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8 November 2023

Dialogues for resilient food systems in uncertain times at Agri4D

During the recent Agri4D conference, we had an insightful conversation with several participants concerning potential policy interventions that could have the most significant positive impact towards achieving a sustainable food system.

The biannual conference yielded many key outputs and takeaways, and the diverse range of themes discussed encouraged rich dialogue and the sharing of knowledge and experiences among attendees. The discussions also emphasised the intricate nature of food systems and highlighted the importance of collaboration among stakeholders towards achieving agricultural sustainability, hunger reduction, and food security.

Rodgers Oyugi

Joining in from Vintage Fibres, Rodgers Oyugi presented his master’s thesis work at the poster session. He discussed a project to reduce food waste by using solar hybrid dehydrators  to improve the crop shelf life and ensure sustainable production throughout the year. His work addresses core problem of post-harvest losses of leafy and root vegetables, with nearly 50% of the total production resulting from perishability and bulkiness. Rodgers learned about the conference via LinkedIn and had high expectation of networking and understanding how to approach sustainable food system by learning from examples from different countries.

Bertha Chitambo

Bertha Chitambo learned about Agri4D conference from her academic network and decided to join the Animal production, pastoral and livelihoods panel discussion to present her ongoing PhD work on Sustainable Intensification of Zambian Goat Production in a Changing World at the University of Zambia. Her expectations of the conference were to share her research, gain feedback from experts, and connect with like-minded individuals passionate about agricultural development.

Anna Maňourová

Neglected and underutilised plants are of great interest to Anna Maňourová! Anna presented her recent PhD work from Alnarp, where she also coordinates PlantLink, a plant science research network, formed between Lund University and SLU Alnarp. Anna discussed in her poster presentation a multifaceted approach to domestication of Garcinia kola in Cameroon. She believes that the current the gap between science and development needs to be bridged by bringing knowledge into practice and communicating it.

To reach a sustainable food system in your context, please name one key policy intervention that you think will provide the most positive impact, and why? 

Rodgers: Investing in research, development, and knowledge transfer is crucial.Also,  public policies that foster knowledge transfer from public research organisations.  Research commercialisation or technology commercialisation, which includes technology licensing, spin-offs, and research collaboration between science and industry, is a specific mechanism that emphasises the importance of technology transfer. This policy brief emphasises well-documented measures rather than attempting to cover the vast amount of ongoing policy experimentation.

Bertha: I believe that ‘the key policy intervention would be to promote small-scale farmers’ access to modern farming technologies and training. This would empower them with the necessary knowledge and tools to enhance their productivity, reduce post-harvest losses, and ultimately contribute to a more sustainable food system.

Anna:  The crucial policy intervention is not underestimate the role of policymakers in the entire process of tree domestication. I have been working with farmers and scientists, it is not enough to have a real impact! We need to involve policymakers from the beginning of the research design!

What are the take-home messages from this conference? And how can this new knowledge contribute to your work?

Rodgers: I have two main points that I would like to share. First, restoration offers solutions for repairing the functions of damaged ecosystems, and the technology required is already available. And second, building resilient food systems on the global scale involves two levels, the local level that includes the communities and individuals, and the government level.

Bertha: the conference provided valuable insights into sustainable agricultural practices and innovations. The key takeaway  was the importance of interdisciplinary collaboration in addressing agricultural challenges. This knowledge will significantly inform my research, encouraging me to incorporate diverse perspectives into my work for more effective outcomes.

Anna: I think that interdisciplinarity is the key to success! Systemic changes will not happen fast. We must be persistent and patient to create interdisciplinary networks with robust cross-national cooperation. To proceed with my research, I need to focus on capacity development and product value chain tracking..

Do you think the online format works well and meets your expectations?

Rodgers: it work well, but incorporating a hybrid system in presentations and conferences could be beneficial.

Bertha: Considering the circumstances, the online format was effective in facilitating knowledge sharing and networking. However, I in-person interactions have their unique value. Nevertheless, the conference organisers did an excellent job adapting to the virtual format.’

Anna : The virtual format worked very well! I really enjoyed the virtual platform, which was easy to navigate and use. However, I regretted missing out on the fika breaks and after-coffee networking in Uppsala. Anyway, I’m grateful to the organisers and participants at Agri4D for their amazing job of connecting the online and real-life worlds.’