Strengthening research ties with Africa

Strengthening research ties with Africa

The University is to be part of a new Africa-UK research collaboration, to identify ways the continent can produce enough food to feed its growing population.

Sub-Saharan Africa is the world’s most food-insecure region and will need to increase agricultural production by 80 percent over the next 30 years if people are not to go hungry.

The £2 million project, which was announced by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI), will foster closer links between researchers in the UK and Africa, so they can share knowledge and insight, and work together on research projects.

Professor Andrew Thompson, UKRI’s International Champion, said: “This exciting programme is supporting research that transcends national boundaries and will produce different ways of thinking about challenges and different solutions to tackling them.”

The research will focus on deepening understanding of African food systems and identifying solutions to address food systems challenges in Africa. While much research has focused on global food systems, relatively little attention has been paid to the particularities of African food systems.

The partner organisations are the University of Pretoria, which will lead the project, and the Food, Agriculture and National Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), a scientific body that co-ordinates policy-related research across Africa to achieve more effective food production and natural resource management.

Dr Claire Quinn, Associate Professor in Natural Resource Management in the School of Earth and Environment at Leeds, is the lead investigator from the University.

Known as the Food Systems Research Network for Africa, the project will work with academic partners, farmers, governmental organisations and the private sector in six countries: Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia. It will run for three years.

The aim is to harness and develop research capability by working with early-career scientists in a two-year structured research fellowship programme.

The project is being funded through the Global Challenges Research Fund, money from the UK Government to support cutting-edge research to alleviate the big issues facing the world.

Dr Quinn said the project would build on the links Leeds already has with researchers in Africa, through the AFRICAP project, which is already developing ways of making food production more sustainable – and African SWIFT, which has been working with the continent’s meteorologists to improve the skill and communication of weather information.

She said: “By leveraging the expertise available in these networks, the Food Systems Research Network for Africa will build lasting research communities and develop the skills necessary to design and implement climate-smart solutions capable of addressing food security, alleviating malnutrition and helping to eliminate poverty.”

Professor Frans Swanepoel, from the University of Pretoria and Principal Investigator for the Food Systems Research Network for Africa, said overcoming Africa’s development challenges cannot be separated from the need to transform the continent’s food systems.

He added: “The challenge is not only to ensure that adequate food is accessible, but to provide safe and nutritious food as African countries are confronted by the burden of malnutrition.”

The Chief Executive of FANRPAN, Dr. Tshilidzi Madzivhandila, said the meaningful engagement of all state and non-state food system stakeholders across the continent will make agriculture and food production in Africa more productive, sustainable and resilient to climate change.

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