SOUTH AFRICA – The University of Pretoria in partnership with the University of Nairobi and the University of Ghana has been awarded the privilege to host a new research center that aims to enhance food security and transform food policy on the continent.
The African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence for Food Security was launched at the University of Pretoria’s Future Africa campus with the theme: ‘The future of food in Africa’.
The three will also work collaboratively with the universities of Western Cape and Fort Hare as associate members.
It brings together a consortium of African and international partners that will conduct research on how to improve Africa’s herds and revive underutilized crops,as well as ways to produce safe, nutritious consumer-driven food.
The centre will also provide technical advice on policy issues while enhancing transfer of knowledge on adopting the most amicable food policy.
“The aim of this centre is to create an engaging network of talented researchers to move institutions forward in finding solutions to food security challenges in Africa,” said Prof Hettie Schönfeldt, Director of the Centre and an Extraordinary Professor at UP’s Department of Animal and Wildlife Sciences.
“The intention isn’t to duplicate efforts, but to create a critical mass of researchers working synergistically.”
According to Prof Schönfeldt, although African countries may produce and import enough energy per person per day, energy alone does not ensure nourished communities.
High intakes of low-cost, low-nutrient, higher-energy staple foods contribute to malnutrition, while food waste and loss reduce the availability of safe and preferable foods.
Other issues the initiative targets to address are poverty, inequality and unemployment on a continent which not only relies on agriculture for food but also for livelihoods.
Schönfeldt argues that a transformed agricultural and food system that encompasses innovation in the whole value chain, is necessary to address this challenge.
The Centre of Excellence will partner with several role players to conduct research, including the South African Agricultural Research Council, the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development, the Food and Natural Resources Policy Advocacy Network, the Bureau for Food and Agricultural Policy, and the African Women in Agricultural Research and Development.
“This centre will exemplify how high-impact research can contribute to Africa’s development agenda,” says Prof Cheryl de la Rey, UP Vice-Chancellor andP rincipal.
“This is where a shared sense of civic responsibility plays a cardinal role in engaging with stakeholders from various platforms to achieve a common goal.”