Co-producing research with African smallholders

Differentiated resilience in global food systems: a food sovereignty approach

Researchers and farmer organisations are working together to make changes in the food system. This project is jointly designed by researchers from the Universities of Leeds, York, Lancaster and Newcastle, with representatives of smallholder farmers in East Africa.

The work is funded through a pump-priming grant from the N8 Research Partnership.

Many global supply chains involve African smallholder farmers who are often disproportionately exposed to environmental, economic and political shocks and stresses. As well as supplying fresh goods and commodities for export, they also supply local markets and for their own needs. They operate within a complex interaction of political, social, economic and environmental challenges.

But when issues of global supply and food security are discussed, the voices of small scale suppliers and smallholders are rarely heard. This research project aims to change that, by understanding their needs and what they perceive as the most immediate threats to their livelihoods. The aim is to help build a more resilient food system that can provide culturally appropriate, fair, clean, nutritious food for producers and consumers.

The UK team, led by Dr Anne Tallontire at the University of Leeds, have been working with farmer organisations in East and West Africa. This includes co-producing a research agenda and project plan through workshops in Tanzania and Ghana. The priorities will be set by small scale farmers’ organisations which are part of two distinct south-south networks: Fairtrade Africa and La Via Campesina.

Researchers are also looking at private sector led initiatives that look to build the capacity of small scale farmers in the global food supply chain. They will also liaise with social enterprises that focus on fair trade, such as Liberation Nuts, Café Direct and Divine Chocolate.

The resulting co-produced research proposal can be used for future funding calls. It will be aimed specifically at a large interdisciplinary funding calls such as the Global Challenges Research Fund. A range of food systems and cultural contexts can be explored, with potential to expand to include Southern Africa as well as East and West Africa.