Uniting UK and South African research to support food systems policy

A new collaboration has been forged between the Food Systems Policy Hub, the British High Commission in Pretoria and the Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) in South Africa that aims to aid innovation and food security through supporting coherent food systems policy making.

The N8 AgriFood Food Systems Policy Hub hosted a roundtable in collaboration with the British High Commission, to discuss shared challenges in the agritech sector, and opportunities to work together to collectively solve them.

Participants at the meeting included experts from both the UK and South Africa. From the UK, the group heard from Professors Katherine Denby, University of York, and Tim Benton and Caroline Orfila, both University of Leeds, who shared their research spanning crop selection, nutrition sensitivity and policy support.

South African speakers included Dr Maneshree Jugmohan-Naidu, from the Republic of South Africa’s DSI; Professor Lisa Korsten, University of Pretoria, DSI/ NRF Centre of Excellence Food Security, and Professor Albert Modi, College of Agriculture Engineering & Science, University of KwaZulu Natal. They stressed the importance of utilising technology to improve nutrition, addressing both consumer and environmental health, and retaining local knowledge in relation to both farming, trade and linking production directly with markets.

Professor Bob Doherty, director of the N8 AgriFood Food Systems Policy Hub, said: “We discussed interdisciplinary and transdisciplinary research involving communities and the private sector, and the connections throughout the food system, as well as trade, the diversity of farmers, and formal and informal markets, which is a really important distinction to make.

“As a result, we’ve identified three key areas for future collaboration, and I’m sure there will be more to come post this exemplary round table. It is really exciting and there is real opportunity here for this to be the start of something special.”

The three areas being taken forward for future collaboration are knowledge platforms to support further deliberation on the following:

– Technologies for niche, indigenous crops and underutilised crops to support smallholder farmers with food and nutrition security
– Agritech supporting expansion UK/South Africa agrifood trade
– Coherent policy making through a food systems approach with an emphasis on innovation and practical solutions.

Aidan Darker, from the British High Commission in Pretoria, said: “The agri-tech sector is a high priority not just for South Africa but for the UK. We wanted to hear about the challenges and the issues that we face in this sector and how we can address them and work together to collaborate even further.

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