African Food Systems: Science and Partnerships for Impact

One of the biggest challenges that we face globally, and particularly in Africa, is the challenge to end hunger. As we approach World Food Day on 16 October, it is an important time to reflect on science and partnerships to transform African food systems and tackle the challenge of food security in Africa. We cannot do this without the right partnerships – in particular, science partnerships.

The African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA) Centre of Excellence in Food Security – hosted by the University of Pretoria in collaboration with the University of Nairobi in Kenya and the University of Ghana, has a vision to harness partnerships for cutting-edge research and innovation. Multi- and transdisciplinary teams are essential to transform the food system and tackle complex challenges. Equally important is the provision of evidence to inform policies for food systems. Accordingly, the partnerships we mobilise at the Centre of Excellence cut across science domains and stakeholders in the food system – those that produce, process, package, distribute, and consume the food, as well as those who inform policy.

The Centre’s four main research focus areas are crops, livestock, producing nutritious food, and generating evidence to inform policies. Professor Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, the Director and Chair of the Centre of Excellence in Food Security, talks about the exciting current research led by the ARUA Centre of Excellence through the support of ARUA and the UK Research and Innovation’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

A flagship project in the Centre of Excellence is the Capacity Building Food Security for Africa (CaBFoodS-Africa) project that is led by Professor Hettie Schönfeldt of the University of Pretoria. CaBFoodS-Africa focuses on skills development through training on topics such as food and nutrition security, post-harvest losses, and big data for food systems.

The recently awarded Food Systems Research Network for Africa (FSNet-Africa), leading this World Food Day campaign, is another multi-year large-scale initiative. In this project, we seek to strengthen food systems research capabilities and the translation of evidence into implementable policy solutions and practical interventions in support of the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) targets for Africa. We seek to build the capacity of scientists who can engage stakeholders right from the farm, where we produce our food, to the table, where we consume our food. In support of this, FSNet-Africa will offer two-year long structured fellowship opportunities for 30 early career research fellows in six African countries.

As a Centre of Excellence, we’re proud to be working not just Africa-wide but globally on partnerships to transform the food system – collectively striving for transformation that is not only science-led and innovative but, most importantly, sustainable.