IFPRI welcomes new Australian food security research center

December 4, 2012
by Marcia MacNeil

Last week’s launch of the Australian International Food Security Center heralds a new level of collaboration between Australian and African policymakers—and research from CGIAR and IFPRI is playing a role in the dialogue.

Two IFPRI researchers presented at the new center’s November 30 launch event in Sydney, a forum titled “Food Security in Africa: Bridging Research and Practice.”

A sampling of the policymakers who attended: the Australian minister of foreign affairs; agriculture ministers from Burundi, Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique and Rwanda; and the African Union Commission’s commissioner for rural economy and agriculture.

Karen Brooks, director of the CGIAR research program on Policies, Institutions, and Markets, spoke on markets, policies, and social systems, looking at how certain policies, inclusive institutions, and access to markets can improve food security, create jobs, and raise incomes, particularly for smallholder producers and women. Noting that Africa’s agricultural growth matters not only for Africa, but for global food security, Brooks praised a stronger partnership between Australia and Africa for “bringing relevant technologies and new perspectives on policy.”

IFPRI Senior Research Fellow Siwa Msangi gave the keynote address, setting the scene on what the future holds for African agriculture, what the drivers for these changes are, and what different approaches are needed to boost food security on the continent.

According to Msangi, who is leading a foresight-related project for the center, African agriculture is moving toward a period of both increased challenges and opportunities, experiencing rapid economic development and urbanization, volatile markets, and increasing environmental stress. He expects the importance of intra-regional trade to continue to grow, especially if regional trade policies are liberalized and progress towards regional trade partnerships is maintained. Growing agribusiness interests will also continue to shape food value chains..

IFPRI has a long-standing relationship with the Australian government and its research centers, dating from the time of its first board chair, world-renowned Australian economist Sir John Crawford, who later designed the CGIAR Consortium, of which IFPRI is a member. Said Brooks, “We in the CGIAR system welcome the launch of the Australian International Food Security Center and look forward to working with it and our African partners.”