Our mission is uncontroversial – it is “to encourage dialogue and the sharing of good practice by policy makers and opinion formers in Africa on the role of agriculture in broad based growth”.
Overall, we aim to be the one of first ports of call for advice, ideas and evidence on policies for African agriculture, known to be distinct and different from the mainstream. We believe that in this key area of agriculture and food security in Africa, given the challenges presented by the food crisis and the wider efforts around fostering a New Green Revolution for Africa, a ‘mixed ecology’ of different voices, perspectives and opinions is an advantage, adding resilience, diversity and capacity to the policy system.
In summary, the Future Agriculture Consortium has developed a results-based approach that combines:
- Critical research and reflection leading to debate on the new agricultural agenda for Africa, particularly around issues raised by the CAADP process. Three research themes were launched in the first phase, focusing on policy processes, agricultural commercialisations and social protection and growth. Each links out to a variety of policy debates. Thus ongoing work on the multiple pathways of commercialisation links to the CAADP Pillar 2 (Rural Infrastructure and Trade-related Capacities for Improved Market Access), while work on social protection, agriculture and growth links to CAADP Pillar 3 (Increasing Food Supply and Reducing Hunger). A fourth theme, linked to CAADP Pillar 4 on science, technology and innovation for agriculture, was launched in February 2009. The four new themes launched during 2010 will equally seek linkages with CAADP processes, as regional research organizations and initiatives.
- Networking and solid partnerships among different institutes, including exchanges between African and UK institutions. The building of the Consortium network has been a central achievement of the first phase of work. Joint meetings, exchanges and visiting fellowships have all been important. For example, recent exchanges have allowed the sharing of Malawi’s experience with fertiliser subsidies with Kenyan and DFID colleagues, as well as a study visit to explore cotton sector policy reform experiences in East Africa. The network will expand during the next phase to West Africa, including both Anglophone and Francophone sites. Building the capacity of the next generation of African researchers able to conduct high quality research and link evidence to policy is a key output of the Consortium, and a range of capacity building efforts are focused on this.
- Creating a platform for policy dialogue within and across countries, such as the process developed in Ethiopia, whereby local-level policy dialogues at the regional level have fed into a national process, with a conference attended by the State Minister for Agriculture, leading to the emergence of a national forum on future agricultures. This process of national policy dialogues continues to be central to FAC’s work The Consortium also convenes an ongoing series of meetings and workshops on key policy issues related to African agriculture.
- A communications hub centred on the website (http://www.future-agricultures.org/) which includes features such as ‘hot topic’ debates, the hosting of e-debates (for example on soil fertility and fertilisers, large and small farms and the African Green Revolution), and the wide dissemination of briefing papers and Consortium publications materials.