The effect of fostering partnerships on broadening the food base: the role of cactus pear, an underutilised crop with unlimited potential - the South African perspective

S.L. Venter, H.J. Fouché, M. De Wit, S. Mavengahama, G.M. Coetzer, W.J. Swart, E.O. Amonsou
The complexity of challenges to ensure sustainable food security and reduction of the impact of food production on the environment calls for more innovation in agriculture. The need to innovate emphasises the need for partnerships and joint ventures that will enable the role-players in agricultural value chains to ensure a sustainable agricultural sector. South Africa experiences significant socioeconomic challenges, including poverty, high unemployment rates, food insecurity and economic decline. These are compounded by adverse climatic factors. The effect of declining water resources, extended droughts, increased desertification and climate change on food security and economic growth prompted the South African government to develop policies and strategies that are targeted towards coordinated, multi-disciplinary, -institutional and -sectoral responses to critical national priorities. These priorities include job creation, skills and enterprise development, poverty alleviation, and food and nutrition security. Aligned to these strategies, the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) acknowledged the importance of strategic partnerships for the development of appropriate solutions. The objective was to establish a collaboration centre on broadening the food base with the purpose of ensuring the availability of a wide range of nutritious crops. The methodology was to develop new/novel crops, food products and ingredients for enterprise development, value chains, income generation and job creation. The necessity for researchers to collaborate in addressing these complex problems is of overriding importance. By bringing expertise from various disciplines and organisations together and leveraging other important networks and partners at both national and international levels, the benefits of greater returns within agricultural value chains will be realised. Cactus pear (Opuntia ficus-indica and Opuntia robusta) is increasingly becoming an important food, forage, cosmeceutical and nutraceutical crop in South Africa. It is a drought-tolerant crop used for a diverse range of applications. It was originally used mainly as a source of animal feed, but recent interest in its other potential uses saw the crop establish itself as an important multi-purpose crop, which opened up opportunities for the smallholder farming sector. Cactus pear was identified as a priority crop for research and development for the collaboration centre on broadening the food base. The purpose of this paper is to discuss the collaboration involved in developing this multi-functional crop within the context of the Sub-Sahara Africa Region Framework for Cactus Pear Research and Development. The establishment of the collaboration centre provided a sound foundation on which further partnerships could be explored and developed. Valuable lessons were learnt concerning the maintenance of multi-disciplinary research teams and challenges for the development and establishment of new value chains for new crops in a country.
Venter, S.L., Fouché, H.J., De Wit, M., Mavengahama, S., Coetzer, G.M., Swart, W.J. and Amonsou, E.O. (2019). The effect of fostering partnerships on broadening the food base: the role of cactus pear, an underutilised crop with unlimited potential - the South African perspective. Acta Hortic. 1247, 237-244
DOI: 10.17660/ActaHortic.2019.1247.32
multi-purpose, collaboration consortium, food security, malnutrition, climate change, drought, poverty, Opuntia

Acta Horticulturae