Food systems in sub-Saharan Africa will have
to respond to a changing environment. New challenges are arising that
food research and development scientists will have to tackle to ensure
food security, economic growth and ‘quality of life’ of the
The objectives of FoodAfrica:
• Review the current research and development activities that affect
food systems in sub-Saharan Africa;
• Identify gaps in current food and health research strategies;
• Recommend future research strategies; and
• Improve the links between researchers, in particular young scientists,
in Africa and Europe.
Use the theme bar at the top of this page to read the summaries or click
Food, nutrition and health
Summary on Food
on Agro Enterprises and Processing
Several cross-cutting issues arose that were considered
important for each of the main themes of FoodAfrica. Cross cutting issues
• need for documentation and information;
• adopting new technologies;
• need for education – technology transfer;
• use of market-orientated/end-user participatory approaches; and
• importance of an enabling environment i.e. policies.
Documentation and Information
The lack of information on specific subjects was common across the FoodAfrica
themes. This included identifying the gaps information, improving the
quality of information and improved documentation. Several of the discussions
suggested establishing databases. The topics suggested included, for example:
- A database on food processing technologies. This should include existing
African or indigenous techniques as well as potential new ones.
- A human resources database, a web-based database to improve communication
- An African food consumption patterns database
- A database with laboratory and human capacities for analysis, eg of
nutritional value, food safety hazards.
- A food-database with nutritional value and composition
It was recognised that it is important to improve information sharing
and networking and to provide support and encourage collaboration among
various stakeholders. It was suggested that there was a need for an African
Food Journal to make information on African food and African Food systems
more widely available.
Adopting new technologies
The introduction of new technologies was considered necessary for increasing
agricultural productivity and the availability of food. A major challenge
is the issue of scaling up and commercialisation of technologies. It is
important to take developed technologies beyond the pilot-scale level.
In certain circumstances it may be necessary to adopt technologies from
different regions or from other African countries, Europe or even from
South Asia. Such technologies will however need to adapt to the local
circumstances and this needs to be done with the participation of end-users.
It was considered at the meeting that processing technology development
should be in line with government policies and objectives.
Education- technology transfer
Education was viewed as very important in food systems development and
that technology transfer needs to take place at different levels in such
systems. Specific needs identified included: dissemination of improved
processing methods, business and enterprise skills for new small and medium
scale enterprises, information on nutritional properties of food, the
promotion of micronutrient-rich indigenous foods and of food safety in
general. It was also recognised that it was important to make use of indigenous
knowledge for example, on food storage.
Market–orientated/end user participatory approach
Interventions in food systems in sub-Saharan Africa should be market-orientated.
This needs to occur at all levels in the production and marketing system.
It is also important to take a participatory approach to technology development
so that all players in the sector from farmer to consumer are involved
and the end result meets the identified need.. New knowledge must be disseminated
in an appropriate and agreed form so that impact can be maximised. A multi-disciplinary
approach to research and development involving both technical and socio
economic disciplines is necessary so that impact is achieved and, for
example, gender issues are taken into account.
Enabling environment - Policies
An enabling environment and sufficient inputs were identified as necessary
to create a situation where food was available for all. Inputs identified
included: infrastructure, credit, ecosystems, labour and labour-saving
technologies and support services, for example laboratories. Corruption
is undesirable. It was reported in that in some cases financial transfers
from the agricultural sector to other sectors take place.
Government commitment is absolutely necessary, but to achieve this researchers
need to inform policy makers of major issues. Policies and legislation
must be favourable and supportive, and if newly developed they also need
to be enforced and controlled. A policy framework that supports small-scale
agro-processing is welcome. Harmonisation of standards amongst countries
is also necessary. Trade barriers between countries can be a constraint.
Taxes and tariffs give higher prices, whilst non-tariff trade barriers
can have a significant impact on the ability of developing countries in
general to access international markets.
Political stability is another important part of the overall enabling
environment.. This applies at the national, regional and continental levels.
International Working Meeting
The FoodAfrica International Working Meeting was held in the Congress
Centre/Palais de Congres, Yaounde, Cameroon from 5 to 9 May 2003. The
five day programme included plenary sessions on each of the themes with
keynotes speakers and parallel sessions on each topic. There were also
poster sessions for each theme. Group Discussions Sessions were held in
order to identify gaps, consider research strategies and develop recommendations.
Click if you would like to read the Overall
Summary of FoodAfrica. The proceedings are also in preparation and
will be sent to all fully registered participants.
Photo by John van Camp
FoodAfrica has brought together many of the young and more experienced
professional scientists in sub-Saharan Africa who work on many different
aspects of food systems. Linking together the different themes of the
workshop was productive because scientists were able to share and exchange
knowledge and ideas. Click
here for Snap Shots of the Conference Dinner on 7 May 2003
Internet Forum - 31 March - 11 April 2003
Summaries of the internet based forum can be found under the following
on Food, Nutrition and Health
For more background information click on Purpose
You can download and print the first announcement which
is in pdf file format: in english