Using Bioscience to Combat Food Insecurity in Africa
Author: Gordon Evans
Publication Date: 2014

If Africa is to overcome food insecurity, a major contribution must be made by Africa's science and research community. Unfortunately, Africa hosts few world-class scientific research institutions. One instrument for addressing this situation is the African Bioscience Initiative (ABI), which operates four regional networks and the African Bio-Safety Network of Expertise. This case study describes a CIDA-funded project to assist ABI with the development of a new strategic plan. The project unfolded in three stages during 2011-12: the first stage, culminating with the completion of ABI's draft strategic plan, was characterized by a robust, motivated collaboration between client, consultant and stakeholders. The second stage saw progress frustratingly grind to a halt when the project's local partner was relieved of his ABI coordination duties. The third stage began unexpectedly when ABI's strategic plan was suddenly seized upon as a potential model for developing a broader, Africa-wide policy on science, technology and innovation. Fortuitously, the project's new champion was well aware of ABI's strategic plan, having originated the 2010 request to CIDA for technical assistance to ABI. With renewed purpose, this nearly moribund project suddenly assumed an influence well beyond its original scope. Sometimes a little luck helps. The project's dramatic ups and downs provide lessons learned that underscore the importance of engaging stakeholders, actively managing risk and persisting when setbacks occur. Beyond the roller-coaster ride of changing clients and shifting momentum, this case study highlights the importance of boosting the quality of African bioscience research. Scientific breakthroughs by organizations supported through ABI will better equip Africa to meet its formidable food insecurity and economic development challenges.
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