GCRF-AFRICAP - Agricultural and Food-system Resilience: Increasing Capacity and Advising Policy

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leeds
Department Name: Sch of Biology


Agricultural development is fundamental to achieving many of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Levels of undernourishment and malnutrition remain high across the region and current trends show a growing gap between the food needs of a growing population and agricultural productivity. Moreover, in a context of changing climates, and, in many areas, increased incidence of extreme and unprecedented events (notably drought and extreme heat, as well as increasingly extreme rainfall and crop pest infestations), the increased risk of crop failures is exacerbating this challenge. Across Africa, governments recognise that agricultural development and transformation needs to be an engine of economic growth and poverty alleviation, particularly where cycles of low productivity (and periodic crop failures), limited access to resources, and small land holdings lock rural households into cycles of poverty.
Agricultural practice must also contribute to the sustaining of soil, water, biodiversity and more, and is increasingly being targeted as a sector within which we must reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Achieving sustainable and resilient transformations of agriculture and food systems in Africa is a complex and multi-faceted challenge, which requires novel approaches to research and evidence and new policy and institutional enabling environments. This project sets out to collaboratively build the capacities required across research and policy to tackle this multi-faceted challenge, and help avoid the policy paralysis that in some countries led to little or no progress towards the Millennium Development goals.

The project team, which includes the University of Leeds, University of Aberdeen, the UK Met Office, the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and Chatham House encompasses expertise in agriculture, climate, ecology, soils, water, post-harvest losses, land use, nutrition and health, rural livelihoods, and policy and institutional analysis. FANRPAN is a multi-stakeholder pan-African network whose mission is to build resilient food systems across Africa through the assessment and creation of food, agriculture and natural resources policies that are both evidence-based and developed in partnership with non-state actors.

We will address research and capacity growth under 3 broad themes: (1) how to make agriculture (and food systems) productive as well as resilient to extreme weather whilst minimising impacts on the environment and maximising its contributions to livelihoods, and food and nutrition (2) as the economic and food-security demands on agriculture change over the next decades, and at the same time weather and climate risks change, what are the feasible ways that agriculture can develop to become more productive in order to meet future needs? (3) how can policy be developed that enables potential sustainable, productive, climate-resilient pathways to be realised in the most inclusive way, thus maximising the contribution of agriculture to achieving the SDGs?

Work will be focused in four countries in SSA: Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia -which are low income countries with varied farming systems - and South Africa, which is an upper middle income country. In each country, research and policy capacity will be built through collaborative partnerships across academic institutions, non-governmental organisations, and policy makers. Through FANRPAN and Chatham House' s inter-governmental policy expertise and platforms, we aim to generate lessons learned from our case-study countries and disseminate them across Africa to contribute to capacity building and evidence-based agricultural transformation through the application of a similar model of evidence into policy in other African countries, and at the regional level.

Planned Impact

Our motivation in this grant is to make a positive difference towards ensuring the implementation of sustainable agricultural development pathways in the face of multiple, sometimes conflicting, needs: sustainability priorities for agriculture and food systems, the changing demands and pressures arising from climate change (and its mitigation and adaptation) and the need for productivity growth to support economic development in SSA. The Malabo declaration of the heads of state of the African Union reaffirmed the key principles of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) which include, among others: a) the pursuit of agriculture-led growth as a main strategy to achieve targets on food and nutrition security and shared prosperity; b) the exploitation of regional complementarities and cooperation to boost growth; c) the application of principles of evidence-based planning, policy efficiency, dialogue, review, and accountability; and (d) the need to build resilience in the face of climate change.

The project is designed to target the building of capacity for research and knowledge exchange to underpin policy and practice, through co-designed activities and research training across UK and African institutions in order to address critical gaps in understanding, within the project and beyond it. This will be achieved through new collaborations and integrated working across UK teams from Leeds (with expertise in food and nutrition security, climate and weather, agriculture, politics, livelihoods, environment), UK Met Office (climate and weather), Aberdeen (land use and climate change, nutrition), Chatham House (policies and governance). The UK teams will work closely in SSA, facilitated by FANRPAN, the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy and Analysis Network (research-into-policy expertise), as well as building on existing relationships of project partners in the four focal countries, for example between the UK Met Office and National Met Services; and between the University of Leeds and Liongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources (Malawi), Sokoine University (Tanzania), University of Zambia and Stellenbosch University (SA).

It further aims to build capacities for the management and implementation of ambitious, policy-oriented research (drawing particularly on expertise within the Leeds University Research Innovation Service and the FANRPAN operations team), strengthen mechanisms and forums for evidence-based policy implementation and upscaling, and use evidence to help design policies to deliver sustainable and Climate Smart Agrifood System development. The project represents an investment in a long term strategy for evidence to feed into policy across scales, from initial ' special agricultural zones' within each of the case study countries, into national and regional policy forums (a model with which Chatham House have experience).

This model, and its implementation, will draw in particular on the extensive policy networks and convening power, at a regional level, of FANRPAN and, at an international level, of Chatham House. This includes relationships with on-going initiatives, such as the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the Africa Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (ACSAA) and the Global Alliance for Climate Smart Agriculture (GACSA), as well as with the African Union/New Partnership for Africa's Development (AU/NEPAD), Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), and the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA).


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