ROA in its origins was setup up to do research and offer support to researchers, in addition to carrying out intervention projects. The organization has been conducting and supporting research for over 30 years on the ground in Kenya and subsequently has been able to build a vibrant influential network of farmer groups, government agencies, scientists and other groups undertaking a variety of food security and nutrition activities in the field in Kenya.
Research institutions and private sector innovators can link to this network through ROA.
ROA’s work is also linked to AJFAND (African Journal of Food, Agriculture, Nutrition and Development) started in the year 2001 by Prof Ruth Oniang’o, Africa Food Prize winner and founder of ROA, to provide an avenue for sharing scientific findings as well as a mentoring platform for young African scholars and others interested in Africa’s food and nutrition issues. Prof Oniang’o is the Editor-in-Chief of AJFAND, the journal is Open Access and reaches the entire globe.
Latest research from ROA
ROA was started as an Action Research Project in 1985- dubbed “the Mumias Project” out of Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology (JKUAT) by Professor Ruth Oniang’o. The project sought to determine the food and nutrition situation in sugarcane growing areas surrounding the Mumias Sugar Company. Money from the cash crop had transformed the area with private schools, private hospitals, tarmacked roads, and improved housing. However, 10 years later, statistics showed a high prevalence of food insecurity, household poverty, and child malnutrition, and so intervention was needed.
ROA, then ROP, leveraged on local strengths to mobilize resources to empower smallholder farmers (majority women) for the realization of good health, improved family incomes, environmental protection, and enhanced literacy levels.
To date, ROA has embraced an NGO-Researcher (NGO-R) partnership model in order to link the intellectual capacities at the universities to smallholders who need it the most. This NGO-R relationship ensures that research is relevant to the intended beneficiaries by collaborating, interacting and sharing throughout the research stages.
A development approach based on mutual trust and respect:
ROA’s development approach is based on mutual respect and trust with those we work with. Farmers are introduced to new technologies, are allowed to test them out and give their feedback. Farmers do not expect to receive hand-outs; they understand that successful technologies will be later available for them to purchase. Because of the long history of ROA working in the region, farmer groups are willing to experiment with new methods of solving problems and to evaluate new technologies. There is a culture of ownership of ideas and results. There is an appreciation also that farmers know a lot, a fact that is often not acknowledged or appreciated. We work in an environment of mutual respect.
ROA hosts students and researchers from local (Kenyan) universities, and internationally from Europe and the USA, who are attached to us for a number of months for field experience required for graduation, and/or to gather data for a project. They are assisted by our able field staff to collect data and other research fieldwork. They are mentored by Prof Ruth Oniang’o who acts as their resident supervisor and guide. The students’ work is then published in AJFAND and other publications. So far, ROA has mentored 42 interns: 19 male and 23 female, from Kenya and abroad.