GCARD2010 Conference Seeks Sweeping Changes to Global Agriculture

Media Advisory

–> Read the French version of the media advisory

For more information or to register, please contact:
Jeff Haskins at +254 729 871 422 (Kenya) or jhaskins[at]burnesscommunications.com.
Denise Young at +33 6 7115 4670 (Paris) or dyoung[at]burnesscommunications.com.

Major Conference Next Week Seeks Sweeping Changes to Global Agriculture


Up to 1,000 World Food Prize Laureates, ministers, farmers, community development organizations, leading scientists, and innovators will gather in Montpellier, France from 28-31 March 2010 for the first ever Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD).

After decades of lagging agricultural investment, GCARD will seek to strengthen and harness the use of agricultural research to meet the enormous challenges of doubling the food supply over the next 40 years, lifting a billion people out of poverty and hunger, and doing so in ways that are environmentally sustainable.

The meeting is part of a massive effort to align priorities of farmers on-the-ground with concrete policies and commitments from donors as a springboard for rapid change and collective action.

The changes to be discussed at GCARD are synergistic with the reforms being carried out by the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR)—an alliance comprising some 8,000 researchers in 100 countries—to do more and do better, as the CGIAR fulfills its mandate to fight poverty and hunger while conserving the environment.

At the opening of the conference, a team of authors will release a global report providing a holistic, comprehensive view assessment of the myriad actors that currently form the fragmented global agricultural research system for development; the landscape of actors and funders in the agricultural system as it stands today; regional development needs; and a roadmap of guidelines for translating the products of agricultural research into larger and quicker development successes.

At the close of GCARD, participants will outline the research priorities and required actions among all parties that will most effectively contribute to sustainable development and global food security.

“The stakes are very high when you superimpose the security threats and economic migration that could emerge from poverty, hunger, and further deprivation,” said Dr. Adel El-Beltagy, Chair of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR).

Key speakers and participants:

  • Fahd Balghunaim, Minister of Agriculture, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
  • Roger Beachy, Director, US National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA)
  • John Beddington, Chief Scientific Advisor, UK Government, and Head of the Government Office for Science
  • Joachim von Braun, Director, Center for Development Research (ZEF), and Professor for Economic and Technological Change at University of Bonn, Germany
  • Margaret Catley-Carlson, Chair, Global Crop Diversity Trust and Global Water Partnership
  • Sir Gordon Conway, Chair in International Development, Centre for Environmental Policy, Imperial College, London
  • Jacques Diouf, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO)
  • Gebisa Ejeta, Distinguished Professor of Agronomy, Purdue University, and 2009 World Food Prize Laureate
  • Cary Fowler, Executive Director, Global Crop Diversity Trust
  • Marion Guillou, CEO, French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) and Chairman of Agreenium
  • Monty Jones, Executive Director, Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA), and 2004 World Food Prize Laureate
  • Jean Lebel, Director, Environment and Natural Resource Management, International Development Research Centre (IDRC)
  • Kanayo F. Nwanze, President, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD)
  • Thomas Rosswall, Farming First Spokesperson and Chairman of the CGIAR Challenge Programme on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS)
  • Ismail Serageldin, Director, Library of Alexandria
  • M. V. K. Sivakumar, Director, Climate Prediction and Adaptation Branch of the Climate and Water Department, World Meteorological Organization (WMO)
  • M S Swaminathan, Chairman, MS Swaminathan Research Foundation (MSSRF)
  • Laurence Tubiana, Director, Global Public Goods, Ministry of Foreign and European Affairs, France
  • Ajay Vashee, President, International Federation of Agricultural Producers (IFAP)

“This meeting marks the beginning of a global transformation in agriculture,” said World Food Prize Laureate Dr. Monty Jones, who is leading the team organizing the meeting. “Agriculture has to be able to change at a speed and scale never before contemplated, and many of these reform processes are already underway.”


GCARD meetings, organized through the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), will be held every two years. GCARD will replace the GFAR triennial conference and the annual general meetings of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research. Agropolis International and the CGIAR are partnering with GFAR to help organize GCARD 2010. For more information, please visit: www.egfar.org/egfar/website/gcard.

The Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) was established in 1998 to bring together all those involved in shaping and determining the future of agriculture.  GFAR uniquely mobilizes partners from science and society to reform and strengthen research and extension systems around the world, to increase their impact in development.  Sectors represented in GFAR include UN Agencies, the CGIAR, national and regional agricultural research and extension systems, development funding agencies and organizations representing farmers, the private sector and civil society.

The CGIAR is a strategic agricultural research alliance dedicated to generating and applying the best available knowledge to stimulate agricultural growth, raise farmers’ incomes, and protect the environment. It supports 15 research centres worldwide conducting groundbreaking work to nourish the future. For more information, please visit www.cgiar.org.

