Rachel Mkandawire (FANRPAN) provides a roundup of stakeholder workshops and field visits organised during the period. Findings have helped finalise research questions, develop research plans, and fine-tune the stakeholder engagement strategy.


Climate change is exacerbating food insecurity in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in East and Southern Africa, and has negative implications for rural livelihoods, ecosystems, and biodiversity. The direct relationship between food production and climatic factors such as temperature and precipitation links food insecurity and climate change. Maize production, the main staple crop in the region, has stagnated or declined in the last two decades despite an increase in total acreage. This stagnation, coupled with a growing population, has transformed the region from a food exporter to a food insecure entity. Additionally, factors like the Russian war in Ukraine, the COVID-19 pandemic, small land holdings, low capital investments, and limited access to improved agricultural technologies contribute to food shortages and price increases. As a result, approximately half of the population is threatened by food insecurity, and 138 million people are undernourished.

On top of these, the adaptive capacities of farmers and institutions are limited, underlying the necessity for governments and the relevant stakeholders to collaborate, strategize and find plausible pathways for food systems transformations to feed the region. Against this background, the Food, Agriculture, and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) has partnered with Wageningen University, University of Leeds and partners from Malawi, Zambia, Tanzania and South Africa, under the Food Systems Transformation for Southern Africa for One Health (FoSTA- Health) project. FoSTA- Health, is a 4-year, transdisciplinary food systems research project, funded by Horizon Europe and Innovate UK. This project is founded on the understanding that transformative change is needed in order to address food and nutrition insecurity and a variety of associated health challenges in southern Africa.

FoSTA-Health will take an interdisciplinary and systems approach in evaluating the medium and long-term implications of the four broad areas of food system change:

  • Emergent alternatives to maize production
  • Changes in land use and investments in irrigation infrastructure
  • Transitions from domestic to export markets for fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Diversification of diets in urban centres

In order to grasp and contextualise the project fully, partners undertook stakeholder engagements and research scoping exercises in the four countries from March to May, 2023. Stakeholder engagement is vital in research priority setting as it enhances the relevance and applicability of research outcomes. Engaging diverse stakeholders from different subject areas ensures a more inclusive and transparent process that aligns with the society's needs. It also ensures improved reporting and engagement methods to ensure effective and impactful research outcomes. On the other hand, research scoping used a comprehensive approach to identify, synthesize, and evaluate research priority setting projects across various subject area such health, agriculture, environment, social work, and technology, among others and how these are linked to the  above mentioned research priorities in the four countries.

Introduction Meetings in Tanzania

In order to strengthen stakeholder engagements and lay groundwork for creating enabling environments for key partners in node countries, FANRPAN, with the project partners in Tanzania, conducted four in-country workshops with relevant stakeholders from 3rd to 6th April, 2023 in Dodoma and Tanga Regions. In Tanzania, these meetings were organised by the FoSTA-Health project partners; The Economic Social Research Foundation (ESRF) and the Sokoine University of Agriculture (SUA). 

The meetings in Tanzania involved a high-level delegation from different government departments. Our first engagement was held on 3rd April, 2023 with the Ministry of Agriculture officials, including Directors in the departments of Planning, Food Security, International Cooperation and Trade, Marketing and Food security respectively.


The discussion from this workshop emphasised the need for the project to consider the already existing national food systems pathways, and work in alignment with other organisations.


On the same day, the team had a second meeting with representatives from the President's Office Regional Administration and Local Governments. (PO-RALG). Present in this meeting was the Director of Health Services Dr. Ntuli and his assistant Mr. Mwita.  In addition to praising FoSTA-Health, the government representative emphasized the importance of improving collaboration with FANRPAN and partners in light of the current national nutrition policy, which the project may contribute to.

Our third meeting was with the Head of Health Quality Assurance Dr. Eliudi Eliakimu on 4th April, 2023. The Assistant of Nutrition Officer Mr. Juma Peter attended the last meeting in Dodoma with the Ministry of Health. Along with expressing support for the project, they emphasized the need to focus on the problems caused by pesticide residues, which have far-reaching effects like cancer and pollution. They also provided advice on the necessary stakeholders and people to consider for the smooth running of project.


On 6th April, the team organised a workshop in Tanga Region with government  officers including the Regional Agriculture Advisor (RAA), the representative of Regional Health and Nutrition Officer (RHNO), District Agriculture Land Use and Planning Officer (DALUPO) from Muheza and two District Agriculture and Livestock Officers (DALFO) from Pangani and Lushoto districts. Tanga region is the area where most of the project research will take place . Some important challenges that were raised included pre and post-harvest challenges facing the mango value chain, issues of middlemen and unscrupulous traders in citrus (oranges) production, pesticide resistance and pesticide residues, among others.

Introduction and scoping Meetings in Zambia

In Zambia, the team held meetings in two strategic locations i.e. Kabwe and Mkushi. The first meeting was held in Kabwe district on 24th April, 2023 where the team was privileged to have its first high level meeting with Provincial Permanent Secretary. He outlined the plans for the districts where the project activities are going to take place. He also emphasized that the project is in a strategic location bordering 5 provinces, and believes that the impact and outcomes could easily trickle down to the neighbouring provinces and districts.  

