Professor Ben Bennett is the Deputy Director of the Natural Resources Institute, University of Greenwich, United Kingdom. He is a Marketing Economist with a particular interest in postharvest losses and their impact on incomes in developing countries. He has undertaken consultancy and research in over 30 countries working on a wide range of agricultural commodities including cereals and legumes. Ben is also known for his work on value chain analysis and the economics of Aflatoxin contamination.
NRI is actively involved in PAEPARD and that is how Ben Bennett became involved in this FANRPAN-led ULP project. During the first 2 years, Dr Bruno Tran, postharvest specialist at NRI was in charge of the project and had helped in developing the experimental design. “By doing science and producing publications, we have added to the stock of knowledge that helps farmers to deal with the challenges of Aflatoxin in groundnut” explained Ben. Through this project, NRI has also supported the capacity strengthening of an early career African researcher from the Lilongwe University of Agriculture and Natural Resource said Ben.
Building adaptive capacity to continuously innovate in a field in transformation
Practices to reduce aflatoxin contamination were tested and developed through research protocols which were implemented together with farmers and agricultural advisory services. Nevertheless, market and processes changes occurred; farmers grow new varieties that are different from those they were growing at the beginning of the project. Thus, learnings and capacity built through this project are essential especially for non-research actors to become resilient to new and emerging challenges related to aflatoxin contamination. The project has identified that a commonly recommended postharvest drying practice, the so-called ‘Mandela Cock’ method, actually increases the likelihood of aflatoxin contamination. It has emerged that this technology was promoted without its impacts on aflatoxin contamination being tested. “This is an important lesson for all of us trying to introduce new technologies in Africa. Following this research we expect practices to change and innovations to be tested more carefully before dissemination” he concluded.
A good start leads to a strong European- African partnership.
Prof. Bennett recognises that in this type of project a gap exists between the project proposal sent to the donor and the implementation phase. “In this gap all things can change; the staff changes, the relationships too, so you really need to sit and develop it in more depth” he explained. For him, there is need to introduce a new step after winning the grant funding and before beginning the project that will lead to more robust result. This step should help actors to define how they are going to implement the research and clarify the balance between European and African actors involved. He described further, “Putting together a concept for partnership is one aspect but planning to implement the research project is the way you develop the relationships and achieve the real partnership and the gains”.
In 2011, PAEPARD launched the Users’ Led Process (ULP) to better articulate users’ needs in a multi-stakeholder research and innovation partnership. FANRPAN has implemented the process and expanded their international partnerships. In 2014, the first ULP-consortium led by FARNPAN developed a project proposal on “Stemming Aflatoxin Pre- and Post- Harvest waste in the Groundnut Value Chain (GNVC) in Malawi and Zambia” which was funded through the PAEPARD Competitive Research Fund (CRF).
Dr Ben Bennett, European researcher has accepted to share his experience in this multi-stakeholder African–EU research and innovation partnership with EFARD in the following interview.
Professor Ben Bennett shares his experience in the PAEPARD Aflatoxin consortium
Consortium- CRF project
Project leader: Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN)
National Smallholder Farmers’ Association of Malawi (NASFAM)
Eastern Province Farmers’ Cooperatives (EPFC) Limited
Department of Agricultural Research Services (DARS)
Zambia Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI)
Natural Resources Institute (NRI), University of Greenwich
Learn more about
The research project