FAO and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam’s South-South and Triangular Cooperation Initiative for Sustainable Global Food Systems

November 24, 2023

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam (VU Amsterdam) are partnering under the umbrella of the “South-South and Triangular Cooperation (SSTC)” framework. This alliance aims to unite scholars from African and European universities within a shared network, to tackle challenges and identify opportunities within the food systems landscape.

The primary focus of this collaboration is to advance evidence-based higher education and research initiatives. The anticipated result of this initiative is the enhancement of curricula in food systems and climate change, incorporating contemporary theoretical frameworks alongside evidence-based practical education.

The SSTC network currently involves academics from diverse disciplines across Benin, Ghana, Uganda, Kenya, South Africa, Spain, Slovenia, and the Netherlands.

Recognizing the important potential of this initiative, Mr Nafis Khan, Senior Programme Officer of the South-South and Triangular Cooperation Division of FAO stated: “This joint initiative will contribute to mobilizing academic knowledge and information resources to develop capacities, stimulate innovative research, share and disseminate knowledge and experience in selected African countries in the field of food and nutrition security”.

This past summer marked a significant milestone for the SSTC network, as academics from all partner universities convened for the first time at VU Amsterdam. They explored commonalities, identified potential areas of collaboration, and laid the foundation for the enhancement of courses in the respective higher education institutes.

Prof. Saa Dittoh, an adjunct professor of food systems at the University for Development Studies in Ghana emphasized the holistic approach of the SSTC initiative, stating: “The interdisciplinary SSTC Network is charting a holistic path for practical sustainable food system agenda for Africa; indigenous as well as scientific knowledge are being woven together for the enrichment of our curricula”.

In October, the network reconvened virtually to review progress and strategically plan the next steps in their collective journey. The second physical workshop, in March 2024, at Mbarara University for Science and Technology in Uganda, will focus on Real Life Learning Labs as tools for student learning beyond the classroom.

VU Amsterdam, and in particular the Centre for International Cooperation (CIS-VU), has over 50 years of experience fostering international collaborations between the university and the global south. Dr Denyse Snelder, the interim- director of CIS-VU and coordinator of the SSTC initiative, recognises significant potential in this network, stating: “We’re already witnessing numerous ideas for collaboration on evidence-based education on food systems transformation, including new proposals, emerging from the SSTC initiative, aligning perfectly with our intended outcomes for this network.”

The integration of African universities into a unified network represents a pioneering strategy in collectively addressing global challenges. Through the dedication of the partner universities to evidence-based research and higher education, the SSTC network can contribute to a more sustainable and resilient future for global food systems.