New research key to unlocking food security

NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development awarded 600,000 euros to Solidaridad and its partners: International Development Studies (IDS) at Utrecht University, St. Mary’s University in Ethiopia and Fair and Sustainable Advisory Services (FSAS) to conduct food security research in Kenya, Ethiopia and Ghana. This four-year research grant is part of the Food and Business Global Challenges Programme which aims to generate evidence–based understanding of emerging issues within the global food system and their impact on regional and local food security. The role, direct impact and spin-off effects of (Dutch) agribusiness form the crucial components of the research.

Solidaridad and partners developed the Follow the Food research proposal in order to find out how different agribusiness models in Ghana, Ethiopia and Kenya impact local and regional food systems and ultimately food security of farmer households. While foreign investment is expected to boost food production and therefore improve food security, there is little understanding of how this plays out in practice. There are assumptions about how an increase in income leads to more food security for households, while the actual investment in export crops – which creates job opportunities – might have to compete for land and water formerly used for domestic food production. Follow the Food seeks to unravel this risk of displacement and other hidden linkages between investment, livelihoods, natural resource allocation, food markets and household food security.

Experts in Africa

The Solidaridad Regional Expertise Centres in Ghana and Kenya, as well as the country office in Ethiopia, are already implementing a number of projects which have now been included in the research programme. The aim is to analyze the impact of private sector investment in agribusiness on local food security by looking at different business models in coffee, oil palm, cocoa and vegetable production.

In Kenya and Ethiopia, the focus is on coffee and vegetable production, showcasing how intercropping coffee with food crops can improve farmers resilience and food security throughout the year. In Ghana, Solidaridad works in partnership with a cooperative that supports maize farmers achieve economy of scale, financial sustainability and to introduce environmentally sustainable farming practices. Follow the Food will consider a diversity of crops and associated business models to analyze how this type of production affects food security for farmers, workers and households, but also looking at the impact on the food system at local, regional as well as national level.

Best practices based on science

In addition to the involvement of staff from Solidaridad and consortium partners (St. Mary’s University, FSAS and International Development Studies (IDS) at Utrecht University), the research grant allows for two PhD researchers who have been hired in Ethiopia and Kenya to conduct extensive research for the period of four years. The opportunity to conduct this type of in-depth and long-term research allows for academic evaluation and validation of the approach taken by Solidaridad.

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