Fruitful ARF workshop in Benin on enhancing research impact for food security

4 November 2016

Practitioners and researchers of seventeen projects within the NWO-WOTRO Food & Business Applied Research Fund (ARF), gathered in a workshop in Benin from 25-28 October 2016. They worked together on further enhancing the impact of their research. The focus of the workshop was to share experiences with knowledge co-creation and research uptake in an interactive way. Part of the workshop was a public seminar on nutrition and agriculture linkages for better informed policies and practices attracted forty additional practitioners from Benin.

The workshop was organised by NWO-WOTRO Science for Global Development, the Food & Business Knowledge Platform (F&BKP) and the University of Abomey-Calavi, in collaboration with AgriProFocus Benin. The participants from  Bangladesh, Benin, Burundi, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Mozambique, The Netherlands and Uganda were actively involved through pitches, presentations, speed dating activities and working group sessions.

The participants showed their enthusiasm by lively interactions, interesting remarks and questions, and vivid networking. Special appreciation for the set-up of the ARF-programme was expressed. Many stated that working in transdisciplinary teams with co-creation and the integration of knowledge sharing and research uptake activities is an highly appreciate approach, giving the possibility possible to be used as showcases in their own institutes.

Knowledge co-creation & research uptake

The workshop was dedicated to ensure that the ARF projects and their results are focused on the appropriate stakeholders and their needs, and therewith enhance the impact of research. The ARF-programme as a whole is  aimed at collaboration between the different stakeholders from research, private sector, policy and civil society, and the integration of their various ambitions, also called co-creation.

A characteristic of the Food & Business Applied Research Fund (ARF) projects of NWO-WOTRO is a local practitioner – someone from the private sector, policy or civil society - being in the lead, working together with a knowledge institute. This ensures that the research is driven by local demand and that the results will be further taken up by the practitioner’s organisation. Another aspect of ARF is that knowledge sharing and research uptake is integrated in the projects from the proposal writing phase onwards, ensuring that stakeholders and in particular the end users remain at the centre of attention. The projects thus integrate knowledge from the various partners, while this process of co-creation is supported  by rigorous research.

Lessons learned

Participants concluded that the co-creation approach has been crucial to ensure continuous engagement from all project members and that a joint project design helps significantly when various incentives are at play. The flexibility to adapt research frameworks during the execution of a project is necessary when working in projects with such a variety of partners and under the changing conditions and unexpected findings that research encounters. The Impact Pathway that projects work with thus needs to be discussed and adapted.

To influence external stakeholders, realising effective research uptake strategies, that are linked to the Impact Pathway, is important. Research uptake includes a stakeholder analyses, capacity building, a communication plan and the monitoring and evaluation of these aspects. Knowledge sharing and research uptake are an integral part of the project and therefore time and budget for the resulting activities need to be allocated from the start. A field visit to Songhaï Centre - a leading Beninese training centre for agricultural entrepreneurship, using a sustainable, self-sufficient and integrated system approach – highlighted a remarkable example of innovation that leads to practice.

Linking nutrition and agriculture

The public seminar on the third day of the workshop was opened by the Ambassador of the Netherlands in Benin and the Permanent Secretary of the Beninese Ministry of Livestock and Fisheries, who both confirmed the need for integrating agriculture and nutrition. A key note address was given by the Beninese Permanent Secretary of the Beninese National Council on Nutrition on Beninese actual political changes in the field of nutrition security. In addition, a panel with representatives from the private sector, a local NGO, and the FAO shed light on the practical difficulties of linking nutrition to agriculture. The external participants from various small and medium Beninese enterprises, NGOs, research institutes and government institutes and the ARF participants discussed the challenges and offered solutions for value chain actors who make efforts to integrate nutrition goals.

Everybody benefitted highly from the enthusiasm, insights and experiences of the projects, and as it turned out also from the way the Applied Research Fund at large operates.

Food & Business Research

The Food & Business Knowledge Platform is an initiative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. The Food & Business Applied Research Fund (ARF) is a subsidy scheme implemented by NWO-WOTRO. The deadline of the next call for proposals is 6 December 2016.

Source: NWO