The European research association Agrinatura celebrated its 30th anniversary at the University Hohenheim, Germany from the 25th to 27th April 2018. Around 100 participants from 27 countries attended the three-day-event, which included the General Assembly and several workshops. Agrinatura is a grouping of 28 European universities and research organisations working on agricultural research, education, training and capacity strengthening for development, especially in sub-Sahara Africa. Through joint research, educational and training programmes, the research group aims at contributing to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
Nowadays, Africa’s annual food import costs around 50 billion US dollars. By 2050, import was estimated to increase to three trillion USD a year. Population growth and changing consumer preferences around the globe was necessitating an involvement of the private sector, said Carl Larsen, University of Copenhagen, Denmark.
Larsen furthered that donors were risk-adverse in project formulation. Innovations needed time to materialise. But projects and programmes were designed for the short run to solve long-term problems such as the SDGs, and were thus often completely ineffective.
Björn Niere of the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development argued that governments were working in the given framework of the SDGs and the Paris Agreement. This often implied setting other targets on the agenda than research. Impact and knowledge transfer was happening in the Green Innovation Centres, Niere remarked. The contribution of farmers in research projects was missing. Traditional and indigenous knowledge should be more integrated, he concluded.
The Research and Innovation Partnership on Food and Nutrition Security and Sustainable Agriculture (FNSSA) is a partnership between the European Union and African Union. Jean-Michel Sers of Agricultural Research for Development (CIRAD), France, appreciated the European Union’s now opting for political commitment to concrete projects.
Furthermore, Sers valued the convergence in policies and research agendas on food security and nutrition matters on both continents, political commitment to research collaboration at continental level, better alignment of EU States policies and actions, and investing in people, education, science, technology and skills development.
The remaining gaps comprised insufficient knowledge of priorities, needs and expectations, lack of co-ordination between institutions leading to a fragmentation of research networks and initiatives, a shortage and complexity of financial mechanisms and the need for alternative instruments, while multi-stakeholder implementation was still to come, Sers pointed out.
To improve the exchange of knowledge and link researchers, several platforms have been put in place in West Africa, for instance the agro-sylvo-pastoral system ASAP, agro-ecological pest management (DIVECOSYS), or innovation and plant breeding (IAVAO), amongst others.
Jean-Michel Sers summarised that universities played the role of promoting knowledge and skills, should choose a people-centred approach focusing on young women and men and strengthen links between education, training, science, and innovation as well as reinforcing co-operation with the private sector.
The Platform for African-European Partnerships on Agricultural Research for Development (PAEPARD) was an eight-year project funded by the European Commission and partners’ own contributions. The project’s objective was to facilitate multi-stakeholder partnerships between Africa and Europe in the field of agriculture research and development. PAEPARD was working to promote new innovation processes through partnerships, multi actor and mediation work between research organisations, NGOs, peasant organisations and the private sector. Farmers’ contributions were integrated with a user-led or demand-led process.
The projects selected were:
• Reduced Aflatoxin in the groundnuts value chain in Malawi
• Improved processing technology of soy-bean milk in Benin – more projects derived from this covering capacity building for women producers as well as elaboration of the Benin Agribusiness Incubator Hub (business plan to commercialise the products)
• Citrus consortium aimed to overcome the fungal Angular Leaf Spot disease and improve the post-harvest management of citrus fruits in Ghana
• African indigenous fruits and vegetables (AIFV) consortium in Uganda, which focused on innovative processes for extending the shelf life of AIFV without degrading their nutritive qualities
• The hot pepper consortium in Togo which supported the exchange of improved seed varieties of hot pepper from Brazil.
Daniela Boehm, editor, Rural 21