From pre-conference meetings, to opening ceremony and plenary sessions, it was clear from the speakers and participants at the second Global Conference for Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2), that partnership is the key if we want to improve livelihoods of smallholder farmers and increase food production by 70% to feed a population of 9 billion in 2050. But what are the partnership models that we have and what can we learn from them?
The conference session on North-South and South-South Collective Actions gave a good overview on how multi-stakeholder partnerships have been done in different regions of the world. Interestingly, partnership in Agricultural Research for Development has existed for a long time. Whether it is African-European partnerships, Latin America-Caribbean-Europe-Africa, or African Partnerships, the focus of these partnerships has been mainly on involving stakeholders who normally do not have a say in traditional research.
For example, in projects and initiatives like PAEPARD, CAADP-CGIAR Alliance and IRD/CIRAD collaborative platforms among others, it is not only scientists who are involved in research, but also other stakeholders along the agriculture value chain: farmers, researchers, extension officers, the private sector, academia, processors, exporters, input suppliers and others.
In doing so, each stakeholder contributes in formulating the research proposal that would benefit each one of them. But as simple as this sounds, it is not the case in reality!
From their presentations, the panelists highlighted that in multi-stakeholder partnerships, TRUST is very important, but is not easy to build as different stakeholders have their own objectives. Making all of them move towards a common goal is a challenge.
To overcome this, the innovation that was brought in the PAEPARD (Platform for African-European Partnership on Agricultural Research for Development) project was to introduce Agricultural Innovation Facilitators (brokers), who were independent from the multi-stakeholder consortium and facilitated the process of partnership. According to the panelist from PAEPARD, Mr Sarfatti, facilitators have had an important role in building multi-stakeholder partnerships in the different countries where the project has been funded and implemented.
However, during the discussions, two important points were raised: It was clear that smallholder farmers are involved in these initiatives, but how far are women and youth involved in these multi-stakeholder partnerships?
Regarding the inclusion of women, the representative from the IRD/CIRAD collaborative platforms shared with the audience that in their projects, a gender specialist/consultant was recruited and her role was to ensure that all projects that are selected for funding have women inclusion.
When it comes to youth involvement in these partnerships, it was confessed by the panellist from PAEPARD that to date, there has been no strategy to include the youth in the project, but since PAEPARD is moving to its 3rd phase, the suggestion that youths get into the picture can be considered as they can be facilitators or trainers in the project.
Taking the example from IRD/CIRAD collaborative platforms, whereby a gender specialist has been appointed to ensure that women are included in the projects, can there be a youth specialist to ensure youth inclusion in multi-stakeholder partnerships?
The point to take from the session was that multi-stakeholder partnerships are not as easy as they appear to be, but from the different initiatives taken in different regions we know that we can learn from each other, share our successes and failures so that there is no duplication. We can come up with a strategy that will encourage partnerships so that each stakeholder involved will have equal contribution and benefit from impactful research.
Research is important for food security, but now the time has come to innovate and involve more stakeholders in the process so that the outputs are useful to all of them!
Blogpost by Nawsheen Hosenally, one of the GCARD2 Social Reporters.