During a regional conference some twenty-six years ago, it dawned on the Ministers of Agriculture from east and southern Africa that they were missing the voice of non-state actors in their deliberations. As government representatives, it was imperative to incorporate the views of all other stakeholders to ensure the development and implementation of food and natural resource (FANR) policies that were ideal for the region. There was need for a multi-stakeholder policy research and analysis network that would generate evidence to inform policy processes.
In response, the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), was born. A pan-African, autonomous and multi-stakeholder driven policy network, FANRPAN’s mandate focuses on conducting and coordinating policy research and analysis, strengthening the capacity of institutions and individuals for policy implementation, as well as conducting advocacy towards an enabling policy environment to transform the continent’s food, agriculture and natural resources.
With its vision focused on ensuring ‘resilient African agriculture and food systems, securing prosperity and health for all’, FANRPAN has three strategic goals. These are; the need to transform agriculture and food systems by developing and implementing evidence-based policies; securing adequate, safe and nutritious food; and ensuring climate change resilient and resource sustainable food systems in Africa. To deliver against the three strategic goals, and to provide appropriate policy responses to the most pressing challenges of our time, FANRPAN is currently focused on two themes, Climate-Smart Agriculture (CSA) and Nutrition-Sensitive Agriculture (NSA). Whilst climate change and variability, characterized by extreme weather events and uncertainty in rainfall patterns have negatively impacted agriculture, the African continent is grappling with the ‘triple burden’ of malnutrition: undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies on the one hand, and overweight and obesity on the other. The nexus challenges emanating from these two themes require a structured approach to ensure sustainable and resilient transformation of agriculture and food systems.
FANRPAN’s ability to manoeuvre the continent’s complicated agricultural policy space is result of a number of factors. The network’s distinctive competence lies in its ability to convene all-inclusive platforms that bring together state and non-state actors to work together as equal partners in evidence-based policy processes, while remaining sufficiently independent. FANRPAN is a multi-stakeholder network of networks that is currently established in 18 countries, and operates through an inter-sectoral national Node consisting of a diverse stakeholders that include research institutes, farmer groups, government, media, parliamentarians, private sector and other civil society organizations that have a stake in FNR policies.
The network’s country nodes and wider network provide an unrivalled infrastructure for stakeholder engagement, research dissemination and the embedding of policy and learning. To fully realize the 2010 pan-African geographic presence mandate, there are already deliberate efforts to engage with Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) through the Agriculture, Environment and Water Resources Directorate.
To effectively contribute to the continent agricultural transformation agenda, FANRPAN works with and through other institutions. At the heart of FANRPAN’s work is the need to ensure the effective transformation of smallholder agriculture in Africa. To achieve this, the network works closely with regional farmer organisations – the Southern African Confederation of Agricultural Unions (SACAU) and the Eastern Africa Farmers Federation (EAFF), representing national agricultural unions in southern and eastern Africa respectively. Whilst the network’s nodes attend to national policy issues, it is important that the evidence from FANRPAN’s research efforts should feed into the Regional Economic Communities (RECs). To that end, FANRPAN has formal relationships with the ECOWAS, the East African Community (EAC), the Southern African Development Community (SADC), and the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA). Ultimately, these RECs feeding into the African Union Commission (AUC) processes.
A number of research institutions collaborate to effectively tackle the continent’s agricultural research agenda. With the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) serving as the apex body, FANRPAN works closely with other sub-regional organisations to deliver different aspects of research evidence. These include; the Association for Strengthening Agricultural Research in Eastern and Central Africa (ASARECA), Centre for Coordination, Agricultural Research and Development for Southern Africa (CCARDESA), and West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD), which in turn, work with national research institutions. FANRPAN partners member organisations of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) such as the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), the international Livestock Research Institute, and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). In addition, the network collaborates with the academia, and through the Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM), reaches a network of 46 universities in Africa.
Over the years, FANRPAN has successfully mobilized resources to implement applied research projects that generated evidence which to inform national and continental policy processes. Selected examples of these projects include; Strengthening Evidence-Based Climate Change Adaptation Policies (SECCAP); Evidence Based Policies for Climate Smart Agriculture (EPCSA); the COMESA-funded pan-Africa Civil Society Climate Change Initiative for Policy Dialogues (ACCID); the Harmonized of Seed Security Project (HaSSP); the Post-harvest Loss Management Programme, and the Agriculture to Nutrition Project (ATONU). Some of the development partners who have funded FANRPAN-implemented multi-country projects include; the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR); the International Development Research Centre (IDRC); the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC); the United States Agency for International Development (USAID); the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation; the Swiss Agency for Cooperation and Development (SDC); the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF); and the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ).
Since his appointment by the Board of Governors in March 2019, Dr Tshilidzi Madzivhandila has been the man at the helm of FANRPAN. As Chief Executive Officer and Head of Mission, he is tasked to provide leadership and strategic direction. A holder of a PhD degree in Economics with over 25 years’ experience in research, policy analysis, and monitoring and evaluation, Dr Madzivhandila leads resource mobilization and the successful implementation of the remainder of the network’s 2016 to 2023 strategic and business plans.