Written by Enock Balakasi
A £8 million (7.7 billion MK) research programme focused on improving evidence-based policy making to develop sustainable, productive, agricultural systems, resilient to climate change has been launched in Malawi this week.
The programme, called Agricultural and Food-system Resilience: Increasing Capacity and Advising Policy (AFRICAP), will conduct its research activities in Africa (South Africa, Tanzania, Zambia, and Malawi) and the UK.
The program is likely to avert food crisis in some African countries including Malawi.
It is led by the University of Leeds, a leading international university in the north of England, in partnership with FANRPAN, a pan African multi-stakeholder policy network whose regional secretariat is based in Pretoria, South Africa.
The program is focused on generating evidence-based policy to transform agriculture and food systems in Africa with a view of identifying key steps towards a more resilient food system for 2050.
The AFRICAP also aims at improving productivity of farming systems, and their resilience to shocks emanating from climate change impacts and it links to ongoing projects between Leeds and Malawi assessing likely climate futures.
Research will be conducted in the United Kingdom and in selected African countries including Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania, and Zambia, thus enabling the project to provide a multi-country synthesis and lessons.
In Malawi, like in the other benefiting countries, AFRICAP will advise government, donors and civil society on the development of climate-smart agri-food system pathways.
It will look to focus studies and interventions in ‘special agricultural zones’ where research can be turned into evidence, leading to policy that is capable of influencing practices.
The GCRF-AFRICAP intends to work with key stakeholders to design climate-smart scenarios and agree development pathways to guide national policy and its implementation and it will involve continued support for ongoing conservation agriculture field trial studies at Chitedze Agricultural Research Station through the Department of Agricultural Research Services.
On farm trials will also be supported starting in Nkhotakota and Balaka districts.
As FANRPAN’s node host in Malawi, the Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) will coordinate program activities, including providing support to the Department of Agricultural Research Services to ensure the successful implementation of ongoing field trials at Chitedze Agricultural Research Station; and the administration of a bursary scheme for African and UK scholars to attend bespoke research training courses.
CISANET will partner to develop and run applied research projects, and will jointly generate and disseminate research outputs through joint research-policy forums.
In an interview after the launch in Lilongwe, CISANET National Director Pamela Kuwali said the program aims at identifying and implementing evidence based policy pathways.
Kuwali said this will facilitate the development of sustainable, productive, climate smart agricultural systems to meet food security and economic development needs.
“As CISANET, we recognize the important role that this research project will play in identifying evidence policy pathways that can build livelihood resilience to Malawi and African countries at large. Our role therefore will be to create policy space to share the lessons and evidence generated from the policy research.
“It is our belief in CISANET that such a research project can keep the momentum and shape the direction of our efforts to make our agriculture more climate smart and therefore, resilient to climate related shocks,” says Kuwali.
According to Professor Andy Dougill of University of Leeds, AFRICAP will advise on the development of climate-smart agri-food system pathways and create ‘special agricultural zones’ where research can be turned into evidence, leading to policy that is capable of influencing practices.
He said AFRICAP will further assess how food, agriculture and natural resources policies can be developed so that they support the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Other partners in the programme include from the UK – the University of Aberdeen, the UK Met Office and Chatham House, the Royal Institute of International Affairs, the Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET), Malawi; National Agriculture Marketing Council (NAMC), South Africa; economic and Social Research Foundation (ESRF), Tanzania and the Agriculture Consultative Forum (Zambia).