BBSRC Workshop perspectives by Mathew Abang
The BBSRC sponsored Workshop on 'Sustainable peri-urban vegetable production for nutritional food security in Sub-Saharan Africa' brought together representatives of international agricultural research centers (AATF, AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center, ICIPE and IITA), scientists from China, USA and Tanzania, as well as numerous researchers/stakeholders from different disciplines at the University of Leeds.
This broad representation and diversity of expertise provided the ideal setting for participants to explore ways and means of harnessing science, technology and policy to reach the goals of sustainable peri-urban vegetable production. It also afforded participants the rare opportunity to deliberate on the challenges and priorities of improving peri-urban vegetable production systems, opportunities for harnessing inter- and cross-disciplinary research collaboration, technological opportunities to achieve impact and improve growers' livelihoods, as well as capacity building. Peri-urban vegetable production clearly has the potential to lift millions out of poverty and malnutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa but it presents several complex challenges; I was, therefore, very pleased that the Workshop explored institutional synergies for harnessing interdisciplinary science and technology for sustainable peri-urban agriculture.
Interaction with Chinese colleagues was quite inspiring as it showed how Africa can learn from the experience of China in developing low-cost, productive and sustainable peri-urban vegetable production systems. It was also gratifying to note that participants recognized the role of African indigenous knowledge as a valuable and complementary source of solutions.
We identified key researchable issues in urban and peri-urban vegetable production in Africa and have established working groups (strategic partnerships) to address these issues. Working groups focusing on different (including cross-cutting) issues are in the process of developing concept notes from which responses to calls for proposal could be mounted. While there is no universal model or agreed best structure to support integrated approaches to complex issues such as sustainable peri-urban vegetable production, it is clear to me that the organic structure of Africa College represents an institutional model that is both durable and robust, with the capacity to learn and adapt to changing needs and new challenges.
My organization, AVRDC-The World Vegetable Center, is pleased to be a part of Africa College and we look forward to working with other members of the College towards achievement of the Millenium Development Goals on the continent. BBSRC support of the workshop is highly appreciated.
Click below for a group photo of visiting scientists (external discussion leaders) with selected University of Leeds staff who attended the Workshop.
See also: http://www.africacollege.leeds.ac.uk/downloads/BBSRCWorkshop.jpg
8th February 2010