The FoodAfrica Programme has now been in full operation for more than one year. The Programme is firmly footed and has embarked on research activities as scheduled. The Programme aims at improving food security of local communities in totally six Western and Eastern Sub-Saharan African countries. This is a highly challenging task given the many serious constraints these countries are facing in their efforts to meet the needs for adequate nutrition of their population.
Our approach in FoodAfrica is to develop, through basic and applied research, new knowledge and tools for local farmers, policy makers and other stakeholders in different food chains. The research results being obtained over the next three years will be translated into practical messages which will benefit local communities in the participating countries and can hopefully be adopted also in other African countries.
Apart from research, Food Africa is also a capacity building instrument and we are pleased to record that more than ten African doctoral students and a great number of African M.Sc. students have been recruited to the Programme, so far. The capacity building activity is integrated through our local academic education partners in each participating country. The involvement of local partners is vital for the success of the Programme not only for human capacity building but also for active dissemination of research results obtained.
FoodAfrica is in many ways a unique and highly ambitious research for development initiative. Implementation of the Programme is trusted with a consortium of Finnish, internationally operating CGIAR and African national research and education institutions. Furthermore, the topics of all seven work packages vary widely depending on the countries involved. There are, however, in all work packages many issues and research tasks which are common to all and can readily be combined under the three overarching components: sustainable food production, food safety and nutrition, and market access and extension. These components reflect on the focal areas which currently are most affected in the global food security situation. While the FoodAfrica research activities are focusing on these components through scientific approach, there are also cross-cutting issues which are addressed at Programme level. These issues encompass the following: gender equality, reduction of inequality, climate change and human rights. The human rights based approach is included in FoodAfrica from the year 2013 onwards as this theme is one of the leading guidelines in the new Finnish Government Development Policy Program.
As emphasized by the FoodAfrica Supervisory Board in their annual meeting in Senegal in early March 2013, the Programme will in the current year pay more attention, in addition to the above cross-cutting themes, to interaction between the work packages and networking with other similar projects in African countries. Also, there is a need to start developing concrete strategies and plans how to disseminate the research results to the local beneficiaries, including farmers, households, authorities and policymakers. To this end, the leaders and the partners in each work package are encouraged to increase their communication efforts through local media and the FoodAfrica website which is being vitalized at the moment.
The FoodAfrica External Reviewer Dr. Kaisa Karttunen wrote in her first report: “FoodAfrica is not dealing with social policies, but it can still promote some key elements, particularly good nutrition and health, through increased food quantity, quality and safety.” This is exactly what our mission in FoodAfrica is.