Fruitful exchanges during ARF and GCP workshops in Ghana on enhancing research impact for food security
Representatives from research, the private sector, NGOs and governmental agencies from ARF and GCP research projects as well as interested experts all gathered recently in Ghana from 12 to 15 December, 2016. Ghanaian experts in the field of food security were also present. In two workshops, participants discussed and reflected upon emerging findings and results of research on food security and private sector development in Ghana and elsewhere. The engagement with stakeholders, such as policymakers and the private sector, was a central focus of the event.
Organized by NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development, Food & Business Knowledge Platform (F&BKP) and the University of Energy and Natural Resources (Sunyani) the workshop consisted of one day for Ghanaian ARF projects and three days for GCP-1 projects. The participants from Ghana, Zambia, South Africa, Brazil, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Sierra Leone, Cambodia and The Netherlands were actively involved through pitches, presentations and working group sessions.
ARF Ghana country workshop
The country workshop brought together the four Food & Business Applied Research Fund (ARF) projects that are currently working in Ghana. These projects focus on enhancing food security via fruit-drying technology, organic waste, weather monitoring services and non-timber forest products. The aim of the workshop was to work and learn together as research projects as well as with external stakeholders, in order to enhance exchange, practical and policy uptake and (potential) impact in Ghana. The workshop was attended by representatives of the Ghanaian Ministry of Food and Agriculture, the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands (EKN), the private sector and NGOs. After presentations by the projects, the participants provided suggestions on how to improve the link to relevant policies. The EKN addressed the need for research such as ARF that engages the private sector, as it considers this a driving force in the agricultural sector. In terms of engagement with governmental policies, key note speaker Dr Wilhelmina Quaye of CSIR-Science and Technology Policy Research Institute, noted the need for a wider focus than agricultural policies. Agriculture touches upon policy areas such as Natural Resources and Financial Affairs. Examples for the enhancement of research uptake in policies were the presentation of results in informative policy briefs and the organization of policy platforms. The need for including gender aspects in agriculture was also highlighted. The overall conclusion of this workshop was that involving policymakers from the research onset is crucial and that engagement with ongoing initiatives may be more fruitful than starting new ones. Demand driven research (such as from famers or policymakers) like ARF is crucial for its potential to improve food security.
GCP-1 midterm meeting
The five projects within the first call of the Global Challenges Programme (GCP-1) united from 13 to 15 December to discuss and exchange on results and lessons learned, to strengthen collaboration between projects and to further shape their future plans in order to enhance the impact of their research.
The five GCP-1 projects, currently at their midterm, are working on various issues within a range of countries and include researchers and practitioners from NGOs and the private sector. Throughout the meeting similar approaches emerged on how the target groups (most notably small scale farmers) are part of the research execution. The focus on enhancing food security of small scale farmers is well embedded in the projects, with attention for the different types of farmers. For example, in the Nutritious Pond project – focusing on aquaculture in Vietnam – the choice is made to develop innovation platforms for small-scale shrimp farmers that aim to enhance their production to the level where they can access the market. The project does not include a focus on achieving high-risk intensive farming, as that is considered beyond the scope of the project. Another project that in Brazil aims at decreasing pig feed costs by developing and evaluating alternatives to corn and soy also aims at sustainably decreasing costs of pork producers.
During the last day a thematic exchange on Inclusive Value Chains between the GCP consortia brought to light how the projects approach ‘inclusiveness’. The participants highlighted the significance of both vertical (with actors at various stages in the chains) and horizontal (between actors at same place in and beyond the chain) relations to address inclusiveness in the value chain. For example, based on experiences in the projects that work on upgrading sustainable smallholder cocoa productivity in Sierra Leone and on enhancement and increased availability of cereal-based fermented products through researching best practices in Zambia, the role of middleman and their necessity was debated: will smallholders profit when leaving them out of value chain activities; or will they only be more charged without better results? And discussed was whether projects should include larger businesses in their research teams, or whether fear that this would not result in the best inclusiveness outcomes for smallholders. Furthermore, a recognition of the variety amongst farmer profiles should guide the design of any sort of intervention. By overlooking such dimensions, interventions may be limited in their potential for success, as those factors will influence and possibly hamper the implementation of the intervention. Furthermore, a focus on inclusiveness obviously means exclusion at other levels: the identification of needs, capacities and bottlenecks of potential beneficiary groups is necessary for choices in the design of an intervention. Risks and consequences of inclusion versus exclusion should be identified and addressed collectively with the actors that are part of the context.
Public meeting Inclusive Value Chains
The issue of inclusiveness was explored further from a more practical perspective together with 20 Ghanaian professionals working in food value chains in businesses, government and knowledge institutes in Ghana. Sheila Assibey-Yeboah delivered a keynote speech from her role as Country Representative at IFDC Ghana and as the Deputy Program Leader of GhanaVeg. She explained that GhanaVeg is a Business Platform that brings together key service providers, producers, processors, traders and wholesale/retailers in the vegetable sector in Ghana. The business platform aims at achieving a sustainable and internationally competitive Ghanaian vegetable sector that contributes to inclusive economic growth. It also has the capacity to continuously innovate in terms of products and services. For the inclusiveness of Ghanaian vegetable farmers strengthening their agronomy capacity is essential. Additionally, in a speech by Dr Mirjam Ros-Tonen of the University of Amsterdam, she elaborated on how inclusive value chain cooperation is approached in the GCP-project on Innovation Platforms on the tree crop sector in Ghana and South-Africa. She underlined that inclusiveness not only is a process, it should also be addressed context specific, it should be negotiated, choices should be made about it and that it should be learned by doing. In the panel discussion researchers, practitioners and policy makers pointed at the need of a holistic approach, for addressing inclusiveness. The EKN stressed that organization of farmers and linking them to the private sector is vital to be able to reach them via out grower schemes. Next to this, information flows and networking for medium and smaller entrepreneurs were considered to be crucial. Programmes that consider social entrepreneurship and also exit strategies from the beginning could also contribute to inclusiveness.
The overall conclusion of both workshops is that exchange, learning and inclusion of stakeholders and target groups in the projects are main conditions for enhancing the impact of the research. Taking sustainable institutionalisation into account from the onset of the research is, moreover, vital for embedding results beyond project duration. With their active participation and their future plans, the projects have further strengthened the potential impact of their research.
_ _ _
Food & Business Research
The Food & Business Applied Research Fund (ARF) and the Global Challenges Programme (GCP) are subsidy schemes of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFa), implemented by NWO-WOTRO Science for Global development. The Food & Business Knowledge Platform is an initiative of MoFa. For more information on the ARF and GCP projects see the Food & Business Knowledge Platform website and the Food & Business Research website.