Jump to Main Content
Beyond commodity crops: strengthening young scientists' capacity for research on underutilized species in Sub-Saharan Africa
- Rudebjer, P., Chakeredza, S., Dansi, A., Ekaya, W., Ghezae, N., Aboagye, L.M., Kwapata, M., Njoroge, K., Padulosi, S.
- Acta horticulturae 2013 no.979 pp. 577-589
- agricultural research, climate change, commercialization, crops, farm to fork, humans, information exchange, issues and policy, marketing, nutrition, proposal writing, scientists, stakeholders, traditional farming, Eastern Africa, Southern Africa, Western Africa
- Concerns over food and nutrition security within a climate change scenario have brought about a growing interest in agricultural diversification and the conservation and use of neglected and underutilised species (NUS). Developing the value chain of NUS is critical to their promotion and commercialisation. This requires investments in human and institutional capacity for research, marketing and knowledge sharing, including policy dialogue. Institutions in Sub-Saharan Africa face many constraints in this regard. Traditional agriculture research tends to be specialised and compartmentalised, whereas NUS research requires a multi-sector approach involving disciplines and stakeholders along the value chain from farm to fork. Setting priorities among hundreds of species is important, which calls for greater regional collaboration, standardised methodologies and effective information exchange. A partnership of eight African and European organisations is addressing such issues through the project ‘Building human and institutional capacity for enhancing the conservation and use of NUS crops in West Africa, Eastern and Southern Africa’. The project has identified priority NUS crops and research needs in West Africa and Eastern/Southern Africa sub-regions. Moreover, it is developing capacity of young scientists on methodologies for such research, including project proposal writing, research design and data management, and scientific writing. It also provides training in key thematic areas such as value chain analysis, and food system approaches that link agricultural diversification to nutrition. Initial experiences show clear gaps in research, capacity and policy, coupled with a strong interest in NUS among young scientists. This indicates that investments in capacity for research on NUS crops can be strategically important for addressing Sub-Saharan Africa’s food and nutrition challenges.