Research solidarity for food security: BecA-ILRI Hub alumni communities of practice

From 3-7 July 2017, the Biosciences eastern and central Africa-International Livestock Research Institute (BecA-ILRI) Hub mobilized 17 researchers representing 12 communities of practice (CoPs) to develop concepts for research on key agricultural challenges in Africa. The CoPs formed through the BecA-ILRI Hub’s Africa Biosciences Challenge Fund (ABCF) program and comprising researchers within national agricultural research systems across the region are developing proposals to respond to funding calls on agricultural research for development.

Although agriculture is viewed as the sector with the greatest potential to transform Africa’s economy (AfDB, 2016), it continues to face the challenges of low productivity across all farming systems. In the Science Agenda for Agriculture in Africa (S3A) document—a roadmap towards transforming Africa’s agriculture—regional collaborations, that enable the attainment of economies of scale in terms of human, technological and financial resource, are singled out as a means to achieving the vision of a food-secure Africa by 2030. 

Many agricultural problems in Africa are common to more than one country and as such, it is more effective use a concerted approach across countries and institutions in tackling these issues,’ said BecA-ILRI Hub principal scientist Roger Pelle, emphasizing the importance of the CoP approach to research for development.

The concept note write-shop is a follow-up of a facilitated proposal writing workshop held for the same CoPs in April 2017 involving 50 participants from 16 African countries—Benin, Burundi, Cameroon, Côte d’Ivoire, Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Madagascar, Malawi, Nigeria, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. Through these CoPs, the investment in the ABCF program is gaining momentum beyond individual and institutional capacity strengthening.

‘We see this as a powerful approach to harness the power of our alumni and multiply the initial investment made towards their fellowship at BecA-ILRI Hub,’ said Wellington Ekaya who heads the ABCF program.

The proposals being developed crystallized around research themes responding to sustainable development goals (SDGs) 1, 2 and 13 (no poverty, zero hunger and climate action). They included research on crop and livestock health, livestock genetics, crop improvement, food safety and climate change mitigation. 

In his address to the write-shop participants, the BecA-ILRI Hub director Jacob Mignouna advised the researchers to critically consider the value proposition of their proposals. 

‘Sciences is good, but your proposals should clearly articulate the economic impact of your research,’ said Mignouna, adding that it was important for the CoPs to consider how the products of their research would be transferred to the ultimate beneficiaries—the resource poor smallholder farmers in Africa. 


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