The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa has been working to strengthen the capacities of Africa’s national and regional agricultural research systems since 2002. With actions concentrating particularly on smallholders and pastoral enterprises, the aim is to improve productivity, competitiveness and markets, and contribute to poverty reduction through sustainable growth and improved livelihoods.
The Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) was created to develop the overall strategic framework that African countries need to acquire the capacity for agricultural innovation. Its aims are to:
- Promote pan-African agricultural research for development through enhanced support from national governments, development partners, and the private sector;
- Promote and strengthen effective and efficient Sub-Regional Organisations (SROs) and national agricultural research systems (NARS);
- Facilitate the exchange of agricultural technologies, knowledge and the creation of partnerships between regional organisations, the private sector, farmers and producers in Africa;
- Support relevant and cost-effective African regional research programmes;
- To catalyse agricultural technology and knowledge dissemination.
Its main actions are:
- Advocacy of the role of agricultural research;
- Promotion of partnerships and strategic alliances;
- Accelerating the sharing of knowledge;
- Stimulating the development and dissemination of new technologies and methodologies in natural resource management, genetic resource management and biotechnology;
- Stimulating policy and market development.
Since it was established in 2002, FARA has developed a number of African-wide initiatives that have the potential to greatly enhance African capacity for innovation in agriculture.
- At the political level, it has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the African Union, strengthened its relationship with the New Partnership for Africa's Development (NEPAD), crucially in drafting key elements of its Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP), including responsibility for pillar 4 on agricultural research.
- It has convened a large number of workshops, consultations and conferences to enhance Africa’s agricultural innovation capacity. FARA developed the consultations for the Framework for African Agricultural Productivity (FAAP), which presents principles for the evolution of Africa’s agricultural productivity programmes, an initiative linked to CAADP.
- During the last five years the sub-regional research organisations have gained considerably in strength, and have shifted implementation away from fixed networks to a more flexible approach using responsive networking, along principles developed by FARA.
- FARA’s advocacy has helped to encourage national and governments to invest more in agricultural research and development. Between 2000 and 2004, average investment in agricultural R&D increased from about 2% to about 4% of national budgets.
- This increased further in many countries following the Maputo declaration, in which African governments pledged to increase investment in agriculture to 10% of national budgets. Leading the African countries is Mali, which allocated up to 14% of its total budget to agriculture during 2006.
- In addition, FARA has developed and mobilised resources for the implementation of the Sub-Saharan Africa Challenge Programme (SSA-CP). FARA also commissioned an assessment of NARS capacities which led to the development of the programme for Strengthening Capacity for Agricultural Research and Development in Africa (SCARDA).