In February 2023, the DeSIRA Initiative was featured in the 11th issue of the magazine of the Global Climate Change Alliance Plus (EU GCCA+ Review of Climate). Entitled “DeSIRA for Climate Resilience”, the magazine featured op-eds by Helena Posthumus, DeSIRA-LIFT’s programme director; and Guy Faure, senior policy officer at the European Commission. Three DeSIRA projects were featured in the magazine, namely Yayu coffee (Ethiopia), STREAM (Mongolia) and Agroinnova (Central America).
The GCCA+ magazine offers concise reviews of topics of interest to stakeholders and audiences engaged in climate adaption, mitigation and disaster risk reduction. The EU GCCA+ is a flagship initiative of the European Union helping the most vulnerable countries respond to climate change.
In 2020, DeSIRA and EU GCCA+ joined forces and resources leading to a portfolio of about 100 million Euros in support of 23 DeSIRA projects in Madagascar, Colombia, Nigeria, Vietnam, Belize, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Cameroon, Mongolia, Brazil, Ethiopia, Uzbekistan, DR Congo, Nepal, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Op-ed by Helena Posthumus, DeSIRA-LIFT Programme Director
Over the past three years, it has become ever more apparent that our agri-food systems are fragile. Long-term trends such as climate change, biodiversity loss and the globalisation of production methods and diets have eroded the resilience of agri-food systems, making them vulnerable to sudden shocks such as pandemics and local or international conflicts that cause major disruptions to supply chains. This has caused a sharp increase in the number of people who suffer from food insecurity, particularly in Africa.
Global (and local) crises caused by climate change, biodiversity loss, conflict and pandemics are interrelated, and largely self-inflicted though human activity. The need for change is self-evident; realising the Sustainable Development Goals is a goal shared by many. It is now well recognised that agri-food systems are affecting as well as being affected by many of these crises and should therefore be part of the change.
Many plead for a transformation of agri-food systems, which would foster resilience and diversity. Yet, what needs to change, or whom, when and how is heavily contested. This is to be expected when pushing for disruptive, rather than incremental, change. Transformation requires innovative thinking, bold choices and new social contracts based on a shared understanding of what is collectively valued and prioritised. What then is the role of researchers and policymakers? Where can they join hands to move towards bold decisions and actions without losing sight of evidence and tested options?
Agri-food systems are complex systems where innovation and change typically emerge from disruptive events – think of innovations such as mobile phones, or external shocks such as natural disasters – along with new interactions between stakeholders or paradigm shifts in collective thinking and consumer behaviour. In such complex systems, researchers provide evidence on hypotheses (testing under what conditions different options are most suitable), search for new solutions, analyse trends, and identify trade-offs and synergies between different scenarios. Researchers can help to understand what works how, when and for whom. Policymakers, on the other hand, define direction and set targets for future goals (for example: the European Green Deal, the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme), and can influence the rules of the game, or manage societal risks through public
investments and service provision.
DeSIRA tries to bridge these two worlds. The main entry point is through strengthening so-called Agricultural Innovation Systems, which bring different actors together to co-create new technological and social innovations to solve shared problems and develop an enabling environment to foster such innovations. At the local level, research and innovation projects look for context-specific and socially and environmentally sustainable solutions. In doing so, they also strengthen multi-stakeholder partnerships and influence the enabling environment to achieve better results. At the international level, efforts are being made to strengthen the science-policy interface and governance architecture for Agricultural Research for Development.
DeSIRA-LIFT fosters DeSIRA’s impact by embedding reflective learning and knowledge exchange in these efforts, for example by hosting a Community of Practice to facilitate joint learning across projects. In parallel, it feeds evidence into policy dialogues and programming.
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