Agriculture has a vital significance for sub-Saharan African countries, as it is the biggest economic sector throughout the area, and a majority of the population gains livelihood through farming. A great potential for economical development and better well being of people lies in agriculture.
Africa holds a rich and varied biodiversity. For example, it has been estimated that approximate 1000 different vegetables grow in the continent. Africa’s wildlife and especially big mammals are well known but the continent is also rich in livestock: According to Livestock Data in Africa 25 percent of the world’s sheep and 16 percent of the cattle live in Africa.
The other side of the coin however shows poverty and problems in food security caused by lack of investment in agricultural development, erosion, effects of climate change, population growth, and increased food prices. Major part of agriculture is subsistence farming.
Sustainable food production through research and capacity building
Several studies show that investing in agricultural research in developing countries is one of the most cost effective ways to increase sustainable food production. Research based knowledge enables detection of methods for enhancing food production, access to food, food safety and nutrition.
This is exactly what the FoodAfrica Programme aims to achieve.
The overall objective of FoodAfrica is to reduce poverty and improve food security in Western and East Africa. This is done by enhancing the capacity of local researchers and research institutes and by producing new knowledge and tools for researchers, decision makers and farmers to improve local food security.
The emphasis is on high quality research that produces concrete outcomes to benefit a wide range of beneficiaries in the food supply chain and other relevant stakeholders.
Six countries and seven work packages
The FoodAfrica Programme is implemented in six Western and Eastern African countries: Benin, Ghana, Cameroon, Kenya, Senegal, and Uganda. The Programme consists of three thematic components: sustainable food production, food safety and nutrition, and market access and extension.
The Programme will be implemented in seven work packages that concentrate on certain areas and countries. The work packages are:
• WP1: Strengthening capacity for diagnosis and management of soil micronutrient deficiencies in Sub Saharan Africa for improved plant, animal and human nutrition
• WP2: Dairy cattle breeding in West Africa: identifying and promoting appropriate breeds and breed combinations or genotypes for small holder farmers in Senegal
• WP3: Economic analysis on technologies and targeted policies to reduce vulnerability and building resilience in Sénégal
• WP4: Enhancing food and nutrition security of vulnerable groups in communities in Benin through increased use of local agricultural biodiversity
• WP5: Measuring and mitigating the risk of mycotoxins for poor milk and maize producers and consumers in Kenya
• WP6: Improving market access and food security in Africa with information and communication technology (ICT)
• WP7: Innovative extension approaches for improving food security and livelihoods
New model for cooperation
Combining applied research with development cooperation including extensive involvement of different research centers and academic institutions is a new model for cooperation that is now piloted within the FoodAfrica Programme.
FoodAfrica will strengthen the cooperation between researchers and training/research institutions in the region and enhance efficient knowledge dissemination between African, Finnish and CGIAR (Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research) experts.
Food Africa is mainly funded by the Finnish Ministry for Foreign Affairs (MFA) and coordinated by Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke). Finland is among the world’s leading countries in research and development of agriculture and food security. According to the ministry’s guidelines launched in 2010 MFA supports the development of agricultural production which improves food security of the developing countries.
CGIAR institutions have an important role in the FoodAfrica Programme, as these top research institutions already have established presence and on-going activities in many West-African countries. The participating CGIAR institutions are Bioversity International, International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI), International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI), and World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF).
Other research partners of the FoodAfrica Programme are the University of Helsinki, and HAMK University of Applied Sciences.
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