Food Systems Research

Theme Lead

Stephen Whitfield – University of Leeds

Theme Overview

Through cross-disciplinary research involving academic, policy and industry partners in the UK and Africa, we are building a comprehensive picture of present day agriculture and food systems in Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia.

By drawing together existing knowledge of the opportunities and challenges for climate-smart agriculture, and the broader policy and institutional environments at play, our research outcomes provide a basis for envisioning and evaluating possible futures for agriculture and food systems.

Through partnerships with in-country stakeholders, our interdisciplinary research is being used as evidence to inform and influence policy development at sub-national and national levels, helping countries build resilience to future climate change while working towards food and nutrition security for all.

This collaborative research also incorporates training and capacity building amongst UK and African scholars.

Research Areas

We are co-developing and carrying out research that incorporates agronomy, climate science, ecology, social science, political science, plant science, and food science and nutrition. Examples of research areas include:

  • Analysing the impact of conservation agriculture practices on soil and crop health in Malawi
  • Evaluating the skill of climate models in simulating observed climates, and tailoring seasonal weather forecasts to agricultural decision making
  • Assessing key drivers and determinants of food loss and aflatoxins and evaluating impact on nutrition and health
  • Evaluating the climate resilience of seed systems and exploring ways to incorporate climate model information within crop breeding
  • Exploring the opportunities and costs associated with crop diversification and oil seeds production and processing in Zambia
  • Analysing land management and agricultural landscape structure on vulnerability to crop pests and disease
  • Evaluating processes of farm-level innovation in the context of agricultural development programmes


Soil health is food wealth

As the climate warms, extreme weather of droughts, floods and high temperatures are affecting agriculture, threatening food security in Africa. Smallholder farmers are barely able to put food on the table as they work on exhausted soils that only produce poor crop…

Continue Reading Soil health is food wealth

Work Packages
  • WP1: Climate Smart Food Systems (CSFS) Policy Evaluation and Evidence based Enhancement and Trialling in Malawi, South Africa, Tanzania and Zambia
  • WP2: Evaluation of CA Interventions in Maize-based systems of central and southern Malawi
  • WP3: Characterising and Evaluating models of climate-smart agriculture and food system (CSAFS) innovation and intervention in Tanzania
  • WP4: Assessing key drivers and determinants of food loss, aflatoxins, and impact on nutrition and health in Africa
  • WP5: Crop Breeding and Seed Systems for Climate Change Adaptation in Zambia and South Africa
  • WP6: Ecological and economic flows between commercial and smallholder agriculture in South Africa
  • WP7: Root system architecture and rhizosphere interactions for climate-smart agriculture in Malawi and Tanzania
  • WP8: Climate Science for AFRICAP