As GCARD2 draws to a close, ICRISAT’s Deputy Director General, David Hoisington, answers three questions:
1. The CGIAR has made a huge transition recently. What do you think of the new system and will it be better suited to addressing the challenges farmers are facing today?
DH: I think the new CRP-based structure provides a more harmonized perspective to the work that the entire CGIAR is conducting. This will allow partners to better see how they ‘fit in’, and result in a more effective research portfolio that addresses the priorities of smallholder farming. There is still a lot that needs to be done to better define the expected outcomes, especially the intermediate development outcomes, that can be used to measure progress across the CRPs.
2. How important is a conference like GCARD? What do we stand to gain from meeting in this way?
DH: The GCARD conferences bring together a wide range of partners involved in ag research and development. GCARD2 is focused a lot on partnerships and linking farmers to markets, both of which are critical to success. While partnerships have always been a part of the CGIAR research programs, there is renewed understanding that more work is needed to make partnerships more equal, and to look at new types of partners, especially as we move towards market linkages, etc. There have been sessions on linking farmers to markets that have highlighted both the market perspectives on what works and doesn’t, as well as how research can be designed to best provide the outputs for farmers and farming systems. Again, a lot still needs to be done, but at least the dialogue has started and there’s a better understanding of the complexity by all sides.
3. What was the A-ha! moment for you? Or what did you learn that you didn’t know before?
DH: Not sure I’ve had a A-ha moment yet. I attended a session yesterday on linking farmers to markets and was a bit surprised by the number of producer organizations, especially in the Americas, that involve smallholder farmers in various high-value markets, like strawberries or coffee. There has also been an emphasis on the role of women (both as farmers, but also as scientists, extension workers, etc.) and young professionals – which is good to see. It is important to make ag R&D more attractive for students to want to be part of the effort.
By Swathi Sridharan, reporting remotely from Bulawayo, Zimbabwe.