DFID Research Strategy (2008-2013). Consultations in South Africa


This report presents in summary form the findings of the research consultation exercise undertaken in South Africa to inform DFID's research strategy for the period 2008-2013. The exercise entailed one-on-one interviews with 23 opinion leaders in various sectors of the broader research community in South Africa (listed in Annex 1 of the report).

The report documents the viewpoints of the respondents in DFID's four priority themes. It covers both the substantive issues raised in relation to research areas and the creation of an environment which is conducive to the undertaking of useful types of research. Finally, it considers what mechanisms and processes can promote the uptake of research findings in policy work and the integration of research findings into the work of civil society and applied development arena.

Important areas identified for the different research sectors are highlighted below.


  • Assessment of the impact of changes in global and national agriculture over the past 2 decades on small producers
  • Rural production systems (to involve multidisciplinary teams)
  • Improvements in agricultural production
  • Improvements in water security
  • Innovations in water harvesting
  • Development of an agricultural research agenda

The real need identified by respondents for the killer diseases and healthcare theme was to build the capacity of agencies implementing HIV/AIDs and other health related programmes. Respondents noted that South Africa has a rich tradition of research and good experience in identifying research demands and priorities, but that the outputs are not easily accessible to all stakeholders. There are insufficient opportunities to share knowledge or to develop new areas of knowledge. It was considered that funding of larger research projects is better as the administrative costs are lower, there is the possibility of greater contribution to knowledge development, and to developing research capacity. Capacity building is key to a sustainable health research system.

Respondents pointed out that DFID must not duplicate the work being funded by other donors, and that any programmes funded by DFID, e.g. against HIV/AIDs, must be aligned to the national strategic plant programmes and targets as well as to national research programmes and policy.

DFID could play a greater role in supporting policy-oriented research at the state and non-state level, and for programmes and strategy. Provision needs to be made in the budget for inclusion of stakeholders, and all stakeholders and constituencies, particularly those who are the ultimate users of the research, need to be included in the research design process. The impact of un/employment on poverty should be a key research question.

Climate change
Research is needed on enhancing the ability to cope with natural disasters such as droughts and floods, and with high climate variability in general. Gaps in current research include the impact of climate change on the poor. There is a clear need for a coherent regional strategy on climate change. The results of basic scientific research on climate change need to be captured as higher-level policy-relevant conclusions to stand a better chance of influencing policy makers. Important issues include the impacts of responses to climate climate change, such as the effects of an increase of the tax on airmiles or food-miles on South African fruit producers whose main export market is Europe, the issue of food versus fuel production, and the impact of climate variability on food availability.

Climate change scientists feel very strongly about the need to set up what they refer to as a climate change interface capacity. This would be to enable the translation of the knowledge base for the purposes of communicating with a diverse stakeholder base. This task is not a one-way undertaking, but must be a dialogue between stakeholders and researchers, which is time and labour-intensive. It requires development work on communications, tailoring of products and messages, exploring the modes and means of transferance of findings and knowledge, as well as feeding back to scientists. One example of this in a different context is the UK Climate Impacts Programme (UKCIP).

It is recommended that DFID's CRD considers making additional resources available to host workshops that draw in sector and cross-sector experts from South Africa and across Southern Africa to engage in a series of 'DFID Development Dialogues', specifically around research issues pertinent to DFID's four priority themes. This report could be used to inform these dialogues that would constitute a deepening, more continuous consultative process with partners in the sub-region.


Ainslie, A.; Hassan, A. DFID ResearchStrategy (2008-2013). Consultations in South Africa. (2007) 52 pp.

DFID Research Strategy (2008-2013). Consultations in South Africa

Published 1 January 2007