The African Research Universities Alliance Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Food Systems (ARUA-SFS) at the University of Pretoria (UP) recently hosted the Science Days and High-level Colloquium that centred on the theme ‘From food security to sustainable food systems: Addressing the challenges and ensuring institutional alignment’.
ARUA-SFS was established as a partnership between UP and collaborating partner institutions – the University of Ghana and the University of Nairobi. The purpose of ARUA-SFS is to create a critical mass of talented researchers to find solutions to Africa’s food security and nutritional challenges.
“I am excited that the ARUA Centre of Excellence in Sustainable Food Systems team took up the challenge to consider who is doing what research on sustainable food systems within our three universities,” said UP Vice-Chancellor and Principal Professor Kupe about the event. “I hope that as the results of the talent-mapping exercise are presented, you will dig deep on what we can do better, not just as UP but as Africa.”
The Food Systems Research Network for Africa (FSNet-Africa), a flagship project of ARUA-SFS, featured prominently at the event. It is led by three institutions – UP, the University of Leeds, and the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network. FSNet-Africa hosted a session in which it showcased its research model. Central to the model is working with stakeholders who are close to the challenges that researchers will be investigating.
According to Dr Elizabeth Mkandawire, FSNet-Africa Network and Research Manager, one of the exciting things she and the FSNet-Africa team are doing is to link two of their research teams with Prosper Emmanuel Mafuma, a young entrepreneur who is aiming to bring about social change through the sale of eggs. Prosper is an entrepreneur with innovative ideas, but faces constraints in seeing them become a reality. He is an EZ Shuttle driver, which provides him his main source of income, but his dream is farming.
FSNet-Africa team with Prosper Emmanuel Mafuma
“He provides eggs to adolescents, primarily girls, to sell,” she explained. “This business is his way of keeping adolescents focused on something that will prevent them from participating in social ills like drug use. We are hoping that by linking him to our researchers, particularly those involved in research focused on youth entrepreneurship, we can provide him with a platform to strengthen his business case and expand his vision. His business approach inspires us to think about how our work can positively impact not just food and incomes but broader society too.”
FSNet-Africa provides Prosper with research-based information to support him to make decisions on how to grow his business. In turn, FSNet-Africa benefits from working with Prosper to ensure that their research ideas are not developed in isolation, but with real life knowledge and information to guide the research objectives and design.
“I came up with this project to get girls off the street,” Emmanuel said. “I give them some eggs to sell and they keep 20% of every sale of 30 eggs. Later, I involved young boys. Thus far, I work with 25 youth. My hope is to have a broader social impact. We want to drive social change in our continent through food.”
“I want to commend the leadership in ARUA, under the guidance of the Secretary-General, Prof. Ernest Aryeetey, with whom I engaged on how to grow the ARUA programmes,” Prof Kupe said. “It has given me great comfort to hear him praise the performance of ARUA-SFS, and as a vice-chancellor, there is nothing more gratifying than hearing about a well-performing entity.”