From left to right: Prisca Mugabe, Professor at the University of Zimbabwe, Elisabeth Claverie de Saint Martin, CEO of CIRAD, Astou Camara, Director of the social science research unit at the Institut Sénégalais de Recherches Agricoles (ISRA), Philippe Mauguin, CEO of INRAE
Most African countries aspire to have sufficient research and higher education resources to rise to major challenges in the fields of agriculture, food and environment such as food security in a context of acute climate change.
Long-standing partners with about 100 African research bodies, CIRAD and INRAE have joined forces to step up scientific exchanges – in terms of skills and knowledge – between Europe and Africa, with a view to boosting the impact of agricultural research carried out on the two continents.
“With strong African networks and a solid presence on the continent with some one hundred expat scientists, CIRAD is a firm believer in the power of collective intelligence for taking on global challenges linked to food security. It was therefore only natural that we turned to INRAE”, explains Elisabeth Claverie de Saint Martin, CEO of CIRAD.
“To face the challenges of health and food security while preserving the planet’s resources, it is crucial to combine research know-how on a global scale. A world leader in research on the links between agriculture, food and the environment, INRAE is committed to stepping up knowledge- and skills-sharing with CIRAD and African research bodies. The research alliance between France and Africa is indispensable to finding lasting solutions to the challenge of food security”, says Philippe Mauguin, CEO and Chair of INRAE.
Some 20 African universities and agricultural research bodies on board
Based on a review of their collaborations (and joint publications) with African partners, in early 2021 the CEOs of INRAE and CIRAD started to draw up a future joint plan of action in partnership with some 20 African universities and agricultural research bodies (see list below). With partners from all over the African continent (French- Portuguese- and English-speaking), the initiative is designed to co-construct an ambitious research, training and innovation programme. It will be open to other African, French and European partners, notably universities and engineering schools.
The priorities identified by the partners relate to three major themes: agroecology, natural resources and climate change; One Health (ecosystem health, plant and animal health, and human health); and food security, territories and rural employment.
The action plan and governance bodies will be rolled out in the first half of 2022. The plan is part of an effort to strengthen ties between African countries and France, on the one hand, and between the African Union and European Union on the other. It will build on international research initiatives, like PREZODE for preventing the emergence of Zoonotic disease pandemics (link) and the 4 per 1000 initiative “Soil for food security and the climate” (link).
The plan provides for the construction of a portfolio of research, training and innovation projects, all backed by research or development sponsors. Lastly, it will go hand in hand with a strengthening of cooperation mechanisms and partnerships, the creation of international laboratories and research infrastructures, and a stepped-up framework for encouraging doctoral candidates and African researchers to travel.
In the words of Alioune Fall, former CEO of ISRA (Senegal) and current President of the Forum for agricultural research in Africa (FARA): “African institutions need a sustainable and equitable financial mechanism and a skills-sharing scheme to pursue their efforts. We are counting on this partnership to help us get there. We also hope for better recognition and more inclusion in global research through European networks, those of emerging countries and the OECD, for a heightened impact in terms of effective research, training and innovation”.
List of major African institutions with a stake in the action plan:
South Africa: University of Pretoria, University of the Western Cape, ARC South Africa
Benin: Université Abomey Calavi
Burkina Faso: CIRDES, CNRST INERA, CILSS
Cameroun: Université de Yaoundé, IRAD,
Madagascar: University of Antananarivo, FOFIFA
Morocco: ENA Meknès
Mozambique: Eduardo Molane University
Senegal: ISRA; Université Cheikh Anta Diop, CORAF
Tunisia: Université de Carthage, IRESA
Zimbabwe: University of Zimbabwe
Regional organisations: NEPAD, CORAF, CILSS
CIRAD and INRAE in Africa at a glance
CIRAD and INRAE rank 2nd and 3rd respectively in the world in terms of co-publications with African researchers in the fields of agricultural science
CIRAD and INRAE are currently involved in more than 300 projects in Africa, including for example 13 DeSIRA (EU) large-scale projects coordinated by CIRAD
6 regional CIRAD directorates pooled with INRAE covering the five regions of the continent
100 CIRAD researchers expatriated to Africa, supported by many short-term CIRAD assignments for an equivalent of 30 other full-time posts per year
About 230 INRAE assignments per year
More than 100 doctoral candidates supervised by CIRAD in Africa
12 partnership agreements in Africa, created by CIRAD and involvement of INRAE with partners in international facilities and labs in Africa
120 African doctoral candidates hosted at INRAE in France each year
INRAE among top seven institutions in the world publishing research on four sustainable development goals (SDG) for the United Nations 2020 agenda: 2 (zero hunger), 12 (responsible production and consumption), 13 (climate action) and 15 (life on land)