The Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) conducted a training session at the Food Systems Research Network for Africa (FSNet-Africa) University of Pretoria (UP) Summer School. This session, held on 28 January 2022, focused on stakeholder mapping and related engagement plans and was attended by 22 participants from Ghana, Kenya, Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia.
The training formed part of the planned fellowship activities of the FSNet-Africa project, with the UP Summer School aiming to contribute to the overall project goals of enhancing the participating fellows’ ability to (i) conduct impact-focused and interdisciplinary research related to African food systems, (ii) build lasting research networks across Africa and the United Kingdom, and (iii) develop skills to translate and effectively communicate research findings to diverse audiences to influence policies and practice.
Given the need for early-career researchers to link their research projects to food systems policies and actively co-create research with relevant stakeholders, the FANRPAN training session focused on stakeholder engagement plans and policy impact. Presenting the opening remarks for the session, Dr Tshilidzi Madzivhandila, the Chief Executive Officer of FANRPAN, remarked on the need for researchers to continually engage policymakers to enable research-based policy implementation. He said, “The resources that have been dispensed to you need to be contributing to certain objectives by making sure that we are attending to outcome and impact at all levels.” Added Dr Madzivhandila.
“Stakeholder engagement is a practice that brings together various players that have different interests into a platform where everyone has equal voices. FANRPAN is a network of networks and is there to guide you on the relevant policies for your research as well as to bring together the relevant stakeholders.” FANRPAN’s Director of Policy Advocacy, Communications, and Knowledge Management, Mr Francis Hale, and the network’s Capacity Strengthening Manager, Dr Njongenhle Nyoni, facilitated the training.
With a specific focus on the current challenges faced by African nations, the training session used a case study to engage participants in a role-play exercise that allowed them to critically engage with hypothetical scenarios. The exercise aimed to deepen participants’ understanding of the sometimes-conflicting interests of different stakeholder groups. Furthermore, they gained insight into specific policies that had the potential to shape or be influenced by their research projects. The session addressed the following key points:
- Finalising stakeholder maps which had been created during the Fellowship Orientation;
- Refining the categorisation of stakeholders by interest, influence, and relationship (internal or external);
- Approaches to engaging/interacting with different stakeholders; and
- Identifying policies related to the fellows’ research projects.
In his closing remarks, Dr Madzivhandila emphasised the importance of ensuring that the FSNet-Africa fellows’ research projects were coherent, relevant, and effective. He also reiterated FANRPAN’s commitment and availability to provide continuous support to fellows in effectively engaging key stakeholders throughout their research projects.