Application of Foresight Techniques for Food Systems’ Transition

By Munoko K. Musikoyo-Nguru

Agribusiness  and Gender Expert

Discussions on foresight for food systems have never been more critical than they are today. This became more evident when a team of officials from FARA (Wole Fatunbi, Abdulrazak Ibrahim, Kwaku Antwi, Karen Musikoyo-Nguru), CCARDESA (Baitsi Podisi), and AFAAS (Samson Eshetu, Martin Sekeleti, Frances Nakakawa, Gifty Narh Guiella, Nkiru Meludu, and Dele Tologbonse) attended a 4-day workshop at the University of Oxford. The workshop was facilitated by experts from the University of Oxford (Jim Woodhill, John Ingram, Monika Zurek) and Wageningen University and Research (Herman Brouwer and Just Dengerink). The workshop which took place from the 5th to the 8th of July 2022 highlighted the importance of applying foresight techniques for policy decisions, especially in the global food system. Africa, being on the margins of integration through the continental free trade agreement, should ensure that smallholder farmers are well positioned to benefit from the USD 1 trillion Agriculture and agribusiness market in Africa that was predicted by the World Bank (AFDB, 2019).

Given the number of growing challenges and competing priorities, we are also experiencing complexity, volatility, and ambiguity. More specifically, increased urbanization has caused rising demand for more varied and sophisticated foods, which presents an opportunity for policymakers, regulators, researchers, and the private sector to work together in establishing sustainable food systems. Perhaps, this is an opportune time to address the unpredictability of the future and the pace of change as we have it today due to the increase in digital technology. Therefore, I believe that strengthening our capacities to meet different demands in our various roles and gain the ability to think and decide more holistically is critical in the food systems transition. In this case, institutions that think ahead and plan better will be better prepared to take advantage of the opportunities that rapid social and technological progress is creating.

During the four-day foresight workshop, the team undertook an exercise of scanning whereby a thorough discussion led to the identification of climate change as a significant issue that affects food production and circulation. The team then carried out an analysis of the trends in Africa’s food system. The trend analysis, in this case, examined the nature, causes, rate of development, and impacts of climate change on the food system. Scenario development and analysis were explored whereby future possibilities were discussed. Ideally, a scenario should show various plausible ways that the future might unfold. As such, several scenarios could be developed to support decision-making processes as well as for planning purposes.

Here is an example of scenarios generated in a foresight activity carried out by FARA and key stakeholders in Malawi. The activity analyzed the interactions and emerging effects of the transition of the tobacco value chain in Malawi and the likely policy responses to those effects.

Given that foresight is generally the act of looking to and thinking about the future, the CAADP XP4 consortium and its partners have recognized that foresight is a necessary skill in Africa’s AR4D. Mainly because foresight techniques help in,

  1. Planning and supporting institutions to be more proactive especially in addressing emerging issues.
  2. Policy alignment and sound decision-making. This is especially if multi-disciplinary and multi-stakeholder teams are involved in the process.
  3. Strengthening the capacity of multi-stakeholder platforms to collaborate and prioritize and develop more sustainable interventions for Agriculture transformation.

Going forward, it was agreed that collaboration between Foresight4Food, which is pioneered by the University of Oxford, and Africa Foresight Academy, which is hosted by FARA, will carry out foresight activities for sustainable and inclusive food systems. This will involve carrying out horizon scanning, trend analysis, and scenario mapping. Further awareness must be created at the policy level and with different stakeholders. In addition, capacity-building efforts will be geared towards developing foresight capabilities as well as establishing a foresight community of practice.


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