From Lusaka to Windhoek – A story of Hope and Perseverance

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Yaoundé Cameroon, August 29th 2022.

Strengthening Africa’s food system through increased productivity, climate resilience and adaptation will be in the spotlight when stakeholders meet in Windhoek for the 9th Annual ReNAPRI Stakeholders Conference, writes Alphonse Akouyu, who adds that the Conference will also be an opportunity to celebrate ReNAPRI at 10.

The great French Novelist Marcel Proust is quoted to have said in one of his writings “The real voyage of discovery consists not only of seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes”. The words of this French literary maestro must have been the driving motivation for the creation of an African organization capable of responding to the ever growing and changing needs of agricultural research in the continent. What started off as a convening of like-minded research centers, for the purposes of sharing data and best practices on issues affecting African agriculture, resulted in the birth of the Regional Network of Agricultural Policy Research Institutes (ReNAPRI). Did the grouping have any idea that 10 years later, that mustard seed would germinate into a tree? It all began one fine morning in 2012 in Lusaka, Zambia, when representatives from leading national agricultural policy research institutes decided to come together and form an institution with a mission to play an active role in transforming Africa’s agricultural sector. This would be done by developing the capacity of national agricultural policy research Institutes in the continent, and strengthening and nurturing dynamic collaboration, towards providing objective and innovative policy advice to national, regional and continental level stakeholders, through effective outreach.

ReNAPRI’s strong mission was designed to attain a powerful vision to become a dynamic Pan-African network of universally recognized national agricultural policy research institutes that generate relevant and high-quality evidence, to guide and inform effective policy decisions that promote sustainable solutions across the continent.  Indeed, your network is your net worth so says Porter Gale. Therefore, Chinua Achebe was right when he said “When we gather together in the moonlit village ground it is not because of the moon. Every man can see it in his own compound. We come together because it is good for kinsmen to do so.” These pioneering kinsmen may have understood the message of Porter Gale and Chinua Achebe, and hence their unwavering desire and commitment to an institution, which could be the moonlit village ground for promoting innovative and sustainable solutions to the current day challenges in Africa’s food system.

One lesson that we have learnt from the COVID-19 pandemic is the need to collaborate and share knowledge on common issues affecting the continent’s communal growth. So, what is capable of being a solution to a problem in Ghana might not be replicated in Zambia, but could be adapted to be a starting point to resolving that problem. ReNAPRI’s forefathers envisioned a continent where local research (with the support of national governments, development partners and other collaborators) is capable of solving local problems, while country experts are at the center of providing the data and evidence needed to develop policies with a tangible impact. What better forum to promote this than the Annual ReNAPRI Stakeholders Conference. Already in its 9th edition and known for its high-quality deliberations, this year’s conference will focus on the theme ‘Looking Ahead: Strengthening Africa’s food system through increased productivity, climate resilience and adaptation’. And where else could we go for this important reunion than to the land of many faces or the land of the brave warriors depending on which theme you decide to associate with this beautiful country in Southern Africa – Namibia.

The flashlights and news cameras will turn their attention to the Safari Court Hotel and Conference Centre, Windhoek, Namibia from the 1-3rd of November 2022 as both African and International Experts make a case as to why the continent must increase its productivity, develop resilience and adaption strategies to prevent future shocks from having adverse effects on its population. The time for action is now and not tomorrow and so as policy makers, researchers, development partners, civil society and other stakeholders begin this journey to Windhoek, the expectations are clear, we must get it right with whatever white smoke in the form of recommendations which will result from this conclave of leading thinkers and practitioners across the globe! Scheduled to be a two in one affair, Windhoek would also be the venue for ReNAPRI at 10 celebrations with the slogan ‘Celebrating a Decade of Policy Support and Influence in the African Continent’ at the center of deliberations.

At 10 years, ReNAPRI has graduated from an idea to a full-fledged institution with a fully functional Secretariat that has in its cockpit a vastly experienced Zambian who has been around the African agricultural development agenda for a long time. Dr. Nalishebo Meebelo is no stranger to being a pioneer, but the opportunity to lead the ReNAPRI network to this ReNAPRI at 10 celebration is high up her many accolades and one she holds on to with a great passion. Already three years old as a pioneer captain in the Secretariat ship and sailing it towards greater achievements, she tells me that though the journey has been a tough and difficult one there’s no stopping of this ReNAPRI ship, as the organization continues to implement its 2021-2026 Strategic Plan, which was created under her leadership in partnership with Michigan State University. ReNAPRI has benefitted from the tutelage of several development partners which is why Windhoek will also be a moment of thanksgiving and at the same a moment of expansion with at least 4 new African institutions expected to join the network. Furthermore, ReNAPRI has persevered through several storms to get where it is today, and her story can only described as one of hope and perseverance.

The winds of the 9th Annual ReNAPRI Stakeholders Conference are blowing at a very high speed. One of Africa’s leading avenues for meaningful discussions on agricultural development issues is pointing towards Namibia – take note, from the 1-3rd of November 2022 and one of Africa’s leading policy research institutions has a birthday to celebrate. Explore which should therefore be your go to portal for information on how to actively participate in strengthening Africa’s food system through increased productivity, climate resilience and adaptation.