GFAR blog

“Wicked Problems” and the Panama Papers …


If you think the Panama papers  issue is not a “wicked” problem, think again.  While the issue of tax evasion by influential individuals may not appear to affect the average person in the street, ultimately this kind of corruption means there is less available to invest services of public interest, such as research and development dealing with more serious global “wicked” problems.

In her keynote address to GCARD3 Dr Lindiwe Sibanda, of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network  FANRPAN,   said climate change and malnutrition are the biggest wicked problems facing the world today. “Climate change has been dubbed a super wicked problem due to its sheer complexity on a scientific and human dimension level,” Dr Sibanda  explained.

From the 19th to the 21st century, average global temperature has increased by 0.85°C. This change alone results in about 5% decrease in grain yield, and Africa cannot afford such a decline against the background of the already strained agricultural productivity. Since 1990, global carbon dioxide emissions have increased by almost 50%. To survive the effects of climate change, the agricultural sector needs to adapt by being “climate smart”.  The global research community has begun to look at climate smart solutions already.  It has developed a specific program dedicated to climate change, agriculture and food security, Dr Sibanda said. Regional and international initiatives are in place to deal with mitigation and adaption to climate change, creating optimism in our communities. Such initiatives include the Africa Smart Agriculture Alliance and Global Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance.

The second global wicked problem is malnutrition. Globally, 159 million children under 5 years old are stunted.  Fifty million children under five years are categorised as “wasted”, while 16 million are severely wasted.  About two billion people are deficient in key vitamins and minerals. Women and children are  most vulnerable. The agriculture sector can play a significant role in addressing malnutrition. FANRPAN is working to improve nutrition outcomes through its Optimized Agricultural Investments Project. There is scope for reducing under-nutrition in Sub-Saharan Africa by making agriculture investments nutrition-sensitive, Dr Sibanda said. The capability and availability of capacity to re-orient agricultural investments towards realizing positive nutrition benefits is a cause for some optimism. One example is the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program (CAADP) which provides a framework for delivering nutrition and food security programs in Africa.

Unlike with details on offshore bank accounts, research  results will  always be shared publicly for the purposes of scaling. They may not always  be well-communicated, however. In this regard, FANRPAN’s policy engagement pays particular attention to three critical things: the “Message”, the “Messenger” and the “Platform” (MMP).  The “Message” is the research output; the “Messenger” relates the transfer of the Message; while the “Platform” provides  a “safe space” where dialogue and sharing of research outputs can take place.

By attending to these three factors, we can get research and development  results out to those who need it most…. Without having to “leak” it, as if they were secrets, as they did with the Panama Papers…

Blogpost by Khumbulani K. Dhavu, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – DhavuK(at)
Photo courtesy Wikipedia

This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

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