Photo: Wageningen UR | Arthimedes / Shutterstock

The expected growth of the world population to 9 billion in 2050 and the changing diets will affect food availability drastically. Therefore improving food and nutrition security and ensuring the sustainability of agriculture (FNSSA) is and will be a global issue for the years to come. African and European researchers have agreed to jointly engage in the preparation of a new, long-term and ambitious partnership to solve these issues. The PROIntensAfrica project has tracked down the main building blocks for a new, long-term and ambitious research partnership between Europe and Africa, presenting a jointly funded and governed mechanism. The project’s results in brief can be downloaded here.

New approaches to research and innovation are required since sustainable intensification is not only about increasing outputs, but also about prudent and efficient use of resources, eco-system services, social and economic impacts, induced technological dependency, and limits of natural and energetic resources. New exciting pathways of sustainable intensification are emerging as alternatives to conventional intensification, such as ecotechnological, agroecological, and organic farming. Comparative research is needed to fully unlock the potential and limitations of related approaches. Responding to this situation, the PROIntensAfrica project has developed an innovative research and innovation (R&I) agenda. This agenda will connect pathway-orientated comparative R&I in relation to performance domains, dimensions of sustainability, scale levels, and conditions. The framework has three main implications:

  • The R&I agenda needs to work with a diversity of intensification pathways and provide keys to comparing the pathways.
  • Products from the implementation of the agenda need to address the main controversies regarding how to achieve sustainable intensification and food and nutrition security.
  • The potential of different pathways needs to be explored equally in relation to the range of different commodities and to the variety of geographic areas.

Diversity of pathways to sustainable intensification

The pathways differ in vision and mission, in organization and governance, in dimensionality, in technology and in the use of resources. They range from conventional agriculture to organic farming, and were studied in the PROIntensAfrica project both through a literature survey and by in- situ case studies. Results show a trade-off in aspects of impacts and gains between different dimensions. They also show, however, that the trade-offs are context dependent. This illustrates how different situations call for different pathways, and that there is not one solution which fits all situations. It underlines the need to explore and harness the diversity of pathways to optimize FNSSA. Combining elements of various pathways will probably yield systems that are better adapted and optimized
than the benchmarked systems.

Complementary to the literature review, case studies have been implemented to document agricultural intensification in sub-Saharan Africa. Six In-Depth case studies have been conducted forcusing on important socio-economic and biophysical conditions to understand pathways. In addition eleven light case studies were implemented to document the thematic diversity in agricultural pathways occurring in sub-Saharan Africa. All case studies reports are available at te projects website.

Alignment can unlock the potential

The need to unlock the potential of African agriculture is broadly acknowledged, and results in many research and innovation projects and programs. Yet many efforts are scattered. Alignment will result in gaining potential for synergy and convergence. It will facilitate large-scale and long-term projects, as individual project are scalable. Alignment is a requirement for mobilizing resources, expertise and competences that need to be mobilized for improving FNSSA.

What is IntensAfrica partnership? 

African and European members of the IntensAfrica consortium (emerged in 2012) agreed to jointly engage in the preparation of a new, long-term and ambitious research and innovation partnership between Europe and Africa in the thematic area of sustainable intensification of agrifood systems. The project PROIntensAfrica was formulated to develop such a partnership, and, with funding from the EC, was carried for two years with the active involvement of 23 African and European partners.

A framework for the future partnership, which will operate under the policy umbrella of the EU-AU High Level Policy Dialogue on FNSSA, has been designed. It might develop as a Joint Programming like instrument or as an International Research Consortium, both promising instruments for alignment of funding and specific research and innovation agenda setting.

Institution support group continues the work

To further develop and implement the concepts for the future partnership, the IntensAfrica Consortium partners decided to establish a support group of dedicated partner institutions. The ISG will work with other networks and programs involved in FNSSA, like LEAP-Agri, on the realization of the more permanent structure for the required alignment of resources, knowledge and innovation capacities that address FNSSA in all its complexity.

Please download the complete brief here.

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