Registration will open soon for the third annual ANH Academy Week and, having attended the 2016 and 2017 conferences, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, and Kathmandu, Nepal, respectively, I could not be more pleased to see 2018 bring this exceptional gathering back to Africa. This conference has so much to offer those interested in agriculture, nutrition, and health, and this June’s meeting in Accra, Ghana, promises to be the best one yet.
Those of us who work in agriculture, nutrition, and health must think in a multidisciplinary way, but few conferences are structured this way. ANH Academy’s approach, from the Learning Labs portion of the week through the three-day symposium, are designed specifically to meet this need. This is indeed coming at a time when many low and middle-income counties, including at least 39 in Africa, have embraced a multisectoral approach to addressing the multiple nutrition problems being faced.
In the Learning Labs, one can actually LEARN. You are provided the menu of lab options prior to arrival, so you have a chance to think through what you want your learning experience to be, and plan ahead for those sessions. It is important to choose carefully and think about which ones will really add value to your career. The learning doesn’t end when the session does, either: with the Labs at the beginning of the week, attendees can follow up with presenters throughout the symposium as the week continues. The opportunities to network are tremendous.
As the Week continues, the Symposium brings scientific presentations followed by robust discussions, which give you not only a glimpse of the rigor of the methodology addressed by the presentation, but also different views on it. Sometimes there’s disagreement, but this adds additional opportunities to learn from one another.
One incredible benefit of the ANH Academy Week structure is that there are no parallel sessions during the Symposium. So often, conference attendees are forced to choose between several sessions that interest them, because they share a time slot. ANH Academy has made a deliberate decision to run a single plenary, so that everyone can learn from everything everyone else has to say.
Both the Symposium and the Learning Labs change, of course, from year to year, but sometimes previous topics will come up again with new lessons to learn from recent evidence. The Sustainable Diets Game during the Learning Labs is my favorite example of this. In 2016, I participated in the game as a judge. Based on the experience at ANH Academy Week, the presenters worked on the game, incorporated feedback and improving it. In 2017, when I judged again, you could see the difference, and following that iteration, the presenters took it one step further: they encouraged attendees to use it and adapt it for their own situations. I have seen it at conferences since, and have adapted it myself for a training workshop in Ethiopia. The learning is a two-way street, as the sustainable diets team encouraged me to adapt it for my needs, and then I, in turn, provide them feedback for future improvements and refinements. I can’t wait to see how it is presented at Academy Week this year.
To me, this is the beauty of the Learning Labs, and the entire ANH Academy Week: people not only learn for themselves, but also take lessons away to share with others. The potential to engage for participants from academic institutions and development organizations is an important aspect to promote professional growth across the board. In Africa there is a great need to attain higher standards of generating high-quality research data, and ANH Academy Week offers an opportunity to work towards meeting this vast need.
Namukolo Covic is the Senior Research Coordinator for the CGIAR Research Program on Agriculture for Nutrition and Health (A4NH) and Country Coordinator for Ethiopia. She was a keynote speaker at ANH Academy Week in 2017.
More about ANH Academy Week:
The ANH Academy Week is a series of annual events that bring together the community of researchers and users of research (practitioners and policymakers) working at the intersection of agriculture, nutrition and health.
The objective of the ANH Academy Week series is to foster knowledge exchange, innovation and learning around ANH research.
The ANH Academy Week consists of two interlinked components:
1) Learning Labs - a series of training sessions in interdisciplinary agriculture, nutrition and health research;
2) Research Conference - an abstract-driven symposium featuring oral presentations, poster sessions and keynotes speeches, as well as plenary round tables, side events and working group discussions.