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Africa’s food Transformation systems is a joint enterprise

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Africa's food Transformation
African farmer looks satisfied at his cocoa beans from the plants of his plantation.

The numerous risks to Africa’s food, land, and water systems are weakening attempts to eliminate hunger, malnutrition, and poverty as the region approaches a critical decade, with the clock ticking on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals for 2030.

Africa’s problems are becoming increasingly intertwined with those of the rest of the world. Increased food insecurity has a history of starting and prolonging wars, sparking revolutions, and reversing economic development, all of which are made more likely by the epidemic, climate change, and civil turmoil. Africa urgently requires a route ahead that combines science, technology, and innovation to address serious threats to food, land, and water systems.

Africa is as vital to CGIAR, the world’s biggest publicly financed agricultural research alliance, as CGIAR is to Africa in a mutually beneficial relationship. CGIAR has made significant contributions to influencing the science driving Africa’s agricultural development for more than five decades. Over the same time period, institutional reforms and the strengthening of Africa’s research capacities have been tremendous.

While Africa may appear to be losing headway in fulfilling its food and nutrition security goals, the current situation would be significantly direr if the CGIAR’s presence and influence were not present. Upstream science breakthroughs in genetics, agronomy, and environmental and resource management are assisting farming communities in dealing with today’s severe conditions and unpredictability.

CGIAR must continue to evolve in order to build on this life-saving legacy and remain relevant to an Africa facing new and increasingly difficult challenges. The transition to One CGIAR is a once-in-a-generation chance to restructure CGIAR so that it can deliver the knowledge and technologies needed to ensure food security in Africa and beyond. The need to continuously offset known and unknown shocks to the agrifood system whenever they occur is unquestionable. To address these issues front-on, farmers and all stakeholders must remain well-equipped with suitable technologies and policy instruments. The One CGIAR transition has so many obvious advantages in terms of lowering biotic and abiotic stresses.

From the perspective of organizational change, integrating CGIAR governance into a more unified structure creates a single point of engagement and clear methods to respond to locally relevant opportunities, priorities, and needs – something that funders and country partners have long desired. In this setting, while research and innovation work continues to be decentralized, administration and management become more simplified, resulting in increased resource usage efficiency. Furthermore, the One CGIAR transition aims to quadruple existing funding, allowing for additional investment in the organization’s work and partners in priority regions, half of which are in Africa. Funders contributed about $1 billion to CGIAR in 2021, a significant statement of confidence in the reform.

At the same time, the causes of Africa’s food insecurity are multifaceted, making it critical to understand Africa’s unique characteristics in order to successfully implement, apply, and deconstruct the One CGIAR reform in Africa. One CGIAR can only be a success if it is a success in and for Africa, with Africa accounting for about half of the nations in which CGIAR works and four One CGIAR research centers based there.

Transdisciplinary alliances with national, regional research, and donor partners are required to bring about transformational change on the scale required. In light of this, the African Development Bank (AfDB) and FARA recently convened a meeting in Abidjan with the African Union Commission, regional economic communities (RECs), and representatives of agricultural research for development institutes, as well as CGIAR, to ensure that the necessary One CGIAR reforms reflect the needs of African farmers.

Between the Abidjan meeting and the high-level consultations in Dakar in May, there is great hope for the elaboration of a consensus position on the direction for food science and innovation, which will be coordinated by the African Union Commission, the African Development Bank, and FARA as part of ongoing consultations.

Africa’s food systems can only be improved by working together. As a result, CGIAR is grabbing the chance to expand its ties with its country and regional partners by accepting the offer. Its leadership is committed to ensuring that the viewpoints of all of its partners are meaningfully represented in the One CGIAR transition and future, leveraging on shared history and relationships to respectfully build on the important legacy of the first fifty years.

Ultimately, people do not survive on MoUs or partner agreements, they survive on functioning food systems that provide safe, sustainable, and equitable diets and livelihoods. As leading agricultural research organizations, whose success depends on the country and regional partnerships, CGIAR and FARA are unwavering in their pursuit of a united and successful way forward for Africa.

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