Building Capacity to Undertake Food Systems Research in Ethiopia

FSHD MSc workshop attendees gather in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia.

Using a food systems lens to characterize linkages between food policy, food production, consumer choices, behaviors, and, ultimately, diets and nutrition outcomes is a new approach. A4NH's Food Systems for Healthier Diets (FSHD) flagship has initiated a series of activities in Ethiopia to better understand the interactive components of Ethiopia's food system.

The Ethiopian FSHD research program, officially launched in February 2017, aims to lay the foundations for in-depth, action-oriented food systems research by building strong collaboration with national partners. To build capacity within the field of food systems research, A4NH released a call for Ethiopian MSc students to submit research proposals that address two or more components of the Ethiopian food system. Proposals were screened by a panel made up of both A4NH and Ethiopian researchers. Five students, representing three universities within Ethiopia, were selected to receive MSc research grants. Their research topics range from cultural and social determinants of diet and consumption patterns in rural households in Ethiopia to the nutritional quality, food safety, and consumer preference of vegetables grown in aquaponic systems in Ethiopia.

A4NH, hosted by the Ethiopian Public Health Institute, convened a two-day training workshop in January 2018 to further boost understanding of food systems research, improve the first round of MSc research designs, and provide further information to institutions wishing to participate in subsequent calls for food systems research. The objectives of the workshop were to gain a better understanding of food systems approaches for applied research, to explore innovative research methods/technologies for application in food systems and diet research, and to discuss and strengthen 2018 MSc proposals selected in the A4NH small grants program. The training was attended by 34 participants from various institutes.

The MSc grant program is an important component of our Food Systems work in Ethiopia," noted Dr. Gina Kennedy, Senior Scientist with Bioversity International and FSHD researcher. "Not only are we providing an opportunity for these students to deepen their work in this critical area, but we're also learning from them and building valuable connections with these national universities who are educating the next generation of researchers."

The first group of student grant recipients are expected to submit their MSc theses toward the end of 2018 and it is anticipated that a second call for proposals will be initiated thereafter.