Mellissa Wood (4th left), of the Australian International Food Security Centre, and other members of the the Commission for International Agricultural Research on a visit to ILRI in March 2012 (photo credit: ILRI).
A new initiative has been launched by the Australian International Food Security Centre to improve food security in Africa. The centre, which falls under the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research, will spend AUD33 million (USD33.8 million) over four years to support food production in Africa as well as in Asia and the Pacific region.
‘This initiative will give African researchers access to Australian research and expertise to support smallholder farmers, including livestock keepers, through partnerships that respond to their priorities,’ said Mellissa Wood, the managing director of the Canberra-based Australian International Food Security Centre. Wood was speaking at a meeting at the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) on 17 July 2012.
The new program is looking to engage partners in Africa and over the coming months will identify priorities to guide its operations on the continent. Program staff will consult with agricultural experts in different countries and set up an international advisory committee and a regional office in the lead up to an international food security conference being organized this November in Australia.
By studying African farming systems and reviewing existing research on farming practices on the continent, this new initiative will work to help bridge the gaps that remain between agricultural technologies, policies and practices and their adoption by Africa’s smallholder farmers. ‘We want to understand the incentives and barriers to delivery and adoption and how to accelerate the provision of practical solutions to benefit smallholders,’ said Wood. ‘Understanding these issues will help us improve the nutritional quality, safety and diversity of food; reduce post harvest losses; and enable better access to markets and other business opportunities.’
One of the initiative’s ongoing activities includes a project on ‘Strengthening food security and value chain efficiency through family poultry and crop integration in eastern and southern Africa’. This project, now in its design phase in Tanzania and Zambia, will explore how family poultry and crop farmers can improve the efficiencies of their production systems and whether they can increase their trade by making better use of supplementary feed from their cropping. The project will also conduct ecological assessments status to identify best-bet opportunities for chicken farming. This project will make use of relevant research outputs of the African Union Interafrican Bureau for Animal Resources, ILRI and other organizations.
The Australian International Food Security Centre is looking to work with national and international partners, including researchers, extension workers and the public and private sectors, to help increase and sustain the productivity of smallholder African farms, markets, value chains and social systems.
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