The Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) recently joined colleagues from the Food Systems Research Network for Africa (FSNet-Africa) at the World Food Prize Foundation’s (WFP) 2022 Norman E. Borlaug International Dialogue, “the premier conference in the world on global agriculture”.

On 18 October 2022, FSNet-Africa, which is based at the University of Pretoria and with whom FANRPAN collaborates, took up the prestigious invitation to share its work with over 750 in-person and over 1 000 online attendees at the 2022 Borlaug Dialogue. It was the first day of the official programme, and the FSNet-Africa breakout session kicked off proceedings for the three-day conference.

Taking place annually in Des Moines, Iowa (with the exception of virtual meetings during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic), the Borlaug Dialogue – as it is informally known - brings together people from around the world to address issues pertaining to global food security and nutrition. Its namesake was, WFP founder and 1970 Nobel Peace Prize laureate, Dr Norman E Borlaug.

In Des Moines for the prestigious event were members of the FSNet-Africa leadership and network coordination teams, one fellow, and a mentor, with another fellow joining in online. The representatives were, respectively:

  • Professor Frans Swanepoel, FSNet-Africa Director and Principal Investigator, University of Pretoria (UP)
  • Professor Claire Quinn, FSNet-Africa Co-director and Mentor, University of Leeds
  • Dr. Elizabeth Mkandawire, FSNet-Africa Network and Research Manager, UP
  • Dr. Njongenhle Nyoni, FSNet-Africa Engagement and Liaison Manager, FANRPAN
  • Dr. Innocensia John, FSNet-Africa Research Fellow, University of Dar Es Salaam
  • Dr. Gloria Essifile, FSNet-Africa Research Mentor, University of Ghana
  • Dr. Sera Gondwe, FSNet-Africa Research Fellow, Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

Professor Julian May, holder of the UNESCO chair in the African Food System and director of the DSI-NRF Centre of Excellence in Food Security, joined the session virtually, to provide an overview of the FSNet-Africa framework for food systems transformation. Professor Richard Mkandawire, director of the Michigan State University’s Alliance for African Partnerships’ Africa Office, served as facilitator, alongside Professor Swanepoel.

Effective engagement

FANRPAN’s Capacity Strengthening Manager, Dr. Njongenhle Nyoni, who serves as Engagement and Liaison Manager at FSNet-Africa, gave input on the Pretoria-based initiative’s strong stakeholder focus.

Dr. Nyoni explained that through the FSNet-Africa programme, fellows receive support to map out and identify stakeholders so that they are able to maximize the impact of their work. This, he noted, is a key feature of transdisciplinary research. And in so doing, fellows’ research makes a greater impact and garners more traction.

An emphasis on stakeholder engagement from the onset to the application is critical, Nyoni noted, as effective stakeholder engagement is not yet sufficiently entrenched in academia. “We still need to do better to understand how to effectively engage with stakeholders,” he said. “A stakeholder is not just a passive recipient of research … They are part and parcel of conceptualization, implementation and realizing results.”


Making the link

As the “network of networks”, FANRPAN is adept at linking researchers and stakeholders and has thus shared its expertise with the FSNet-Africa fellows. With well-established multisectoral nodes in each of the FANRPAN countries is active in, the FSNet-Africa researchers are provided access to this network to connect with relevant stakeholders.

And once they are linked, Nyoni explained, researchers are able to directly engage with stakeholders on the ground, thereby working in tandem with researcher communities and being better placed to deliver responsive and impactful research.

Watch the full breakout session here.