Knowledge sharing to improve the sustainability of food systems in West Africa: Lessons learned from the Food Systems Caravan


  • Fernando Sousa Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Switzerland
  • Claudia Zingerli Head, ETH Sustainability, Switzerland
  • Sètchémè Charles Bertrand Pomalegni Institut National des Recherches Agricoles du Bénin (INRAB), Benin


Food Systems caravan, Knowledge sharing, Agroecology, Sustainability of Food Systems, Research for Development


Knowledge sharing and co-creation for application offer pathways for the multidimensional challenges of food systems in West Africa which are to date still largely underexplored. They have the potential for the emergence of effective communities of practice to tackle some of the serious threats West African food systems face today, some of which are rooted in long-term exploitation by internal and external colonial and post-colonial powers. The Food Systems Caravan project ( sought to break knowledge barriers among the different stakeholders and generations of West African food systems. The project brought together policy makers, researchers, farmers, extension officers, students, NGOs and other stakeholders in a series of events to promote learning, knowledge sharing and dialogue in Mali, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Benin and Nigeria for a shared understanding of the challenges and solutions to West Africa food systems.The experience of the Food Systems Caravan showed that participatory knowledge sharing methods empower local and national players, enhance cross-learning and activate stakeholder networks. The project explored and experimented with innovative multimedia and incentivising approaches to development work that could be replicable and used to activate change in a more effective way compared to traditional north-south development efforts.

Author Biographies

Fernando Sousa, Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL), Switzerland

Fernando Sousa has spent over a decade at the Research Institute of Organic Agriculture (FiBL) in Frick, Aargau, Switzerland, contributing to research and consultancy projects focused on organic agriculture techniques in West Africa, particularly in Mali, Burkina Faso, and Benin. As a researcher, he has played a key role in the Systèmes de Production Biologique project, collaborating with farmers and experts to adapt these techniques to local contexts. He has also completed internships and served as a Guest Researcher on Food Systems at the Estoril Conferences in Lisbon, Portugal, where he focused on issues of food security and international trade.

Claudia Zingerli, Head, ETH Sustainability, Switzerland

Claudia Zingerli started as Head ETH Sustainability in June 2022 after previous assignments at ETH Zurich as senior scientist (2002-​2006), education lead of Climate-​KIC Switzerland and lecturer in D-​USYS (2010-​2014). Between 2014 and 2022 she acted as scientific coordinator of the Swiss Programme for Research on Global Issues for Development (r4d) and the Solution-​oriented Research for Development programme, implemented by the Swiss National Science Foundation. She is board member of the Swiss Academic Society of Environmental Research and Ecology. She holds a Master’s degree in geography, social anthropology and economics from the University of Basel, Switzerland, and Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany, and a PhD degree in development studies from the University of East Anglia, UK. In her academic work, she focuses on the political nature of natural resource management as well as the politics of knowledge production in sustainable development.

Sètchémè Charles Bertrand Pomalegni, Institut National des Recherches Agricoles du Bénin (INRAB), Benin

Sètchémè Charles Bertrand Pomalegni is a researcher affiliated with the National Institute of Agricultural Research (INRAB), Benin, specializing in animal and fish production. His expertise spans various disciplines including agricultural engineering, agroecology, dissemination, food security, food systems, insect for animal feed, international network, organic resources for soil enhancement, and research for development. He has been actively involved as an applicant in the Capitalization of Agroecological Research Evidence from the r4d programme in West Africa (CARE r4d) grant. His research interests include food systems, research for development, insect for animal feed, organic resources for soil enhancement, and West Africa.


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