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12 thoughts on “GCARD2010 Conference Seeks Sweeping Changes to Global Agriculture

  1. What kind of ‘reformation’, ‘reorientation’ and ‘innovation’ are we likely to expect from a conference that can find only 2 women among its 19 speakers? Why could this ‘massive and concerted effort to better align research processes with the needs of the poor’ not find more women to speak for the vast majority of the poor, who are, of course, women?

    What kind of ‘sweeping changes’ are we likely to get from a conference whose preceding regional consultation processes across seven regions (Europe, Latin America, West Asia and North Africa, the Caucuasus, and Asia Pacific) were led by 7 men and no women? What kind of ‘holistic, comprehensive view assessment of the myriad actors that currently form the fragmented globe of agricultural research for development’ includes so few women?

    How could the RoadMAP this conference is ambitious to prepare ‘to improve the value of agricultural research in development at national, regional and international levels’ be so obtuse on the subject of the more fundamental level of gender?

    Why will this meeting, which will ‘bring together a clearly diverse assembly’ of stakeholders in agricultural research for development, include so few female leaders speaking for the half of the human race that does most of the work to feed most of the world?

    How could GCARD, self-described as ‘informed by a systematic and inclusive region-by-region global consultation’, fail to spot what’s missing in the leadership of:
    (1) its organizing agency (GFAR) whose both outgoing and incoming chairs are men;
    (2) its GCARD Task Force, led by a man;
    (3) its six regional research fora that comprise ‘GCARD’s constituencies and networks’ (FARA, EFARD, AARINENA, FORAGRO, APAARI and CACAARI), all of which are led by men; and
    (4) and three of what it sees as ‘pillars’ of this conference (FAO, IFAD and IFAP), all of them led by men?

    I get that such skewed representation is still the norm in high-profile organizations and meetings. But this is MY community (I lead public awareness work at the CGIAR-supported International Livestock Research Institute). It seems to me that until we start changing the way WE do our (agricultural-research-for-development) business, there’s little hope for us changing the way the WORLD goes about its (agricultural-research-for-development) business.

    Most of us in the CGIAR say that we’re up for change. We could do worse than start by changing this picture.

    1. An eye opening comment, Susan.

      There could be two possible explanations for such skewed representation of women-

      • It is just an oversight and no one thought of the balancing while planning the sessions
      • It reflects the fewer number of women, in leading positions, who have the capacity/positions to represent in the GCARD…

      We have an enduring complaint that despite over 70% of agriculture work done by women farmers/laborers- they do not reach the decision making stage in farming….The GCARD program is a reflection of the same happening with women in science- where despite a large number of women involved in scientific work-when it comes to decision making and representation at ‘higher level’ it is dominated by men…. It equalizes women’s position at land and lab level!


  2. Good questions Susan. Very good questions.

    Looking ahead to the next few days, I would kindly ask our nearly-all-male-leadership to be frank and concrete about how they plan to contribute to changing this picture. I would also want to know more about how they will hold their directors accountable for ensuring that poor women are no longer under-served by ARD, and no longer under-represented in the bodies tasked with setting ARD priorities.

    The parallel session on Gender for Social Transformation to be held Tuesday afternoon is but one small step toward producing a new road map. Deep institutional change must follow to ensure that women have both voice and influence.

  3. Vicki: This is about gender discrimination. Why should the CGIAR Gender and Diversity group not be run by a man rather than a woman? And I think you need to make a distinction between single and partnered women.

    My wife, with 15 years senior employment in two CGIAR institutes was Director of Research and Deputy Director-General of a large CGIAR institute. She had attracted to the institute several promising female scientists. She was fired against the institute rules. Nothing whatever was done by the CGIAR Gender and Diversity Group to correct this. The female scientists she had attracted (as a role model) promptly and sensibly left the institute (no doubt encouraged by their underemployed husbands – we used to grumble together).

    Women will be reluctant to work in the CGIAR in developing countries if their partners cannot find work as professionals. I was a spouse in a CGIAR institute for four years (after heading a unit in another for four years – and 20 years after getting my PhD – I was fully experienced). In all those four years I earned from the institute less than $3,000 in consultant work. After those experiences I’d advise any married woman wanting to work in the CGIAR anywhere outside Washington or Rome not to.

    The CGIAR is spending a lot of development funding on gender issues when it should get its own house in order for married women on its own staff.

