Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation
Between Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe

Sustainable Agriculture on CAAST-Net Plus Agenda

Sustainable Agriculture on CAAST-Net Plus Agenda

Sustainable Agriculture on CAAST-Net Plus Agenda

CAAST-Net Plus held a second pilot workshop aimed at building the capacities of early-career climate researchers. By KRISTEN ULSTEIN

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The workshop took place from 21-23 November at the Grand Mensvic Hotel in Accra, Ghana.

The format, first piloted in Kigali in June, consisted of two morning sessions with technical presentations focused on the theme of sustainable agricultural intensification and on funding options for research on this theme. Afternoons were reserved for group sessions, in which participants interacted with presenters, seeking advice on how to refine the research project proposals.

[Image credit: C. Larsen] 

Workshop participants travelled from Benin, Botswana, Ethiopia, Ghana, Nigeria and Uganda. All participants are early-career African researchers with a professional interest in the issue of sustainable agriculture intensification. Out of 40 proposals submitted by prospective participants, invitations were extended to 14 researchers. The workshop ended with a field trip to Humberg Farms in Anum in the Eastern Region of Ghana, where the concepts discussed were revisited in practice. 

[Image credit: C. Larsen] 

What is CAAST-Net Plus?

CAAST-Net Plus is an EU-funded network of 26 partner organisations from all over Europe and sub-Saharan Africa working together to support bi-regional cooperation in research and innovation.

CAAST-Net was established in 2008 and is nearing the end of its second phase.

Since 2013 CAAST-Net Plus has been working on designing and building an Africa-EU platform for research and innovation collaboration on climate change. 

It has also produced a critical analysis of the scope, coordination and uptake of bi-regional research collaboration on climate change. 

A CAAST-Net Plus Legacy

"This [workshop represents] an embryo of a platform we want to institutionalise as part of our legacy. The aim is to bridge the gross asymmetry between Europe and Sub-Saharan Africa," said Arne Tostensen (left) from the Research Council of Norway, who was speaking in his welcome address.

He urged participants to take advantage of the opportunity to get advice from the presenters and polish their proposals.

"We have brought together experts on research funding and climate change research, with a particular focus on sustainable agriculture intensification, from academia, the public and private sectors, to provide you with guidance and feedback."

[Image credit: K. Ulstein]

Victor Agyeman, Director General of the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) in Ghana, raised the issue of asymmetries. He pointed to the Lagos Plan of Action, in which African leaders in 1980 called for countries to allocate at least 1 per cent of gross domestic product to R&D.

"We are not there yet. Far from it. Ghana is investing 0,35 of its GDP in R&D, but we are nevertheless in the top five on agricultural research. Sustainable agricultural intensification is a priority area for Ghana," he said.

"Out of 13 institutes under CSIR, six are working in agriculture, consuming 60 percent of the budget."

"There are also gross asymmetries between African countries. Eight countries are producing 80 percent of the research output," Agyeman pointed out.

He also read a speech on behalf of Ghana's science and environment minister, Mahama Ayariga.

"Sustainable intensification of food production holds promises for the future of Africa. It is unacceptable to continue to experience food shortages," he said, underlining how critical the implementation of the Paris Agreement is for the continent.


Research Uptake

One of the objectives of the workshop was to motivate early-career African academics to pursue research in support of the uptake of sustainable agriculture intensification. [Image credit: K. Ulstein]

Benjamin Gyampoh, climate change coordinator at the African Academy of Sciences, was one of many presenters underlining the importance of community end-user endorsement, as well industrial partnership, when innovations are made ready to be scaled up. UK’s DFID has funded 63 fellowships through AAS this year, 43 of them in agriculture.

"Adaptation is the main theme, research on how farmers can get the best out of it under changed conditions. We need more research into the interlinkages between sustainable intensification and mitigation," Gyampoh told the participants.

Dr Jonathan Nzuma of the Climate Resilient Economies programme at the African Centre for Technology Studies, saw the communication of research findings as the weakest link. He pointed out that growth in agricultural production in Africa stagnated between 1962 and 1985. From 1985 to 2008 the growth was only 1 percent. In his view research into drought resistant and early maturing crops is the most critical, together with investments in irrigation. 

