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Achieving greater impact in food and nutrition security

Can Africa solve its food problems using its own resources? (© FAO/Paballo Thekiso)
Can Africa solve its food problems using its own resources?
© FAO/Paballo Thekiso

Through collaborative research, capacity building and sharing of knowledge, an international research partnership known as the Africa College* is working to improve the lives of millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa by the sustainable enhancement of food and nutritional security.

In June 2011, the Africa College convened its first international conference at Leeds University in the UK in order to share lessons on how to translate food security and health research results into impact on the ground. Participants also focused on how partnerships between research and development organisations can deliver innovation and change.

Points of view gathers the participants' assessment of present weaknesses and their suggestions for more effective approachs to achieving greater impact in food and nutrition security.

The policy agenda

What is most constraining right now is the lack of policies to take many of the interventions to scale. We also need policies to make sure that farmers have access to financing. Less than 1 per cent of all the private capital in our banking industry goes to agriculture. Agriculture is a business and not a development problem and should be financed and invested in by building on emerging success.
Akin Adesina, Alliance for Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA)

Smallscale farmers need access to high quality seeds (© FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri)
Smallscale farmers need access to high quality seeds
© FAO/Giuseppe Bizzarri

No-one pays the real cost of food. We don't pay for climate change or pay farmers for ecosystem services such as protecting biodiversity. The future is a complex one and diets have to be in line with health and planetary capacities. We need ecological public health not just production of more food.
Tim Lang, City University, London

We need to get the smallscale farmer access to the best seeds, the best input, access to more knowledge: agro ecological knowledge, financing, roads, education. We need to empower women, and fundamentally we need to change the international trade system and reduce large-scale production subsidies in developed countries.
Bob Watson, Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), UK

If we're really to see the huge increases that are being achieved in a small number of countries then we need to see much more effective policy making, and above all implementation at government level.
Laurence Cockcroft, Gatsby Foundation

Put farmers first

We have been doing research sometimes for the sake of publishing. But we are really going to see impact in terms of research if we can build capacity of the people to be able to identify their problems, seek for solutions and implement those solutions. So research for the people, by the people.
Joyce Kinabo, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Tanzania

The most important thing is that whatever research we have done, it should reach the users. So whatever kind of seed or variety we have developed, it should reach the farmers. And the second thing, the technology that we have developed should be replicable, and more and more people should take it up to breed varieties with speed and precision.
Rattan Yadav, Institute of Biological, Environmental and Rural Sciences, University of Aberystwyth

Food and nutritional security of women and children should be a priority (© FAO/Giulio Napolitano)
Food and nutritional security of women and children should be a priority
© FAO/Giulio Napolitano

Africa can, and should, solve its food problems using its own resources. I'm confident that we can put together the technology, the finance, the political will and the value chains that are necessary to make sure that appropriate technology is in the hands of millions of our farmers.
Akin Adesina, AGRA

Women in Africa need to be taken care of to improve their nutritional food security. Eating meals regularly is an investment in women's health. So they need to be taught, they need to know how to really eat well and maintain good meals all through. We should prioritise their food and nutritional security with their children, who are always at risk and vulnerable to malnutrition in Africa.
Olapeju Onadipe, International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)

Communicate for change

There needs to be a consistent exchange of ideas among researchers, producers, consumers and markets. Trust, communication, leadership and unambiguous roles for the actors need to be established, as well as means for facilitation.
Monty Jones, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA)

There is still a desperate need for more simple language. We really need to deconstruct the idea of poverty and nutrition and actually say what we mean in simple English.
Steve Newman, Biodiversity International

Has communication with farmers been neglected? (© Neil Palmer (CIAT))
Has communication with farmers been neglected?
© Neil Palmer (CIAT)

A lot of science has gone into achieving impacts in food security, but these are not well communicated in a simple manner for the policymakers, to be able to have policies that will make a difference in people's lives. So we have to make our messages simple and be able to interest the audience to put into action what we want to achieve.
Moses Tenywa, Makerere University, Uganda

I think that how we communicate with farmers, how we get feedback from farmers, is something that has been neglected. What we really need is innovative methods that are low cost, that are tied to the private sector, innovative approaches such as cell phones, use of ICT and also farmers themselves as extension staff for example; farmers that are willing to help their neighbours with new practices.
Steve Franzel, World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF)

Power in partnership

Achieving is about investment in people and it's the people who should be the ones to tell us that we have made a difference in their lives. This can only happen if we have the right partnerships. No one person, no one organisation can do it alone, we have to work together throughout the value chain. Research solutions are available but we need partnerships to achieve impact.
Lindiwe Sibanda, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)

Scientific understanding of African agriculture must be effectively communicated (© FAO/Olivier Asselin)
Scientific understanding of African agriculture must be effectively communicated
© FAO/Olivier Asselin

Although there is a great deal of progress in many areas, in terms of scientific understanding of African agriculture, for that research to be deployed effectively it needs to be tied into many other players: in the financial sector, in the extension sector, even in the schools sector. Agricultural research alone cannot deliver the payoff.
Laurence Cockcroft

We cannot just keep working in our own silos. I think it is really important that all the disciplines work together if we want to make an impact.
Wilna Oldewage-Theron, Vaal University of Technology, South Africa

The key lies in bringing all stakeholders together to consider developmental problems, especially in the area of agriculture, designing solutions and taking that to scale. That is key and this is what we have been doing through the Integrated Agricultural Research for Development, with brilliant success.
Adewale Adekunle, FARA

*Lead partners of the Africa College include the University of Leeds, IITA and ICIPE

Date published: September 2011


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