  4. hese points are all very real and valid. Yes, we need to do much more in raising the profile of women from developing countries in our Scientist staff group. And yes, we certainly need to address the persistent underrepresentation of women in our leadership. But, I do want to raise another, more positive, perspective.
    As shown in our 2008 HR Survey CGIAR Centers have made excellent progress in gender and diversity of their Scientist staff group since 2003. The number of women Scientists rose from 182 to 271, an impressive 49 percent increase! As a result, women made up 26% of the CGIAR Scientists in 2008 compared to 20% in 2003. Even more encouraging, this progress was achieved at all Scientist levels (from Post-doc to Principal Scientist) and at 14 of the 15 CGIAR Centers.
    Although women still filled a modest proportion of 16% of Center Management positions in 2008, this was a notable increase from the 9% in 2003 (due to a 69% increase in the number of women in Center Management, from 13 in 2003 to 22 in 2008). Some 32% of the Center Board positions filled by women, another increase compared to 2003.
    Our HR Survey also showed that in 2008, the CGIAR employed nearly two hundred female staff on IRS or RRS contracts living with their spouse at the duty station. Over the years, the CGIAR Gender & Diversity Program has worked with the Centers to develop practical guidelines and best practices on how to create a spouse/family-friendly work environment (see: Inclusive Workplace).From my position, I can say that many of the CGIAR Centers take the important issue of spouse satisfaction very seriously, and are well aware that this is often a key factor in determining the success of an IRS/RRS posting.

    Many will agree that there is still lot of room for improvement and continued focus, including me. BUT, I also believe the CGIAR is doing better in this area than many other international organizations. The challenges are big for our scientists and we expect great results from our research. As we move into a new CGIAR Consortium, it is my hope and recommendation that the CGIAR also continues to expect great results from its gender and diversity, both in its science and its organizational leadership.

    1. Vicki:
      Great news about the great strides women are making in CGIAR research centres. Congratulations for the role of the CG’s G&D in that accomplishment!

      Have you been able yet to find any correlation with those increased numbers of women staff in the centres and increased attention to, impacts on, the lives and livelihoods of poor women farmers?

  5. Vicki: Thanks – but I am not concerned with female staff living with spouse at duty station. My problem is the CGIAR ignoring dual career families. I kicked my heels `on station’ (and had the best garden on station) for four years after working for twenty years in tropical agriculture. This will not happen to me again – no matter what career temptations are put in my wife’s way by Directors General anxious to meet the blandishments of the Gender and Diversity programme. If the CGIAR cannot address this problem, then it will not get the full range of quality married women scientists.

    Susan: this is not on. Why should women scientists in the CGIAR only address the needs of women farmers? This is discrimination. What about all the poor men farmers and family farmers? It is like saying that women classical pianists should only play music by women composers for women audiences. I spent four years collecting farmer seed in three continents in daily close contact with very marginal farmers. Women farmers are magnificent but you will cause major problems for them (but not, of course, for yourself) if you try to exclude male farmers from the bounty of research.
    Perhaps a model could be what the USDA does for women farmers. Special research by women USDA staff? Ignoring the needs of men?

    There is already an undue emphasis on agroecology, growing lots of crops together – otherwise known as gardening. While this will help women producing food for their families and something to market it is at the cost of efficient broadscale `field’ farming (now producing most of our food). If we go down this path, many – especially in tropical cities – will go to bed hungry.

  6. Susan: You are right – it’s a red herring that has been waved in front of donors as the CGIAR drifted away from feeding people and set up two institutes with `forestry’ in their mandates and yet other distractions.

    There is and always has been a glaring need to replace these two (and others) with the idea of `horticulture’ – gardening, and vegetable research (AVRDC is not nearly enough). And scrap a `thematic area’ or three (MP 8 should be shot down to make place for a garden diversity MP).

    All over the tropics, fields and gardens are complementary: women garden, women feed their families with the diversity and nutritional value of gardens, women market garden produce for school fees and household budgets.

    I once worked in Nairobi. The Kenya men staff would get on the bus on Friday afternoons and go home to the shamba – the (very) small farm/large garden where their wives had been feeding the family for a week. The system worked economically but where is the research institute or MP to address this type of food production?

    Also, in a `gardening’ institute there is a need for fruit tree research (now scattered around). The `little miracle’ institute CATIE in Costa Rica has a field collection of 600 species of economic plants, – many fruit species – most of them better grown in gardens than fields. It would be an ideal location for a CGIAR garden/vegetable research Centre (to replace a minimum of two or up to four present Centres).

  7. For those interested to know some of the research questions that the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) is investigating about women and livestock development, see this 14-minute video of a recent presentation by ILRI scientist Jemimah Njuki on that subject.

    ‘Farm Animals Can Help Millions of Women
    Raise the Well-being of Their Households and Communities’:


  8. I appreciate the the observations and outcome of the conference. Please notify me of future conference with provision for sponsorship. I work with fisheries research institute (Socio-economics and extension )

  9. A very complex situation has developed here with farming. Sustainability seems to be the key here. But a concrete future of farming seems to be hanging in the balance.

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