Monday, 7 October 2013

Across Africa: how Future Agricultures works together on Land and CAADP

by Ruth Hall, Associate Professor, PLAAS

Farmer on flood plain, Mongu, Western Zambia
by WorldFish on Flickr
Future Agricultures’ West Africa and Southern Africa hub coordinators met last week to discuss progress and plan work in their respective regions. It was the first meeting of its kind between two African regional hubs and gave us a chance to reflect on how we work together.
Earlier this year, Future Agricultures launched a new, Africa-centred structure at the Political Economy of Agricultural Policy in Africa conference, in March 2013. Its new decentralized structure roots the consortium firmly within African research institutions, with three regional hubs created in West Africa (Accra), East Africa (Nairobi) and Southern Africa (Cape Town).

Supporting CAADP

Sam, Ruth and George
Future Agricultures CAADP coordinator Sam Asuming-Brempong (left),
Regional hub coordinator for Southern Africa,
Ruth Hall (centre),
and Regional hub coordinator for West Africa,
George Kwadzo (right)
On the agenda for the meeting was taking stock of the research outputs of Future Agricultures members in our respective regions, and how to organize events to communicate findings from our research to key policy audiences.

Collaboration across the hubs is essential because, in addition to local, national and regional policy audiences, a priority for the consortium is to provide information and research support to the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), an initiative of the New Partnership for African Development (NEPAD). Future Agricultures has committed to supporting CAADP, and has appointed Sam Asuming-Brempong (also at the University of Ghana) to be our CAADP coordinator. His job is to ensure that our consortium responds to CAADP’s needs, and that our research findings are fed into CAADP processes.

CAADP and its three pillars constitutes an overarching framework for agricultural development among African Union member states, and Future Agricultures is contributing towards the CAADP agenda in several ways.

At the joint hub meeting, we agreed that Future Agricultures will:

  1. Continue the CAADP policy brief series, providing accessible summaries of key policy issues, evidence from research, and policy recommendations;
  2. Design a five-day short course or ‘expert orientation seminar’ for CAADP focal points in different countries, as requested by NEPAD, drawing on research findings across various Future Agricultures themes;
  3. Develop a programme of cross-hub exchanges and collaborative initiatives to link our research network to policy audiences.

Working together on Land and Commercialisation

Housed in the magnificent new conference facility building of the Institute for Social, Statistical and Economic Research (ISSER) at the University of Ghana’s extensive and lush main campus at Legon, the West Africa hub is coordinated by George Kwadzo, ably assisted by Sylvia Kpabitey and Edith Adinku.

Sylvia and Edith
Future Agricultures researchers in the West Africa hub office,
Sylvia Kpabitey (left) and Edith Adinku (right)
The context for the meeting was an annual meeting of the Land and Agricultural Commercialisation in Africa (LACA) project, a Future Agricultures initiative funded through the Economic and Social Research Council and UK Department for International Development’s joint programme on poverty alleviation. The project seeks to identify the impacts of commercial farming investments on local small-scale producers, and identify institutional arrangements that can maximize benefits – in the form of employment creation, value-chain opportunities and wider linkages into local economies. The primary investigator is Ruth Hall, FAC hub coordinator based at the Institute for Poverty, Land and Agrarian Studies (PLAAS) at the University of the Western Cape, and co-investigators are Prof Dzodzi Tsikata at ISSER and Prof Ian Scoones at the Institute for Development Studies, UK.

Research teams from Ghana, Kenya and Zambia will spend the next few days reporting on their qualitative field research over the past year, and developing a quantitative research instrument for household survey work across nine study sites in the three countries, to be administered in the coming year.

Coordinating a continent-wide research network like Future Agricultures demands determination, regular updates (for instance through a monthly teleconference among the hubs), but also building personal links. While technology can link researchers in virtual networks, through email, skype and other media, old-fashioned sit-down conversations proved rather more rewarding!