action, and mobilizes alliances to drive global positive change for a more sustainable and inclusive world.

Media contact:

Victor Neagu, Director of Communications and Marketing, Cowater International; e-mail:

Steven Morris, Director (acting) of Corporate Communications, IDRC; e-mail:

Isabella Brasnett, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; e-mail:;

Amber Warne, Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office; e-mail:

Deborah Kirby, Communications Manager, ODI/SPARC; e-mail:

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