Strengthening Ugandan Food and Nutrition Security in policy and practice
A three-day workshop “Strengthening Ugandan Food and Nutrition Security in policy and practice – Scaling innovations from food and agricultural research” was organized from June 18 to 20, 2019 by NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development, the Food & Business Knowledge Platform (F&BKP) and AgriProFocus (APF) Uganda. The aim of the workshop was to take stock of the insights and outcomes of the Applied Research Fund (ARF) projects in Uganda and to explore with a wide range of stakeholders how the uptake and scaling of the resulting innovations could be ensured.
Over the course of three days, the workshop was attended by more than 70 participants drawn from research and academia, government, private sector and civil society organizations to jointly reflect, learn and discuss the uptake of research results related to Food and Nutrition Security (FNS) in Uganda. The workshop placed particular emphasis on the issue of scaling, and sustainability of research results. Thus, the key lessons from the workshop relate to the themes of scaling and sustainability of agricultural innovations for FNS. The workshop was structured into thematic activities and included a project day, public dialogue and field visit.
ARF project outcomes
Outcomes from eight ARF projects were presented and discussed. The findings showed that all projects had achieved significant outcomes and exhibited potentially life changing impacts for the end users. Almost all the ARF projects have now been concluded or are nearing completion. The question of how to scale research results from these projects was therefore central to the workshop.
Scaling, it was observed, is not simply about reaching more people with an innovation but providing an enabling policy environment and ensuring there is effective change for and among people. Scaling the innovations of agricultural research requires the concerted efforts of numerous and diverse stakeholders. Governments alone, without the involvement of the private sector, farmer organizations, non-profit organizations etc. cannot achieve the scaling of research results and thus public-private partnerships offer a more promising approach to achieving scale. Despite the enormous potential of agricultural in Uganda, lack of coordination, collaboration and the building of strategic partnerships, these stakeholders have not been able to effectively come together and create an environment for scaling – i.e. reaching more people, providing a conducive policy environment and changing attitudes and mindsets. In order to achieve scale, there is a need to build the capacity of multiple stakeholders involved directly or indirectly in the agricultural sector.
In the past, this lack of collaboration among multiple stakeholders and effective public-private partnerships has contributed to poor policy formulation and implementation. There is need to develop business cases on scaling, showcase good practices on scaling and particularly to explore how government efforts towards FNS in Uganda can be supported through research, private sector engagement and not for profit interventions. A multi-stakeholder engagement and approach offers the opportunity to tap into diverse expertise and experience to help achieve food and nutrition security for all. Increased efforts, therefore, need to be directed at creating spaces for networking, collaboration, dialogue, knowledge exchange and the creation of strategic partnerships.
At an institutional level, political will is fundamental to the creation of an enabling environment to promote the development of efficient agricultural value chains that benefit all actors. Equally, at the institutional level, issues of norms, values, beliefs and cultural practices all influence the uptake of research results and need to be effectively addressed. Factors such as gender roles, for instance, may be central to agricultural production and productivity. Thus, empowering both men and women with the necessary skills and resources to enable them to realise their full production potential lies at the heart of scaling innovations. In terms of human and social capital, it was recognized that there is a need to train, educate, and empower both men and women. The increased use of Information Communication Technologies (ICT), which is in itself innovative, was seen as crucial in bringing on board the younger generation.
The question of sustainability is also not an issue for governments or donors alone. Sustainability must be based on addressing the interest and creating commitment of the different stakeholders in a process or co-creation of value. Thus, every stakeholder in the change process has a role to play with regard to achieving sustainability.
The workshop brought to light the importance of the context of research, how to better relate research to wider societal issues and to the need to be reflexive of the change process. Research, it was felt, needs to start with the end user in mind, involving them in the development of the research agenda and continuous research process. To be relevant, research results must lead to increased production, more employment and income opportunities as well as trade and overall economic growth. Researchers need to identify innovations, for instance drought resilient crops, higher yields, or nutritional benefit, among other attributes, to drive adoption. Food and Nutrition Security will not be easy to achieve. Policies need to promote private sector interests and ensure benefits for farmer whilst also taking into account the needs of the consumers. The promotion of continuous interaction among all relevant stakeholders through the creation of open space for dialogue and reflection is called for to find joint solutions to common constraints and challenges and scale innovations.
At this point in time, the workshop did not intend to identify solutions to outstanding issues related to FNS, but rather initiate discussion and engagement on how the agricultural sector in Uganda can bring to scale nutrition and agricultural innovations for the benefit of all. This workshop thus marked the first step to ensure ongoing discussion and collaboration between various stakeholders, create alliances between projects and forge new partnerships contributing to the realization of Food and Nutrition Security in Uganda.