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Investing in Knowledge: IDRC and The Rockefeller Foundation Launch New Research Partnership to Improve Food Systems in East Africa

NAIROBI, November 23, 2020

The Rockefeller Foundation and IDRC are pleased to announce a new five-year, CA$11-million research funding partnership. “Catalyzing change for healthy and sustainable food systems” aims to improve quality of life for low-income and vulnerable people in East Africa who face the double burden of malnutrition and environmental threats like climate change.

The partnership will look at ways to improve understanding of the complex interplay between the market competitiveness of different foods, individual and household vulnerabilities, and drivers of food purchasing habits in East Africa. Specifically, funded research will aim to equip policymakers with clear evidence on which policies and interventions promote greater consumer interest in purchasing nutritious and sustainable food, and by extension, contribute to healthier and more sustainable food systems.

Building on the collective experience of IDRC’s and The Rockefeller Foundation’s investments in research in low- and middle-income countries, this partnership will support researchers and stakeholders in East Africa to build more equitable and sustainable food systems while promoting healthy diets. The research funded through this initiative will be high quality, interdisciplinary, and accessible. It will also be driven by local expertise and rooted in principles of social and gender equity, cultural sensitivity, and economic viability.

Learn more about Catalyzing change for healthy and sustainable food systems.

Our food systems are failing to protect and promote human health and the health of our planet, and the most vulnerable communities are disproportionately affected. Through this partnership with IDRC, we aim to build and leverage research to build healthy, equitable and sustainable food systems and increase demand and consumption of protective diets in East Africa.
— William Asiko, Managing Director for the Africa Regional Office of The Rockefeller Foundation

African agriculture is significantly impacted by climate change, and those pressures will only increase. Without significant global action to reduce carbon emissions and improve the climate resilience of food production, Africa faces severe threats to its food security. We need fresh thinking to transform current systems to deliver healthy, nutritious, and diverse foods—both affordably and sustainably.
— Kathryn Toure, Regional Director, Eastern and Southern Africa, International Development Research Centre

  • Over the past five decades, global food systems and human dietary patterns have changed substantially, shifting from traditional diets predominantly composed of healthier, minimally processed foods towards diets loaded with ultra-processed foods.
  • These dietary patterns are primary contributors to the rampant rise in global malnutrition and diet-related, non-communicable diseases like obesity. Currently, 14% of deaths in East Africa are attributable to individual dietary risks. If this trend is left unchecked, by 2030 it is estimated that deaths from diet-related diseases will surpass deaths from infectious diseases.
  • Transitions to unhealthy and unsustainable diets have not only increased the burden of obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases but have also contributed to environmental degradation and climate change.
  • “Catalyzing change for healthy and sustainable food systems” will support policymakers and other stakeholders in East Africa (initially Ethiopia, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania, and Uganda) to build more equitable, sustainable food systems while promoting healthy diets.
  • Funded research will look at ways to improve our understanding of the interplay between the market competitiveness of different foods, individual and household vulnerabilities, and drivers of food purchasing habits in East Africa.

About the International Development Research Centre

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) funds research in developing countries to promote growth, reduce poverty, and drive large-scale positive change. We support leading thinkers who advance knowledge and solve practical development problems. We provide the resources, advice, and training they need to implement and share their solutions with those who need them most. In short, IDRC increases opportunities — and makes a real difference in people’s lives.

About The Rockefeller Foundation

The Rockefeller Foundation’s mission—unchanged since 1913—is to promote the well-being of humanity throughout the world. Today the Foundation advances new frontiers of science, data, policy, and innovation to solve global challenges related to health, food, power, and economic mobility. As a science-driven philanthropy focused on building collaborative relationships with partners and grantees, The Rockefeller Foundation seeks to inspire and foster large-scale human impact that promotes the well-being of humanity by identifying and accelerating breakthrough solutions, ideas and conversations.

Angela Baiya, International Development Research Centre (Eastern and Southern Africa Office)

Communications and Media Relations Advisor

+254 709 074 421


Joslyne Muthoni, Africa Practice (for The Rockefeller Foundation)

+254 711 432 364