Norwegian lead CAAST-Net Plus workshop in Accra:
Climate change adaptation in agriculture
About 80 participants from CAAST-Net Plus partners in Europe and Africa met in the capital of Ghana this week to discuss how to promote and strengthen bi-regional research collaboration.
Arne Tostensen presented the network in his opening presentation. – The network is based on mutual interests and inter-dependence. Priority areas are climate change, food security and health. Altogether the tasks are organised in seven Work Packages, which includes policy dialogue support, and communication and dissemination.
From science to practical farming
He expressed concerns that the exchanges between technical scientists most often falls short of addressing the practical implementation of knowledge that could have an impact. – Technical scientists tend not to follow through to the uptake of findings in the field for the benefit of farmers. We also need to look into how technical and social innovations can be coupled, and especially the role of small enterprises.
Tostensen is Senior Researcher at Chr. Michelsen Institute (CMI). He is also engaged by The Research Council of Norway (RCN) to coordinate the Norwegian participation in CAAST Net Plus. RCN co-chairs WP2 on climate change with Rwanda and UNEP.
- Under WP2 we are going to produce an analytical overview of the extent and impact of bi-regional STI cooperation , he told the audience.
Knowledge transfer and training were focal points throughout the workshop. A few projects engaging with farmers were presented. But the gender perspective, the involvement and training of women, was creating even more lively debate.
Climate smart agriculture and food security
- The 0,8 degrees temperature increase have already resulted in major challenges for farmers in vulnerable zones. Climate change has the potential to undermine food security, and increase hunger and malnutrition - particularly in Western and Southern Africa, said the FAO country representative Mr. Benjamin de Rider.
According to FAO the world needs to increase food production by 70 per cent before 2050.
The presentations highlighted core issues related to climate change adaptation in agriculture – in particular in West Africa. Threats to agriculture includes: Loss of good farming environment and habitats, more floods, more drought, erosion and reduced soil quality, unpredictable planting seasons, off-season rainfalls, more wild bushfires, shift in species distribution, reduction in species, increased diseases and invasive species. The list is far from exhaustive.
Most of challenges starts and ends with water. Dr Barnabas Amisigo, from The Water Research Institute (CSIR) in Ghana told the audience that in the whole of West Africa the mean of rainfall has decreased significantly since 1970, resulting in reduced availability of water, delay in the onset of and decrease in the length of the rainy season.
- Water is not uniformly distributed over time and space. We get most of the rainfall during three months. Climate change is aggravating the already uneven distribution, said Dr. Amisigo. The discussion pointed to new ways to increase flexibility by storing water, mixing irrigation and rain fed agriculture, improve irrigation efficiency and improve water resource management.
The challenge is threefold: Improved resilience, reduced emissions, and at the same time, increased production. The backdrop is that Africa will lose an estimated 17-28 per cent of its agriculture production in a few years if nothing is done.
Incentives to adapt and research
Dr. Cees Van t'Klooster presented large scale field experiments on climate smart agriculture. He underlined the importance of economic incentives. – Innovative approaches must boost production. We need to showcase advantages. Good results on yields create interest farmer to farmer. When we carry out experiments on cooperative land, direct comparison is possible and that triggers curiosity.
Others emphasised guaranteed markets, guaranteed price on crops, innovative insurance instruments and better storage facilities, to reduce post-harvest losses, as key incentives.
Balancing the identification of new research questions, with efforts to disseminate already existing knowledge, was central to the discussions. Many pointed to the need to bridge the gap between farmers and researchers through applied and practical research and suggested PPP-models (Public Private Partnerships) for adaptation research.
Dr. K. Ohene-Yankyera from Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) underscored the potential for research cooperation in the field. -Research used to be mostly client-driven, or defined by individual interest. More recently we have seen increased collaboration – interdisciplinary research, multi stakeholder research – and the combination. The limitation now is lack of funding instruments.
He emphasised that North-South partnerships are attractive. –Most of the expertise and the best facilities can be found in the North. The funding is mainly coming from the North. The modus operandi is to find colleagues in North, develop joint programmes or projects and seek funding, develop add-on collaborative activities and publicise jointly.
Wrong notions about the academic quality
Tostensen explains why RCN is a partner in CAAST-Net Plus: - We cannot detach ourselves from global challenges, but should make sure we can access the best technologies and knowledge and should share our expertise in the research areas where we can contribute, through international STI collaboration.
- Agriculture is the main source of income in most African countries. The production contributes to food security worldwide. Norway will also feel the consequences, if climate change has an adverse effect on agrarian economies and food production in Africa drops significantly.
Arne Tostensen urges STI-institutions in Norway to seek partnerships with African institutions, and admits that Norwegian climate research institutions have not been too eager to collaborate with Africa.
- There is this notion that the academic quality of African institutions is low. That is wrong. African institutions have a lot to contribute and the limitation is funding, rather than academic standards. There is a lot of STI collaboration already, involving top-ranked institutions in the North, and Norwegian institutions stand the risk of losing out on some very exciting opportunities.
He adds that this misconception is not uncommon even amongst African scientists.
- The role of CAAST Net Plus is to bring together research institutions and financing bodies in Europe and Africa, broker and facilitate collaboration, Tostensen explains. - We have heard in this workshop how cooperation between South and North can help regional collaboration in Africa. Ideally this kind of tripartite collaboration has the potential to produce the best knowledge and contribute to more sustainable capacity building.
The three days event also included an information session about the plans for Horizon 2020 and training of NCPs (National Contact Points). Participants represented research councils, ministries and research institutions.
CAAST-Net Plus (Science, Technology and Innovation Cooperation between Sub-Saharan Africa and Europe)
A network of 25 partner organisations, working together to support bi-regional cooperation in research and innovation. The Research Council of Norway is a partner. CAAST-Net Plus is funded by the European Union's 7FRP. It will run from 2013 to 2016.
Building on the activities and outputs of the CAAST-Net project (2008-2012), CAAST-Net Plus aims to:
• Encourage more and better bi-regional STI cooperation - in particularly in relation to climate change, food security and health.
• Foster discussion among stakeholders, gather informed opinions and experiences about the bi-regional cooperation process, to inform bi-regional STI policy dialogue processes and programme owners.
• WP1 Africa-Europe STI cooperation on the food security global challenge
• WP2 Africa-Europe STI cooperation on the climate change global challenge
• WP3 EU-Africa bi-regional STI cooperation on health
• WP4 Africa-EU STI policy dialogue support
• WP5 Strenghtening Africa-EU research cooperation partnerships
• WP6 Communication and dissemination
• WP7 Coordination and management
- Last updated: