Research for Development (R4D)
Africa College is an international research partnership working to improve the lives of the millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa (sSA) by the sustainable enhancement of their food and nutritional security. Lead partners include the University of Leeds (www.leeds.ac.uk), the International Institute for Tropical Agriculture (IITA) www.iita.org and the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) www.icipe.org.
Today about a third of people living in sub-Saharan Africa are hungry. This situation is likely to worsen in the future, with the world requiring fifty to one hundred percent more food by 2050, while coping with reduced water availability, limited agricultural land and impacts of climate change. This presents a key societal challenge: How do we sustainably feed a growing population in the face of environmental change? A greater understanding of food systems, including the interrelationships between climate change, land use, biodiversity, water, crop productivity and human health is needed in order to meet this grand challenge. Africa College seeks to develop and implement new understanding about food systems through undertaking research that is focussed on outcomes.
Our mission is to improve the lives of the millions of people in sub-Saharan Africa by a sustainable enhancement of their food and nutritional security.
Our Vision and Objectives
Our vision is that building new and innovative partnerships will help translate research results into solutions that will have a positive impact on people living in sub-Saharan Africa. We seek to achieve this through the following four objectives:
- To undertake focussed research: We conduct novel research on sustainable agriculture, environment, health and nutrition focused on the problems of food security. We integrate new and interdisciplinary research on plant science, agronomy, ecology, meterology, transport, markets, nutrition, and health in order to understand farming and food systems.
- To work together: Our ethos is to encourage innovative partnerships across different domains, linking disciplines across and within natural and social science and collaborating with stakeholders to set the research agenda.
- To ensure last-mile delivery: We seek to effectively combine and share basic and applied research, skills, information and technologies in order to provide benefits to farmers and communities resulting in improved practices and policies for sustainable agriculture.
- To help build the research capacity of African national and regional research organisations.
The Africa College Partnership seeks to transform existing and separate areas of societally relevant, excellent research into a coherent research effort. Combining technologies and approaches from a variety of disciplinary areas such as plant science, ecology, climate adaptaion and improved land management, we aim to make a vital contribution to improving livelihoods and food security in sub-Saharan Africa.
Africa College carries out collaborative research for development with national African partners drawing on seven core areas of expertise:
Plant Science and development of improved crops
The world requires 50-100% more food by 2050 while coping with reduced water availability, limited additional agricultural land and impacts of climate change. Our research aims to deliver the innovation required to secure the future crop harvests needed in Sub-Saharan Africa.
African Weather and Climate
The climate of Africa is diverse, varying from the dry Sahara to wet tropical rainforest. In much of Africa agriculture and livelihoods are vulnerable to variations in weather and climate. For many regions it is extremely difficult to make useful predictions of weather and climate on any time scale (hours, days, months or decades). This limits our ability to predict impacts on agriculture, ecosystems and economies. Research within Africa College is improving our understanding of the processes controlling African weather and climate, assessing how these processes are represented in the models used to make predictions and then developing methods to make better use of and improve those models.
Nutrition and Health
Our research aims to link food production and storage to epidemiological measures of diet and health in individuals. This includes the impact of mycotoxin contamination on human health; understanding the connections between agricultural and dietary diversity; and community-based participatory approaches to improving food security in the context of climate change.
Climate change and environment sustainability Climate and environmental change has potentially serious effects on food security in Africa. Our research is focusing on the accurate prediction and evaluation of climate change related effects on human health and food security.
Ecology and ecosystem services
The natural environment contributes important services for successful agriculture including soil fertility, pollination and crop protection. Conserving and enhancing biodiversity that provides these services will underpin long term sustainability of food production systems. Our research focuses on how best to achieve this whilst also using the land for food production.
Transportation and Value Chains for Food
A 2013 report from UNCTAD highlights that 80% of trade takes place in ‘value chains’ linked to transnational corporations. Lead companies seek to co-ordinate production and supply logistics with impacts reaching all along the chain, with implications for producers and traders of all scales. Africa College’s expertise in analysis of food value chains involves analysis of mechanisms used to co-ordinate the chain and ensure quality, the role of sustainability standards, how ‘upgrading’ occurs and who benefits from value chains from production to consumption.
Farming and Food Systems
African agriculture is ninety-five percent rain-fed and has to feed a rapidly growing population while facing challenges of climate change and land degradation. Most African farmers are smallholders, producing food crops for autoconsumption and cash crops for markets. In addition, livestock and forest resources are important sources of livelihood. Research within Africa College focuses on bottom-up opportunities to enhance productivity of farming systems, e.g. through water harvesting technologies and agroforestry practices as climate-smart options, as well as enabling policies to support sustainable innovation processes in farming and food systems.
The success of Africa College depends upon how our research and activities make a difference and an impact. To achieve this we are:
- Implementing a communication strategy to target users of our research.
- Holding cross-boundary workshops and conferences on major African issues.
- Publishing online lectures from leading scientists from Africa, Europe and the USA.
- Preparing policy briefs on science and technology issues in support of policy development in Africa and internationally.
- Networking through “Research Without Boundaries” to link postdoctoral and postgraduate researchers in Africa and Europe to share their knowledge and experiences.
- Setting up an exchange and fellowship programme for African scientists.
- Raising the profile of food security research through networking within advanced research institutes, national agricultural research organisations, policy makers, development institutions, non-government organisations, and the private sector.
Thoughts on Africa College
IITA Video: This five minute video shows some examples of IITA's 40 years of award winning science in finding solutions for hunger and poverty in Africa. The International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA)
icipe: African insect science for Food and Health