On 25th and 27th April, 2023, the project team introduced the project to farmers in Chibombo and Mkushi. In Chibombo district (Mukalashi area), the project was officially launched by the Provincial Permanent Secretary (who was represented by the Deputy Permanent Secretary). Researchers in the different work packages also conducted focus group discussions and key informant interviews with key stakeholders that are conversant with the agriculture, development, and research landscape in these areas. These interviews were important in shaping the direction and formulation of the project. As part of the scoping process, the team was also able to witness crop production practices in the area by visiting soy bean fields, a crop that is very significant to the economy and rural livelihoods of Zambia. They also visited livestock farmers to appreciate livestock husbandry practices in cattle production. These visits outlined the need to look at transboundary and zoonotic diseases in livestock and diet diversification, in this project. 


Stakeholder Engagement and Research Scoping Meetings in Malawi 

On March 13, 2023, the Civil Society Agriculture Network (CISANET) hosted a half-day conference to introduce the project at Wankulu Palace in Lilongwe, Malawi. This was the first engagement meeting and stakeholder consultation. The meeting brought together a total of 22 participants from the Malawi University of Science and Technology (MUST), Total Land Care, African Institute for Corporate Citizenship, Action Aid, CISANET, CARE, IFPRI, Center for Urban Food Policy Analysis, National Smallholder Farmers Association of Malawi, Civil Society Nutrition Alliance, Department of Land Resource and National Planning Commission. The meeting took place when the southern part of Malawi had just been hit by cyclone Freddy, which affected the turnout.


During this meeting, it was recommended that the project reflect carefully on how it is integrating the key guidelines and commitments made during the UNFSS, particularly for Malawi. Through the UNFSS dialogues, Malawi had already defined and developed food systems pathways it needs, and believes that the project should not be a duplication of what has already been done but should rather be a stepping stone for actualizing prior commitments.  Furthermore, it was highlighted that the project needs to have a comprehensive look at issues of food systems governance for stakeholders to understand how national and sub national governments must work together to transform food systems. Finally, the project team was advised to clearly stipulate what parameters of the food systems are transforming, and how this is going to be done considering that food systems transformation is a long-term, complex process and  may not realistically be achieved in 3 or 4 years. There is thus a need to isolate key areas to focus on which are guided by evidence generated from research.

On May 1, 2023, the third scoping visit in Malawi was held at area 25 health centre. Area 25 Health Centre serves Lilongwe’s most populated catchment area with around 250,000 inhabitants. Apart from providing maternity services and health care, there is a vibrant permaculture garden. In a country where the majority of people are small scale farmers with limited resources, the garden provides a unique opportunity to train in sustainable crop production and provides nutritious harvests for the patients to take home. In addition, the permaculture garden provides the in-patients admitted with nutritious foods. This area was selected as it promotes sustainable agricultural practices in low resource settings, which falls very much within the project’s focus area.


The next stops were in Titukulane project sites in Mangochi and Zomba districts on May 2 and 3  respectively. Titukulane project seeks to provide ultra-poor and vulnerable households in Malawi's Mangochi and Zomba Districts with sustainable, equitable and resilient food and nutrition security. In this project, gender equality, good governance and accountability, youth, involvement, and environmental protection are some of the cross-cutting issues. FOSTA-Health will conduct much of its research in these areas.


Introduction and scoping Meetings in South Africa

The most recent project introduction was in South Africa on May 29, which saw stakeholders from different sectors meet to discuss the value chains to be studied in the project.  The meeting had over 50 participants from the private sectors in the beef and pork value chains, feed producers, veterinary scientists, students, and officers from the Ministry of Agriculture, among others. The meeting also discussed the research questions that need to be answered in the project such as transboundary and zoonotic diseases affecting these value chains.


FoSTA-Health side event at AASW8

FoSTA-Health partner Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis (FANRPAN), hosted a side event at the African Agribusiness and Science Week (AASW8) which took place in Durban from the 5th to 8th June, 2023. The objective of the session was to introduce the project to different stakeholders, share its relevance within the region, and to interact and get feedback on how best it can be implemented and replicated in other countries.

The panellists included Professor Erastus Mwanaumo, who gave a keynote address on the implications of food systems transformation on human, animal and environmental health and how these interact with each other. He also highlighted how these transformations will have implications on the agribusiness agenda of the region. Dr Betty Waized presented the evolution of this project from AFRICAP and its transformation into FOSTA-Health, by highlighting the research findings from the past, insights into the present, and what the future scenarios would look like if certain pathways in food systems transformation are taken. Ms Patience Mgoli Mwale provided a deep dive into the important roles key stakeholders such as the communities, international non-governmental organisations, and local Civil Society Organisations play in shaping rural and community development work; and their plans to involve them in FoSTA-Health.

Finally, on behalf of the National Agricultural and Marketing Council (NAMC), Ms Nomantande Yeki shared the South African experience in the transformation of research into policies and how important key players such as FANRPAN are relevant at national and regional levels in overseeing this transformation.

Looking ahead

These stakeholder consultations will serve as valuable inputs, as the project firms up its research agenda and develops its field and desk research plans in the coming months. Interaction with stakeholders will continue during this process and thereafter, as it is they who will take up the project’s outputs and build upon them to drive necessary changes in food systems in southern Africa.

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