Fred McBagonluri, Ghana Climate Innovation Centre (GCIC), noted that GCIC is one of seven World Bank funded centres worldwide. GCIC is supporting local entrepreneurs through a 2.5 years’ incubation period and seed capital for upscaling. Participation and funding requires commitment to a structured programme. Amongst the themes are Climate Smart Agriculture.

"We are receiving few relevant proposals, because the concept of sustainable agricultural intensification is not well understood," said McBagonluri.

"Another problem is that early user dialogue is difficult, since research outcomes cannot be determined a priori." His best advice was nevertheless to let users influence the research designs, to increase the probability of uptake.

Kofi Boa from the Centre for No-Till Agriculture made a strong case for conservation agriculture. "The decline in arable land is partly a result of unfavourable farming methods," Boa said. 

"Sustainable intensifications means to protect and improve the farmer’s resource base, first and foremost the soil, and at the same time increase yields and reduce costs. Farming in the future must be both economically and ecologically sustainable," he said. Boa indicated that he wanted to see more research directed towards improving various aspects of Conservation Agriculture methods.

Ernest Acheampong, African Technology Policy Studies Network, pointed to the critical role of policymakers. "Agricultural in itself is contributing to environmental challenges, like human driven climate change, loss of biodiversity, land system changes, loss of phosphorus and nitrogen. Capacity to deal with these challenges must be strengthened; on individual, organisational and societal levels," he said.

"What is critically needed is appropriate innovative technologies in combination with the necessary socio-economic framework for uptake."

Collins Boakye Dankwa, VOTO Mobile, said VOTO is a fast-growing social enterprise helping farmers to connect through interactive voice and SMS messaging. Weather updates, market prices, reminders about application of fertiliser and hot-lines are services designed to help farmers increase their yield and earnings.

Funding Issues

The second day was devoted to put researchers in a better position to secure funding through private sector and other sources, including the Horizon 2020 funding mechanism. [Image credit: K. Ulstein]

George Essegbey, who is Chief Research Scientist and Director of the Science and Technology Policy Research Institute of Ghana, presented the Horizon 2020 funding scheme.

Karikari Tabi from the African Development Bank presented the main points of the bank’s 10 year plan, namely Inclusive Growth, Gradual Transition to Green Growth, Maximised Efficiency and Minimised Waste.

To feed Africa is one of AfDB’s "high fives". To get research funded through AfDB, the research must be part of a government project. The bank focuses on integrated value chains and green investment instruments.

Kwaw Andam, who is Ghana Programme Leader of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), told participants that "governments agendas are our agenda". IFPRI has some 600 employees in 50 countries. The institute is outsourcing some of its research to other institutions. "We provide holistic evidence-based policy research to support governments in decision making. Relevant topics are agricultural competitiveness, employment, rural-urban linkages, capacity building and structural transformation."

One of IFPRI’s recent findings is that it does not lead to much intensification if governments provide free or subsidized inputs. Fertilizers are only used to keep up production.

Tony Mitchell encouraged participants to seek funding from businesses, if their research was likely to lead to innovations. He recommended open innovation models, where risks as well as rewards are shared between the partners.

"Make sure your relationship is structured and your objectives are harmonised. You will also need a dedicated person to drive the process. My best advice is to learn to speak the language of businesses. They will certainly not learn how to speak yours."

Mitchell is an experienced international knowledge transfer consultant who has advised and supported Government Agencies to encourage collaboration between the private sector and Universities and Research Institutes.

Mitchell's career includes 15 years as an advisor on the UK's flagship Knowledge Transfer Partnership (KTP) programme.

The workshop was co-chaired by CAAST-Net Plus partners, Cecilie Larsen of the UNEP DTU Partnership and George Owusu Essigbey CSIR-STEPRI. [Image credits: K. Ulstein]

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*CAAST-Net Plus acknowledges Kristen Ulstein of the Research Council of Norway who contributed reporting and images. Cecilie Larsen also contributed images. 

This content was produced by *Research Africa for CAAST-Net Plus. To report an error, write to To learn more about us, go to ​

Disclaimer: CAAST-Net Plus is funded by the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development (FP7/2007-2013) under grant agreement n0 311806. This document reflects only the authors’ views and the European Union cannot be held liable for any use that may be made of the information contained herein.

CAAST-Net Plus is funded by the European Union's Seventh Framework Programme under grant agreement 311806
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