Research and Innovation Priorities for African Food Systems

The year 2020 has seen the worst systemic disruption of our time. The impact of COVID-19 has changed all aspects of life as we know it. This pandemic presents an enormous challenge to African food systems in terms of its impacts on production, logistics, markets, and policies. Smart solutions are required to address these impacts amidst existing challenges around food insecurity, pests, diseases, and climate change.

Food affects us all, so as we approach World Food Day on 16 October 2020, we need to think about the collective actions we need to take in order for African food systems to recover.

The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) is calling for continued efforts to utilise existing frameworks to harness the power of science in agriculture. Since 2014, African heads of state have endorsed the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa as an instrument to fast-track the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CAADP), the Malabo Declaration, and other frameworks required to push the sustainable agri-science agenda forward.

In the context of Agenda 2063 and the Science Agenda, all food systems stakeholders need to embrace scientific innovations in agriculture to overcome poverty, hunger, and debt. Over 80% of food is produced by smallholder farmers, and over 70% of the workforce of the continent is based in the agriculture sector. As such, context-relevant, science-based responses to current challenges need to be devised.

Cooperation and collaboration – particularly among decision-makers and policymakers – are needed to overcome food systems challenges, increase investment in agri-food systems, and end hunger in our lifetime.

Author: Dr Yemi Akinbamijo, Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa