Blog Alliance Science Week 2024 - Think Global, Act Local: insights and summary

Alliance Science Week 2024 – Think Global, Act Local! - Alliance Bioversity International - CIAT

Science Week 2024 LogoIn Nairobi, more than 250 scientists from the Alliance of Bioversity International and CIAT came together for Science Week 2024, from March 5-8th. This annual event is a unique opportunity for our researchers to share their latest knowledge, exchange stories and aspirations that accelerate the impact of the Alliance's projects through cross-pollination.

The focus this year was to "think global, act local", inviting participants to present local innovations to colleagues from across the world who can apply these to their own research. Held in Kenya, we also put a special focus on how our research is contributing to the unique challenges of the African continent. Discover the key insight areas we covered below!

Transforming Food Systems: What Does it Take?

The week kicked off with a thought-provoking session on transforming food systems, challenging our assumptions about research and impact. "Transforming Food Systems - What Does it Take?" set the stage for a week of deep discussions and strategic planning. Dr. Abdou Tenkouano (Director General of ICIPE) delivered a keynote address challenging the conventional wisdom about the relationship between research and impact in food systems. He emphasized the need to move beyond good research and address the broader factors that influence change. The session aimed to debunk myths and assumptions while identifying key research priorities for the next decade to support transformational change in African food systems.  

Alliance Science Week 2024

Dr. Tenkouano emphasized the essence of the session by stating that, "Transforming food systems requires us to think beyond traditional research paradigms and embrace a more holistic approach that considers the broader societal and environmental factors at play." 

The Directors of the Alliance's research areas ("levers") also shared their strategic visions on how their research would contribute to food systems transformation, highlighting the creative linkages between levers and their role in supporting holistic transformation.  

Sessions on different approaches by the Alliance

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Understanding Food Systems Transformation

Participants engaged in discussions on the concept of food systems transformation, distinguishing between 'conventional' and 'normative' transformations. Concrete examples of food systems transformations in Africa were presented, highlighting the complexity of the subject and viable solutions to address them. 

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A4IP: Adopting Innovative Partnership Models

Scientists were introduced to the Accelerate for Impact Platform (A4IP), showcasing approaches for ensuring the market viability and long-term impact of research outputs. The session encouraged brainstorming new mechanisms to bring research products to market successfully. 

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Pathways to Change

The session delved into the drivers and outcomes of change in food systems, emphasizing the need for a shared understanding of how all population groups can become catalysts for change. Discussions centered on identifying drivers that incentivize innovations and improve policy decision-making in food systems transformation. 


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Climate-Smart Solutions in Africa

The session highlighted successful outcomes and lessons learned in implementing climate-smart solutions in Africa. Actionable responses to climate change, including climate information services and climate-smart technologies, were discussed as essential for transformative agricultural production systems. 

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Advancing Sustainable Finance 

A session on sustainable finance for agrifood systems transformation showcased Alliance innovations in facilitating technical assistance across sustainable finance decision-making. The focus was on reducing information asymmetries between investors and investees, thus derisking investments and increasing the flow of capital into the agrifood sector. 

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Digital Ecosystem Strategy 

Researchers participated in an interactive workshop to develop a coherent digital strategy for the Alliance. The aim was to position the organization strategically in the digital domain to help shape the transformation of food systems. 

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Coffee and Cacao as Rural Development Crops 

The session focused on the role of smallholder farmers in differentiating their products to access higher prices and escape poverty. Challenges in product differentiation and unmet market demand for deforestation-free cacao and coffee were discussed, highlighting the need for viable and just solutions. 

The week concluded with a staff mingle dinner, providing an opportunity for participants to unwind and connect after engaging activities. Alliance Science Week 2024 was a resounding success, showcasing the Alliance's commitment to transforming food systems in Africa. 

Healthy Landscapes for Sustainable Food Systems and Wellbeing 

The session on healthy landscapes delved into the critical need to transform agriculture and food production systems to ensure sustainability and support thriving communities and a healthy planet. Discussions emphasized the importance of promoting regenerative agricultural systems, agroforestry, and nature-based solutions that restore ecosystem functioning. The session highlighted the following key areas of discussion: 

  • Creating/Developing Multifunctionality: Participants discussed methodologies effective at integrating nature-based solutions, emphasizing ecosystem thinking and whole-system design to promote soil health, biodiversity, and ecosystem restoration. 

  • Socio-Ecological, Institutional, and Policy Conditions: The session highlighted the necessity of favorable conditions to succeed in restoring functional agroecosystems, including supportive policies, institutions, and socio-ecological environments. 

  • Incentives and Innovative Finance: Participants explored the need to design incentives and innovative finance mechanisms (business models) to sustain multifunctionality in agricultural landscapes. 

The session aimed to enhance understanding and collaboration to accelerate the scaling of nature-based solutions, promoting healthy landscapes, sustainable food systems, and improved livelihoods and wellbeing.