Written by Edith Shikumo (Academy of Science of South Africa) for the SDG Bulletin South Africa (May 2018)
Food security is an integral part of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)that deal with poverty, zero hunger, good health and well-being, quality education and responsible consumption and production. The Science, Technology and Innovation Strategy for Africa (STISA2024) notes that most entities responsible for Science, Technology and Innovation (STI) policymaking operate in isolation from other policy agencies, with weak links to the private, education and research sectors, and to African and international policy research think tanks.
Unfortunately, young scientists and early career researchers often equally work in isolation from policy makers – even though their research is directly relevant to meeting the SDGs. To strengthen the linkages between young scientists and policy makers, the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS) recently hosted young scientists from the Southern African Development Community (SADC) at a workshop on the eradication of hunger and food security. The workshop was titled ‘Policy Direction – Eradication of Hunger and Achievement of Food Security’.
The workshop aimed to establish a relationship between young scientists to better inform policies and assessments; identify gaps and shortfalls in the achievement of goals and to utilise science to find solutions. Young scientists were also challenged to gear their research to be more responsive to the SDGs.
Dr Sylvia Mkandawire, Training and Quality Assurance Manager from Regional Universities Forum for Capacity Building in Agriculture (RUFORUM) emphasised the confluence between academic and evidence-based research, and policy on food security. She noted the importance of establishing regional academic hubs which would develop programmes addressing the key skills required and curriculum development of interdisciplinary oriented programmes.
Dr Tshilidzi Madzivhandila, Director -Policy and Research from Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) emphasised the importance of co-creating clear, effective and motivating messages relevant for policymakers. He pointed out that the messages should not only be generated through formal scientific research, but also capture the voices, views, experiences and feedback from various groups of people that are affected by the policies.
Mr Msingathi Sipuka, SDG Technical Adviser at the United Nations underscored the interconnectedness of the SDGs which requires interdisciplinary research that connects all the issues that feed into poverty. He implored academic institutions to facilitate the process of interdisciplinary research and the breaking down of silos.
Some 70 delegates from nine SADC countries attended the workshop which was co-hosted by the Tanzania Young Academy of Science, Mauritius Young Academy of Science and the World Academy of Sciences Regional Office for Sub-Saharan Africa (TWAS-ROSSA) with support from the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf). A proceedings report will be published on the SAYAS website.
The workshop was supported by the InterAcademy Partnership, Oppenheimer Memorial Trust and the Organisation for Women in Science for the Developing World South Africa National Chapter (OWSD-SANC).
More about the author
Edith Shikumo is Young Scientist Liaison Officer at the Academy of Science of South Africa (ASSAf) and undertakes the Secretariat roles for the South African Young Academy of Science (SAYAS).