New alliance drives innovation for African food security

We are delighted to announce a new alliance in agricultural research and development which aims to use innovative collaborations, approaches and project delivery methods to drive greater gains in agricultural development by small holder farmers in Africa. The Australian and Swiss partners will combine their skills in pursuit of better ways of achieving sustainable food security.

The Alliance for Agricultural R&D for Food Security brings together the Australian International Food Security Research Centre (AIFSRC) in ACIAR, the Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture (SFSA) and the Crawford Fund. “Our organisations share important goals, views and approaches”, says AIFSRC Director Mellissa Wood. “We believe that by teaming up we can help R&D achieve better outcomes for smallholders than is often the case.”

“Smallholders play a crucial role in African farming”, notes SFSA Executive Director Dr. Marco Ferroni. “However, further agricultural transformation is urgently required for the continent to achieve sustainable food security. Our new Alliance wholeheartedly supports this transformation, for example through improvements in technology, knowledge and policy.”

Like all good partnerships, the Alliance aims to combine its members’ complementary skills to achieve more than any of them could alone. Dr. Denis Blight, Executive Director of the Crawford Fund, says: “The Alliance reflects our common ambition to push the boundaries of conventional approaches, and to encourage new ventures with the private sector and its non-profit arms.”

Ensuring that R&D meets demand

The Alliance recently initiated its first project. This aims to increase the currently very limited use of high-yielding seeds in Africa. “To improve adoption rates, new varieties must meet market needs along the entire value chain from farmers to consumers”, explains Marco Ferroni. As Denis Blight points out, the project is well timed: “The use of ‘demand-led’ approaches to strengthen African agriculture is rapidly gaining momentum”.  The Alliance has assigned project implementation to the University of Queensland’s Global Change Institute. The aim is to partner with leading African organisations in the fields of policy, crop improvement and education of plant breeders. Outputs will be distributed broadly across sub-Saharan Africa through existing public plant breeding programmes

The Alliance for Agricultural R&D for Food Security will initially run for five years. Once the first project is underway, the Alliance plans to seek further collaborative investment opportunities.

The Alliance partners:

The AIFSRC is an entity established by the Australian Government in the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR) to accelerate the delivery of research innovations for food security. The AIFSRC aims to support research to accelerate the uptake of new technologies; and understanding and resolving constraints to dissemination and adoption of new technologies. It has a focus on exploring different partnership models to achieve effective implementation, delivery and communication of the adoption of agricultural research for development.

The Crawford Fund is an initiative of the Australian Academy of Technological Sciences and Engineering (ATSE).  Its purpose is to make more widely known the benefits that accrue both to Australia and the developing world from investment in international agricultural research and development.  The CF conducts public awareness activities, commissions studies on research policy and practice issues related to its mission, and arranges specialist training activities in Australia and abroad for developing country scientists. 

The Syngenta Foundation for Sustainable Agriculture is a non-profit organisation based in Basel, Switzerland. Its mission is to create value for small farmers in developing countries by supporting innovation in sustainable agriculture and activation of value chains. It works with a wide range of partners operationally and in thought leadership. SFSA engages, for example, the public sector, international organizations, think tanks, the private sector, other foundations, social entrepreneurs, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). As well as establishing pilot projects, the Foundation also puts major emphasis on successful scale-up.