RENEWAL Impact Stories

Policy influence—as a means of transforming new knowledge into enduring change—can be achieved through continued engagement of policymakers from the outset and throughout the research process. RENEWAL has termed this real-time involvement "inreach." Influence and impacts of RENEWAL activities at the national level are, in part, achieved via the standing National Advisory Panels (NAPs), which are operational in RENEWAL’s five core countries (Kenya, Malawi, Uganda, South Africa, and Zambia). The NAPs comprise key stakeholders from governments, international and local NGOs, donors, civil society, and the private sector. The RENEWAL National Coordinator (NC) hosted by a RENEWAL Focal Institution, provides a secretariat for the NAP in each country. Stakeholders prioritize national action research, and engage with the research process throughout, encouraging debate and technical input to policy and programming, both existing and planned.

South Africa

In South Africa RENEWAL has engaged with national and local policy processes, enhancing the political dialogue with evidence generated by RENEWAL and other relevant research. In 2007 the departments of Agriculture and Health interacted with RENEWAL on a number of policy and technical initiatives, including discussions around indicators on the national Food Insecurity and Vulnerability Information Management System (FIVIMS). In 2008, RENEWAL was centrally involved in a National Workshop on AIDS and Nutrition, co-organized by officials from the Department of Health, who participate on RENEWAL SA’s National Advisory Panel (NAP). In addition, at the request of the Treatment Action Campaign (TAC), RENEWAL provided inputs for the draft Chronic Disease Grant proposal as part of the South Africa National AIDS Council (SANAC) Technical Task Team.

At local levels, several dissemination workshops were facilitated in 2008, including a community meeting in Mbekweni (ZAMBART project), a workshop with local government in Bushbuckridge (SUNRAE project), and a workshop with the national Food Security Directorate (SUNRAE project). In 2009, the Migration Studies Programme at the University of Witwatersrand led a number of discussions with key policymakers at the City of Johannesburg and with World Vision South Africa, which run development programs in informal settlements similar to those where RENEWAL’s Urban-Rural Links study took place.

Uganda

In Uganda, RENEWAL provided ongoing technical input to the second National Strategic Plan on HIV/AIDS from 2007 through its publication in 2010. RENEWAL was credited, in part, for the inclusion of a section on food and nutrition in the new plan. In addition, Uganda’s NAP actively engaged with parliamentary portfolios dealing with food security, nutrition, HIV and AIDS, and social development and planning throughout its lifespan. A series of cutting-edge studies on integrating nutrition security with HIV programming were initiated with The AIDS Support Organization (TASO), the longest standing African NGO working on AIDS, contributing to TASO’s re-formulation of their programs, as well as having significant global impact via furthering the knowledge base in this new field.

Zambia

In 2009 RENEWAL-Zambia and the Zambian Agricultural Research Institute (ZARI) appointed a ZARI staff member to coordinate the NAP. Under this leadership, RENEWAL Zambia developed a strategy to further energize the network, which led to the development of a draft mainstreaming strategy for the Ministry of Agriculture and Cooperatives titled "HIV/AIDS Livelihoods Program for Agriculture." The network then led the Zambian component of the study into the impact of HIV and AIDS on agricultural extension services in Zambia and Malawi. This study showed the cost implications of HIV and AIDS for the agriculture extension services and lead to numerous meeting and requests from guidance from RENEWAL.

Kenya

In Kenya, RENEWAL was requested to chair the Mitigation Summit of the National AIDS Control Council (NACC) in reviewing their Joint Annual Program in 2008, and then chaired the Monitoring and Coordination Group of the NACC strategic plan. Similarly, the network worked over the years with the Ministry of Agriculture in developing their sector-specific strategy on HIV/AIDS.

Malawi

In 2009, RENEWAL, hosted by CARE-Malawi, led the Malawi component of the study into the impact of HIV and AIDS on agricultural extension services in Zambia and Malawi. Then, in 2010, this research led to a number of high level interactions with the Ministry of Agriculture and donors. The Deputy Director of Agricultural Extension Services responsible for Agricultural Gender Roles and Extension Support Services requested the team to work with members of the department at various levels to understand the implications of the findings. The Country Director of Irish Aid committed financial support to wider country dissemination session including a workshop with the Donor Committee on Food Security (DCAFS).

