World Food Day: UP co-hosts webinar on African Action for Zero Hunger

Posted on November 02, 2020

While Africa faces food insecurity challenges, there are also immense possibilities and opportunities for ending global hunger and malnutrition.

This was the sentiment at a recent webinar held in observance of World Food Day hosted by the University of Pretoria (UP) and the Food Systems Research Network for Africa (FSNet-Africa). The theme of the event was ‘African Action for Zero Hunger’, and it featured speakers and partners from various parts of the world.

“We need to appreciate and take stock of the possibilities that exist to end hunger on the African continent and beyond,” said Professor Frans Swanepoel, Director of International Strategic Partnerships at UP and Principal Investigator and Director of FSNet-Africa, who moderated the event.

FSNet-Africa is a collaborative initiative between UP, the University of Leeds and the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network that aims to transform the African food system by strengthening research capacities to address the challenges of food insecurity and malnutrition on the continent.

In his introductory remarks, Professor Ernest Aryeetey, secretary-general of the African Research Universities Alliance (ARUA), said that the COVID-19 pandemic created a situation where it has become important for African governments to think in a more structured way about how to enhance food security.

“There were situations of pre-existing poverty, inequality and unemployment in most African countries, and these have been made worse by the pandemic. Achieving food security has now become more important than ever in our countries. At no time has the vision of this centre [ARUA’s Centre of Excellence in Food Security] – to harness partnerships in research and innovation to drive agricultural and food system transformation to ensure sustainable food security and nutrition in Africa – been as critical as it is now.”

In his address, Professor Tim Benton, co-chair of the Lead Expert Group for the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition, shared insights from the panel’s Foresight 2.0 reports. He said the policy priorities for African food systems would help the continent if healthy food was available, accessible, affordable and desirable to all. Prof Benton added that poor diets are responsible for 20% of premature mortality and 20% of disability adjusted life years.

UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Tawana Kupe and Professor Simone Buitendijk, Vice-Chancellor of the University of Leeds, shared ideas on the benefits of collaboration, using the relationship between the University of Leeds and UP as an example.

“Universities, both nationally and globally, are still far too much in competition with each other and are driven by the desire to be the best,” said Prof Buitendijk. “This gets in the way of solving global challenges, and it’s clear from all the speakers that have shared today and from our partnership that these problems can be solved only when we collaborate and stop working in silos.”

“Knowledge knows no borders, and it should not be restricted by borders,” Prof Kupe said. “Out of knowledge we can transform many important things. This partnership [with Leeds University] is about doing joint research, and co-creating knowledge that is transformative and creates a better world. It is also about training a new generation of scholars, as well as [encouraging] staff and student exchanges that will generate a rich tradition of peer-sharing and co-knowledge production.”

WATCH: FSNet Africa World Food Day Webinar

- Author Masego Panyane

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