The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) launched its Holistic Empowerment for Livelihoods Program (HELP), a strategy for strengthening strategic human capital formation, Agricultural Knowledge & Innovation System (AKIS) and Agripreneurship to drive holistic value chain development and climate relevant actions for youth empowerment and improved livelihoods in Africa. As a component of HELP, FARA is implementing Agricultural Research and Innovation Fellowship for Africa (ARIFA), which aims to produce a new generation of fit-for purpose workforce to re-engineer the African agri-food sector to provide the change factor for rapid agricultural transformation in the next 10 years. ARIFA will facilitate regular entry of cohorts of graduates and agripreneurs into innovation systems apparel of FARA through innovation platforms (IP) and rural learning routes located in and around African institutions, universities, technical colleges and rural communities.
What is HELP?
Holistic Empowerment for Livelihoods Program (HELP), Holistic Models driven by Global South Partnerships to drive value chain development and climate relevant actions for youth empowerment and improved livelihoods in Africa. HELP delivers livelihood by leveraging on South-South & Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) based on a solidarity that breaks the traditional donor-recipient relationship in which partners take advantage of relevant technologies and innovations for their mutual benefits. HELP has three main axes; Capacity Development, Mobility & Exchange Program and Business to Business Program. The three axes are underpinned by an excellence programme, the AFRICA Innovation Award (AIA), which is an award dedicated to the advancement and deployment of Science, Technology and Innovation to increase Africa’s agricultural productivity and agro-industry competitiveness
The dearth of capacity in Africa illustrated by an average of fewer than 45 research and development specialists per million population, has led to investments leading to the expansion of a network of Africa Centres of Excellence (ACEs) within the last two decades, to promote specialisation in areas that address regional challenges. However, within the predominantly agrarian landscape of the African continent, where more than 160 million are food insecure and malnourished, there are still gaps in translating these capacities into tangible public goods. Additionally, Africa’s agriculture workforce is faced with significant challenges exacerbated by effects of climate change, changing demography and unprecedented explosion of youth population. Continuous effort to strengthen Africa’s capacity to innovate, is an imperative for attaining Africa’s development as underpinned by the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the African Union
Agenda 2063. Unlocking the potentials of agriculture, which holds more than 60% of the continent’s labour force, can only happen through developing the requisite capacities for implementing impactful interventions. Currently, Africa’s global investment in research and development is only 1% of the global amount, producing 0.1% of world patents and contributing only 2% of world research output. A key element in addressing these challenges is the capacity to innovate in the agri-food sector especially in post-harvest management, mechanization and resilience to climate change. On a continent where the population has an average age of 18, ARIFA responds to this need by supporting the vision of the Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA) and the 1million by 2021 initiative of the AU through the production of new generation of Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D) practitioners and agribusiness leaders with soft skills, personal mastery and new technical skills to build Africa’s agri-competencies as basis for national strategic human capital formation for holistic value chain development.
ARIFA will focus on strengthening African Agricultural Knowledge and Innovation Systems (AKIS) workforce to drive transitions due to changing food habits, migration and urbanization through regular entry of cohorts of graduates and agripreneurs into the innovation platform (IP) apparatus of FARA. This will be achieved inter alia, by strengthening capacity of youth currently located in African institutions, universities, technical colleges and rural learning facilities. Predicated on the South South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC) framework, ARIFA will be implemented through South-South, South-North, South-South-North trainings and learning activities in universities and research institutions starting with Brazil, China, Cuba, Egypt and India in the South, and Denmark, Netherlands, Italy, Norway and Sweden in the North. These Graduate Cohort Compacts (GCC), constituted prior to their capacity strengthening, will be supported upon their return to strengthen the IPs locally.
Thus, ARIFA will produce at least 5,000 new generation of fit-for-purpose workforce to re-engineer the African agri-food sector to provide the change factor for rapid agricultural transformation and attaining the goals of Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Program (CAADP)-Malabo Business Plan of the AU.
Objectives of ARIFA
- Support African agricultural innovation by young Africans through fellowships and scholarships for studies and research at Postdoctoral, PhD and MSc levels as well as other short term postgraduate certificate courses in universities and research centres in the Global South and in partnership with institutions in the North.
- Form a new generation of Africa’s AR4D practitioners occupying leadership roles along the innovation to impact pathway within value chains and agri-food systems through the formulation and coordination of Graduate Cohort Compacts (GCC).
- Support college level youth, undergraduate or freshly graduated youth to apply Integrated Agricultural Research for Development (IAR4D) disciplines within Innovation Platforms through the coordination of Junior Business Groups (JBUG).
- Facilitate exchange visits and development of learning routes of AR4D innovators across Africa and within the South-South and North countries.
- Facilitate the development of empowered agricultural workforce and GCC around innovation platforms through post-award grants to the hosting incubation centres and communities.
- Equip Africa’s youth with interpersonal and 21st century skills to navigate the transitions due to changing food habits, migration and urbanization.
- Strengthen the capacities of African university lecturers, researchers, professionals and practitioners in IAR4D through grants at masters, postgraduate/post-doctor scholarships or placements through twinning and collaborative programmes.
ARIFA targets At least 5,000 college/university level young citizens and mid-career AR4D practitioners within National Agricultural Innovation System (NAIS) of all African countries particularly in the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) and Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) regional communities.
Using the IAR4D concept, FARA and its constituent Sub-Regional Organizations (SROs) have already facilitated the establishment of over 400 Innovation Platforms across the continent. Given the need to sustain the successes of existing platforms and reverse the waning phase of others, ARIFA fellows will constitute the new cadre of AR4D practitioners with strong 21st century skills to consolidate these IPs. The various knowledge products, innovations, learning routes and data arising from ARIFA, will feed into the various capacity development initiatives across the continent.