Bridging the science-policy gap through the Climate and Agriculture Network for Africa

Posted by , posted on Monday August 17 2015(3 years ago)

By Solomon Kilungu, Catherine Mungai and Vivian Atakos

Arbitrators have to listen to both sides of an argument in order to solve an issue. For a long time, researchers have felt that policy makers in Africa do not use the scientific evidence they generate to make informed decisions. On the other hand, policy makers have also felt that the information is not packaged in a clear way and is not easily accessible.


The CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), East Africa, together with Pamoja Media Africa recently held discussions with stakeholders on how to reach decision makers in Africa with information on climate science and agriculture. The online discussion, held on 12 August 2015, brought together researchers, policy makers and development practitioners among other groups of people to learn more about the Climate and Agriculture Network for Africa (CANA).

CANA is a knowledge sharing web based platform which brings together policy makers, researchers and practitioners within climate science and agriculture who are seeking to build resilience within African agriculture. The platform ensures timely sharing and access to information by all partners involved. Currently, the CANA platform has 28 registered network organizations but the number is expected to grow. Key themes include:

  • Climate-smart agriculture
  • Building resilience to climate change
  • Low emissions development
  • Financing climate adaptation
  • Gender and equity
  • Policies for adaptation

Webinar: Bringing Scientists and Policy Makers Together

The hour long webinar, attracted up to 88 registrants interested in learning more about the platform. To kick start the discussions, Dr. James Kinyangi, the CCAFS East Africa program leader explained the rationale for the development of CANA.

“Many organizations, CCAFS included, are now focusing on strengthening partnerships for policy outcomes in African countries. For instance, CCAFS has been supporting the African Group of Negotiators within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) process by availing scientific evidence. This has enabled these decision makers to effectively understand and articulate the impacts of climate change on agriculture and also to communicate the risks associated in terms of extreme events”.

He emphasized that CANA seeks to increase collaboration amongst institutions to ensure evidence-informed policies for increased investments in climate resilient food systems across Africa. The website has a forum page where registered participants can engage in moderated discussions. To sign up click here.

What do policy makers think about research?

Representing the policy makers, Victor Orindi from the Kenya National Drought Management Authority (NDMA) emphasized the importance of knowledge in the policy making process.

“The justification of decisions can only be done from a well-informed point and this is why researchers, scientists and policy makers have to collaborate. There are many challenges that come with climate change and in order to have informed and well-meaning interventions, it is important that policy makers have clear, timely and relevant information”.

He further posed the following questions to researchers who want to put out information that would help in the policy making process:

  • What is the value of the research you are conducting?
  • Policy making is a process. At what point should research come in?
  • How relevant is the material you are sharing? Is it presented in a clear and concise manner?
  • Is the information accessible?

Victor emphasized the need to incorporate feedback mechanisms so that one is able to communicate on use of the research or any gaps.

Question and answer session

During the session, participants raised a number of questions which included:

  • Does the CANA forum provide a space for decision-makers to post their questions, so that researchers can address them? Yes, it does. The forum has a number of government agencies as registered members. All members can post questions on relevant themes and these will be addressed by available experts
  • What structures are effective for linking scientists and policymakers? A number exist. According to Victor Orindi, policy makers look at published work, think-tanks and leading experts as well as on-line sources. Many researchers are still exploring which structures are most effective. We however cannot ignore the role played by information communication tools such as interactive websites like CANA
  • How can CANA and other agriculture, climate change and food security related organizations in Africa engage Diaspora experts in science-policy research? This is very important for creating synergy especially transfer of new technology and knowledge. CANA addresses this gap through the forum page that allows for collaboration.
  • Will a recording of this webinar be available following the presentation? Yes, it’s available via this link.
  • Can members who are not in your list of registered organizations participate in this forum? CANA is open to all organizations be they research, government or development agencies interested in actively sharing information and engaging policymakers.
  • Why has there been no development of CANA in this regard in West Africa and other regions? Efforts are ongoing to include these countries. Currently we are exploring development of a French version of the website in the next 12 months to address language barriers.

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To find out more about CANA visit the homepage.

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