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A renewed focus by the international research and development community on the potential of national policy to address the challenges of achieving food security in West Africa

conference contribution
posted on 2023-05-24, 12:03 authored by Nelson, R
This paper seeks a renewed focus by the international research and development community on the potential of national policy to address the challenges of achieving food security in West Africa. It describes issues arising from an evolving policy-scale application of participatory action research to support the development of food security policy in West Africa. A goal of the paper to establish or connect with communities of practice of applied researchers and policy advisers working with and for national governments to provide scientific support for food security policy. There is growing evidence from around the world that national policy has an important role to play in the agricultural innovation necessary to address food security. For example, the coordinating and catalysing role that national governments can play is highlighted by collective international learning into agricultural innovation brought together by the World Bank (World Bank 2012). Realising this potential is challenging. Issues of political priorities, governance and public administration have meant that international efforts to achieve food security have tended to follow pathways other than building policy capacity in national governments. Multi-lateral funding has tended to flow directly to regional and national research institutions through, for example, the CGIAR centres. Building national policy capability to pursue food security objectives has a number of advantages. National policy can enable or constrain the adoption of improved farming practices. It is less likely to inadvertently constrain adoption, and more likely to enable it, if included in the process of agricultural innovation. Another advantage is ownership and sustainability – the solutions to food security are much more likely to be effective and implemented into the long term future if locally owned and driven by national governments. This paper maps the opportunities and challenges arising from a collaborative project between researchers in Australia and West Africa with policy advisers in the Government of Burkina Faso. The core of the project is an innovation platform made up of policy advisers representing agencies across the Government of Burkina Faso with responsibility for food security. This innovation platform has been tasked with designing and assessing policy pathways and resulting scenarios for future food security in Burkina Faso through a series of facilitated workshops (see Figure). Scenario development and assessment by the innovation platform is being informed by biophysical, economic and social science. This includes analyses to refine policy goals, and develop and evaluate policy pathways for achieving these goals. Implementing this type of project is challenging. It requires a remarkable degree of openness, leadership and coordination within the host government and policy agencies. It also presents challenges coordinating research across disciplines and institutions. This paper will outline some of these challenges, and how we are working in partnership to address them. We hope in doing so to share learning and receive feedback from researchers addressing similar challenges


Publication title

First International Conference on Global Food Security


Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture (TIA)


First International Conference on Global Food Security

Place of publication

The Netherlands

Event title

First International Conference on Global Food Security

Event Venue

Noordwijkerhout, The Netherlands

Date of Event (Start Date)


Date of Event (End Date)


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  • Restricted

Socio-economic Objectives

Harvesting and packaging of plant products not elsewhere classified

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