Why does agricultural research often fall short of addressing food insecurity challenges in sub-Saharan Africa? In this conversation with Ken Giller, we explore this wicked problem from a systems perspective examining the diverse drivers and experiences of smallholder farmers and the socio-ecological systems in which they are embedded.
Ken provides a nuanced look at agroecological solutions and argues that relying solely on nature-based solutions would be inadequate to address food security problems in Africa. We also talk about the huge diversity of farmers that can be found under the banner of smallholders, an in-depth examination of the “yield gap,” and what gets lost when translating research into practice.
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About Ken Giller
Ken Giller is professor of Plant Production Systems at WUR within the Centre for Agroecology and Systems Analysis for nearly 20 years. He is a former professor of soil science at University of Zimbabwe, with extensive experience in tropical farming systems in Africa, S and SE Asia, and Latin America. Over the 25 years, Ken has been focusing on smallholder farming in sub-Saharan Africa. He is currently co-chairing an eDialogue - What future for small-scale farming? with Foresight4Food in his capacity of co-Chair of the “Sustainable Agriculture and Food Systems” network of the UN-Sustainable Development Solutions Network.
Ken was a project leader of N2AFRICA, a large scale, science-based “research-in-development” project focused on ‘Putting nitrogen fixation to work for smallholder farmers growing legume crops in Africa’, which was funded by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
Ken published The Food Security Conundrum of sub-Saharan Africa in the journal of Global Food Security in November 2020.
Background reading and resources