Regional level

At the regional level, RENEWAL provided extensive input into policy dialogue through various regional institutions. While these interactions were not meant to produce specific policy outcomes, they enhanced understanding and awareness of the complex interactions between HIV, food security, livelihoods, and nutrition. These included:

  • Ongoing engagement with the Southern African Development Community (SADC) HIV and AIDS Unit, particularly in helping draft the HIV/AIDS Framework for 2009?2015;
  • Extensive input to the thematic and technical dimensions of the United Nations and Partner’s OVC and Livelihood Alliance, worked closely with the Department for International Development-funded Regional Hunger and Vulnerability Programme (RHVP) on facilitating action research for the Alliance in the second phase of the Alliance’s "Observatory";
  • input to the World Food Programme Regional HIV/AIDS technical support team in southern Africa;
  • In East Africa, RENEWAL supported the East Africa Community (EAC) through its role in EAC/AMREF Lake Victoria Basin Partnership (EALP). Additional support to these Regional Economic Communities has been provided through UNAIDS-funded research into the impact of rising food prices on people living with HIV and those affected by AIDS;
  • And Southern African AIDS Trust (SAT), through serving on advisory committees and providing ongoing inputs into strategic direction.

RENEWAL also supported a series of capacity strengthening activities for regional researchers and other experts. These include a training held with the African Centre for Food Security, housed at the University of KwaZulu-Natal. This collaboration led to the development of a training guide for livelihoods training to be implemented under NEPAD, among other outputs. RENEWAL facilitated EcoHealth trainings for representatives from the five RENEWAL countries, sponsored by IDRC.

Global level

At the global level, impacts may be seen in various arenas. RENEWAL engages with international organizations and events, contributing to the global dialogue among decision makers, researchers, and practitioners.

In 2005, RENEWAL organized the landmark International Conference on HIV/AIDS and Food and Nutrition Security, in Durban. This conference brought together, for the first time, state of the art knowledge on the interactions between agriculture and other rural livelihood systems, the spread of HIV and the impacts of AIDS at different levels. Stakeholder who attended reported this to be a major contribution to the then emerging field, and one which sparked further action and research at the global level. In 2008 RENEWAL played a key role in the design and organization of six sessions at the International AIDS Conference in which there was an extraordinary level of interest in food and nutrition. In 2010, the theme of UNAIDS Programme Coordinating Board’s 27th Session was "HIV, food and nutrition security" where RENEWAL sat on 3 of 4 panel session steering committees and was actively involved in shaping the one-day symposium.

RENEWAL’s impact is evident through the attention and citations its work receives among prominent international actors. RENEWAL’s work was the most widely referenced material in the UNAIDS policy brief on HIV, food security, and nutrition, and the food security section of the interagency website AIDS in Humanitarian Situations. RENEWAL’s 2007 work on HIV, poverty, and inequality was cited in several high-level speeches by the UNAIDS Executive Director. RENEWAL publications are routinely cited in the top few (among thousands of) hits when undergoing internet searches for keywords such as HIV, AIDS, food, nutrition, hunger. The two IFPRI books – "HIV/AIDS, Food and Nutrition Security: from Evidence to Action" (2005) and "AIDS, Poverty and Hunger: Challenges and Responses" (2006) both topped the IFPRI bestseller lists for many months (indeed, the former was still no. 1 in hard copy three years after publication).

RENEWAL’s contribution to the Joint Learning Initiative on Children and AIDS (JLICA www.jlica.org) continued to have a wave of impact in 2009. JLICA’s purpose was to gather and critically analyze available knowledge and experience about the impact of AIDS on children, and to make a set of high-level recommendations around which the global community could marshal resources, commitment, and action. The RENEWAL paper on social protection and cash transfers by Michelle Adato and Lucy Bassett, "What is the Potential of Cash Transfers to Strengthen Families affected by HIV and AIDS? A review of the evidence on impacts and key policy debates," served as the primary evidence base for a key policy recommendation by JLICA on social protection, which recommended "the use of income transfers as a ‘leading edge’ intervention to rapidly improve outcomes for extremely vulnerable children and families." This recommendation was widely reported in the press, and other publications, such as The Lancet’s Feb. 2009 editorial on "A New Agenda for Children Affected by HIV/AIDS." This RENEWAL paper contributed not only to JLICA, but it has strongly influenced major policy statements emerging from DfID, UNICEF, UNAIDS, the African Union’s policy platform on social protection, the Southern African Development Community, and the Comprehensive African Agricultural Development Plan.

Finally, RENEWAL has throughout the last decade been requested by several organizations to provide expert information on HIV, food and nutrition security. In 2008, RENEWAL was requested to provide information on the issue of food price increases and the effects of HIV-related vulnerability to various organizations including UNAIDS, European Commission, IDRC, and several media networks. The issue of food and nutrition is now recognized by UNAIDS as a key component of both the treatment and mitigation pillars of response.