A new €6.5 million project, funded by Horizon Europe and Innovate UK, will see colleagues from the Global Food and Environment Institute (GFEI) collaborate with partners across Africa and Europe over the next three and half years. The Food Systems Transformation in Southern Africa for One Health (FoSTA Health) project will explore the consequences of emergent pathways of transformation in southern African food systems, with a One Health focus.

The Malabo Declaration, which reaffirmed the key principles of the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) places the transformation of agriculture and food systems at the centre of a range of national policy priorities and international development and research agendas across Africa. FoSTA Health 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. However, historically, transformative change in agriculture and food systems has exacerbated social inequalities. It is therefore essential that processes of visioning and governing transformation are inclusive and equitable; this is core to the mission of the project.

FoSTA Health will build on the partnerships and approaches developed under the GCRF-AFRICAP programme. It will involve Leeds colleagues from across the Faculties of Environment, Social Sciences, and Biology working in partnership with Higher Education and research institutions (Wageningen University, Malawi University of Science and Technology, Sokoine University of Agriculture, University of Pretoria, University of Zambia and CzechGlobe); policy advocacy organisations (FANRPAN, Kulima Integrated Development Solutions); industry networks (Southern African Business Development Forum); and third sector organisations (Care International).

FoSTA Health will take an interdisciplinary and systems approach 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

The project will combine stakeholder engagement and grounded research in case study contexts in Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia, with an integrated modelling framework, to examine the One Health outcomes associated with these transformations. This will involve evaluating the consequences of system change for food and nutrition security, access to water and sanitation, animal and human disease risk, crop pests, food safety, livelihoods and more.

Among other exciting collaborations, FoSTA Health will partner with the Care International Titukulane project, which operates in 20 traditional authorities (representing 290,000 households) in the Mangochi and Zomba Districts of Malawi, to promote sustainable, equitable, and resilient food and nutrition security for vulnerable households. The project will also work closely with the Southern African Business Development Forum in their capacity as implementing partner of Global GAP, to support the implementation of effective and equitable food safety and quality regulation in markets.

Central to the design of the research and the approaches taken to stakeholder, policy and industry engagement, throughout FoSTA Health will be the application of a gender equality and socially just transformation framework, and the adoption of a critical reflexivity. This will build on, and put into practice, the work of FoSTA-Health partners on just transformation in food systems and participation and pluralism. FoSTA-Health seeks to offer new opportunities for meaningful engagement with and between a range of relevant stakeholders in the region, whose varied insights will be necessary to identify varied priorities and implement equitable pathways for transformation.

Co-Principal Investigator, and GFEI Associate Director, Stephen Whitfield said about the project: “FoSTA Health is a really exciting opportunity for Leeds colleagues to apply our breadth of food-related research expertise, in collaboration with fantastic partners across Africa and Europe, in exploring the complex challenges of food system change and food insecurity in southern Africa”.

FoSTA Health launches on 1st October 2022 and regular reports on the progress and findings of the project will be communicated through the Global Food and Environment Institute.

You can learn more about the challenges facing the food systems in which FoSTA Health project is working, in our free Climate Change and Resilience in Food Systems short course on FutureLearn.

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