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CCAFS West Africa, a new player in health and food systems research in West Africa

Orange fleshed sweet potato presents a high nutrient potential in Burkina Faso where climate change constitutes a major threat. Photo: Dansira Dembélé, CCAFS
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Apr 8, 2020

by

Georges Djohy (CCAFS West Africa)

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New partnership aims to promote nutrition and health-focused research in the context of climate change

Climate change exacerbates undernutrition mainly through the following causal pathways: (1) impacts on household access to sufficient, safe and adequate food; (2) impacts on care and feeding practices; and (3) impacts on environmental health and access to health services. Therefore, in addition to securing food, climate-smart agriculture activities should aim to increase the demand for and understanding of nutritious diets. It should also facilitate the adaption of adaptive technologies to help boost agricultural income for nutrition, health, and education.

A new partnership of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) in West Africa with the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) is aiming to promote nutrition and health-focused research through a newly funded project on Food System Adaptation in Changing Environments in Africa (FACE-Africa). The collaboration with LSHTM started in 2019 when CCAFS West Africa and the CCAFS' Priorities and Policy Flagship leaders partnered with LSHTM scientists, and other researchers from international research institutions in the United Kingdom, Austria and The Gambia to develop a proposal for submission to Wellcome Trust. This partnership has therefore quickly developed into a strategic opportunity for complementarity and mutual learning, paving the way for a major scientific contribution to food, nutrition and health research in the context of climate change.

A new but long-lasting collaboration

The FACE-Africa project was launched on January 20-21, 2020 in Banjul (The Gambia). It aims to identify, synthesize and quantify the impact that tested adaptations in food systems will have on food availability, diversity and equality of access in climate-vulnerable countries in Africa. Taking The Gambia as a case study from which the approach will be extended to other West African countries, the project focuses on assessing the capacity of food systems in climate-vulnerable countries to deliver healthy and sustainable diets by 2030.

FACE-Africa partners discussing the implementation of the project in Banjul, The Gambia. Photo: Georges Djohy, CCAFS West Africa

CCAFS is leading the project component that focusses on adaptation options tested in five Climate-Smart Villages (CSVs) in West Africa, which might be relevant to the Gambian context. CCAFS is also leading a content and thematic analysis of the views of local actors in The Gambia on the drivers of change as well as future challenges for the food system in the country. Through modeling and developing various scenarios that link climate change, food systems and health, CCAFS West Africa will contribute along with the CCAFS Scenario Team to the downscaling of various regional models (e.g. GLOBIOM ECOWAS and FABLE). Such contribution will allow Face-Africa to explore alternative food systems and existing opportunities based on climate-smart nutrition and health policies.

CCAFS West Africa at the Planetary Health Conference 2020

The launch of the FACE-Africa project was coupled with the Planetary Health Conference 2020 which focused on "Climate change and planetary health in West Africa: reviewing evidence, identifying gaps, finding solutions". The conference showcased and stimulated existing and new planetary health research conducted in West Africa. The conference brought together global, regional and national scientific leaders in the climate change field, as well as policymakers.

CCAFS contributed through a keynote highlighting the current and future climate uncertainties and hazards in the West African context and the related agricultural, food and nutrition issues, before uncovering the climate change-inequity-nutrition nexus.

The key message is that West African countries, like other low- and middle-income countries in the world, are experiencing a “nutrition transition” in the face of climate change. Therefore, decision-making must target gender, youth and various vulnerable groups in society, on the assumption that exclusion will further promote inequity and that better allocation of resources requires a better understanding of the drivers of inequity through research.

This interaction at the interface of agriculture, nutrition and health, aroused great interest from the various health actors present at the conference and placed CCAFS at the center of climate change, food systems and health research. The CCAFS team, Dr. Georges Djohy and Dr. Robert Zougmore, at this event, took the opportunity to establish new contacts through which other health-oriented research projects may be initiated in the future.

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