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Why Food and Nutrition Security Matters in the EU-Africa Partnership

Why Food and Nutrition Security Matters in the EU-Africa Partnership

CAAST-Net Plus is conducting research into the impact of EU-Africa food security research collaborations. In this interview with *Research Africa's GERARD RALPHS, JUDITH ANN FRANCIS of the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) outlines the research objectives and its intended impact.

Questions: Gerard Ralphs
Answers: Judith Ann Francis

What is the background to the research you are developing?

Africa and Europe have a long history of cooperation in agriculture and rural development, as well as in science and technology (S&T). In this regard, several joint programmes and projects have been funded by the European Union that contribute to the attainment of food and nutrition security (FNS). Through analysing this landscape, our research goal is to provide a knowledge base that helps to catalyse a platform to address Europe-Africa joint food and nutrition security priorities. Critically, we also need to know where there are cooperation constraints, and then in collaboration with the relevant actors design interventions to overcome those constraints. Our research is ultimately about enhancing the conditions of cooperation and lowering the barriers to innovation.

So in the first instance it is important to know what’s going on at ground-level, and to acquire new insight. Key aspects that interest us include understanding the investments that have been made, who is contributing to and benefitting from these investments, and whether the outputs of joint research efforts are leading to innovation. We are asking: Are research results actually informing the policy processes — either in Africa or Europe, or both? Are farmers and other private sector actors, for example, input suppliers, using the knowledge and technologies generated by research to increase yields, produce new products, and expand market opportunities? And so on. It’s important, and riveting stuff.

Sustainable agriculture and FNS are receiving an unprecedented amount of attention globally at the moment. What global actions will be important in this regard in the next decade to ensure this global challenge is addressed for the benefit of citizens in Africa and Europe?

I would highlight two ‘action areas’: First, national institutions must be enabled to address the global FNS challenge and its impacts at the individual and household levels. Ownership is key. Why? To ensure that there is adequate nutritious food and equal access to resources. Hence, coherence between global, regional and national policies, programmes and actions is necessary and must be pursued. Second, multi-disciplinary research and multi-sectoral approaches are necessary. This must be emphasised in global platforms, mainstreamed in global processes and reproduced at regional and national levels. For example, farmers and farm families must be consulted in a meaningful manner because they are the major producers, especially in developing countries. They are also the guardians of our natural resources (land, water and biodiversity). Though the importance of smallholder farmers is recognised, and their participation in decision-making processes endorsed at the highest policy levels, they continue to be side lined when major decisions are being made on the future of agriculture and food. Hence at global level, demonstration of the vital role of smallholder farmers in research and policy processes must, must, must go beyond pronouncements.

A number of events focussing on FNS have been arranged in recent months, for example, the high-level round table debate on the margins of the EU-Africa Business Forum. In your view, what is the general direction of EU-Africa research and innovation cooperation on food and nutrition security?

Politically-incorrect as it may sound and apologies in advance, I say: more action, less talk. The evidence shows that Africa continues to be challenged in meeting the FNS needs for a significant proportion of the population. If we go by this metric then joint cooperation efforts and investments by other major players, including national governments, are not meeting the needs of the most vulnerable. Hence, efforts aimed at setting indicators for measuring future success in terms of any of the four-plus-one FNS pillars (availability, accessibility, utilization, stability and ecological sustainability) are to be lauded.

What are some of the innovative actors, organisations, projects or partnerships operating in this space now? What are they doing differently?

The Platform for African European Partnership on Agricultural Research for Development, or PAEPARD, is piloting various initiatives for enhancing collaboration between African and European actors. One of PAEPARD’s successes is that it has been able to mobilise research users — particularly African farmer organisations — to lead multi-stakeholder research projects that actually respond to their needs (the so-called user-led process). Another success of PAEPARD lies in its ability to build the capacity of innovation facilitators. These facilitators provide invaluable support to multi-stakeholder research teams in their efforts to access research funding and implement joint activities. In this space, PAEPARD is a platform to watch as it may provide valuable learning for engaging farmers in setting research agendas and participating in the process!

Another major development is joint funding instruments. These mean that African governments are just as committed to investing in the success of the cooperation efforts. The ERAfrica Project is exemplory in this regard. This should give comfort for the future of African-EU research partnerships.

Tell our readers about the Technical Centre for Rural and Agricultural Cooperation.

The CTA is a joint international institution of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States and the European Union. Its mission is to advance food and nutritional security, increase prosperity, and encourage sound natural resource management in ACP countries. We provide access to information and knowledge, facilitate policy dialogue, and strengthen the capacity of agricultural and rural development institutions and communities.

What role does CTA play within the CAAST-Net Plus network?

CTA is one of the network’s 25 project partners. We play a lead role in the project’s work on analysing the impact of food security research cooperation between Africa and Europe. We also contribute to several other areas of CAAST-Net Plus, for example, bridging the public-private sector divide for greater impact on food security, strengthening intra-EU coordination of support for bi-regional food security research co-operation, the framework conditions for bi-regional cooperation, and the development of a sustainable EU-African platform for food security. Readers interested in engaging with CTA on their work can email enquiries[at]

*An earlier version of this article first appeared in the CAAST-Net Plus Magazine of June 2014.

[Image credit: Flickr, UNAMID]

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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