by Paul Bassude
From 9th to 11th December 2018, I took part in the Evidence-Informed Policy Making Seminar – Water-Energy-Food-Health, held in South Africa. 

Water, energy, food security and health remain in the scientific and policy making spotlight in Africa.

In sub-Saharan Africa, up to 50% of crop production is lost before produce reaches the consumer. Losses result from poor storage and handling practices and a lack of infrastructure. With an estimated value of US$ 4 billion, these losses threaten the food security and livelihoods of millions. Clearly, we must rise to the challenge of offering our people a better future and give high priority to improving living conditions in Africa.

According to the recent report: “State of Food Security and Nutrition” since 2014 the trend of food undernourished people has been on the rise worldwide. In Africa, this trend has increased for a number of years hence remaining the most affected continent with about 21% of the population (256 million people) undernourished. Due to multi-causality links, food and nutrition insecurity assessment requires expertise and information from different sectors and sources as it often relates to issues of water availability, access and safety practices, disease outbreaks, livelihoods, nutrition, markets, agriculture, energy availability/sources for cooking and food storage and others, depending on the situation.

As such I was proud to be among so many stakeholders coming together with one common aim – use evidence for policy making by focusing on challenges and interrelations of the fields of Water, Energy, Food and Health. The highlight – The £1.5 billion Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) announced by the UK Government – was a clear sign of commitment to support cutting-edge research that addresses the challenges faced by developing countries.

The GCRF delivery partners are creating complementary programs that:

  • promote challenge-led disciplinary and interdisciplinary research, including the participation of researchers who may not previously have considered the applicability of their work to development issues
  • strengthen capacity for research, innovation and knowledge exchange in the UK and developing countries through partnership with excellent UK research and researchers
  • provide an agile response to emergencies where there is an urgent research need.

GCRF has three challenge areas, i.e. Equitable Access to Sustainable Development; Sustainable Economies and Societies; as well as Human Rights, Good Governance and Social Justice. The GCRF encourages research and innovation that in the longer-term, builds:

  • sustainable livelihoods supported by strong foundations for inclusive economic growth and innovation
  • resilience and action on short-term environmental shocks and long-term environmental change
  • sustainable cities and communities
  • sustainable production and consumption of materials and other resources.

I am determined to work together with the network I built at the Seminar to tap into this important initiative.

Securing research funds may be a tall order given the different priorities at hand, but if we work together, it is not impossible to achieve lasting results.

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