Global Conference Sets Priorities for Future of Agricultural Research for Development

More than 600 global participants highlight the need for foresight, investment and partnerships to meet future agricultural targets.

Punta del Este, Uruguay: On the closing day of the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2), leading experts in the global agricultural research community outlined clear steps for maximising the future impact of scientific innovation on the livelihoods of the world’s poorest smallholder farmers.

In his closing remarks, Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres took a strong position on the commitments his organisation will make following three days of rich discussion. He says: “CGIAR must be held accountable for their results in terms of economic return on investment. We are fully committed to becoming an open access organisation and bring much more of our data online, making the development outcomes we are trying to achieve more visible, in order to hold ourselves accountable to our goals. We also commit to further develop the capacity of the CGIAR to develop foresight as a concrete element of our work.”

One such “foresight report” launched at GCARD2 by the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS), revealed new data calculating the entire food system’s carbon footprint. Entitled “Climate Change and Food Systems”, it calculated that up to 29 percent of total global greenhouse gas emissions, or approximately 17,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions, are released by the food system each year, with agriculture accounting for around 80 percent of this total.  However, the report also found that transport, refrigeration, consumer practices and waste management are growing in terms of their relative contribution – indicating possible new priority areas for future research and investment.

Rijsberman also launched today a Stakeholder Perception Survey, which will be distributed to more than 3,000 stakeholders and collate feedback on CGIAR’s performance as a partner. The results will be used as a baseline to develop an action plan to improve their performance going forward.

New partnerships were also advanced at GCARD2, as CGIAR Consortium and Latin American and Caribbean countries took the first steps to map and align their agricultural research agendas, through the support of the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA) and other partnerships and networks already established in the region.

Carlos Perez del Castillo, Chair of the CGIAR Consortium says of the budding partnership: “Since 2000, Latin America and the Caribbean has become the main agricultural and food net exporting region. It is imperative that Latin American research centres begin to work together, to identify ways we can scale up our successes even further and make a powerful, joint contribution to the world’s food security needs.”

This follows a similar process already in motion between leaders from the CGIAR Consortium and the Comprehensive Africa Agricultural Development Programme (CAADP) who convened to determine joint priorities and formulate an “African owned and led Science Agenda for African Agriculture”. The partnership leverages the respective strengths of both partners – namely, the CGIAR’s considerable scientific capacity and networks with the clearly defined national agricultural Investment Plans of CAADP.

Another critical priority area identified at the conference was the need to empower women in agriculture, and partners committed to multiply the availability of high-quality opportunities for practical experience and career development of women in agricultural research for development, through internships, fellowships, mentoring and professional secondments.

“Providing opportunities for women in the agricultural sector is not only about gender empowerment.  It is also about ensuring that the best minds, whether male or female, are given an equal chance to deploy their skills and energy as scientists, farmers, extension agents and others” says Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR).

Throughout the discussions, farmers’ organisations shared their views on how to bring agricultural research into the hands of the producers. Robert Carlson of the World Farmers Organisation says: “Farmers want research, they need help to adjust to the changing environment. Involve them!” Ajay Jakhar from the Indian farmers organisation Bharat Krishak Samaj says: “We need to bridge the gap between the best farmer in the village and the nearest research centre.”

Mark Holderness of GFAR closed the conference, commenting:

“In the past few days we have witnessed that GFAR is not just a forum, it’s a catalyst. It’s a catalyst for action, and a catalyst for change. It is driven by our need to work together, in partnership, and that is how we are going to achieve zero hunger. We have asked ourselves how we will get where we want to be and will be back in two years time to all hold ourselves to account”.

The Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2) took place in Punta del Este, Uruguay from 29 October through 1 November 2012 and was inaugurated by Uruguayan President José Mujica. GCARD2 is the follow up session to the first GCARD, held in Montpellier in 2010, which saw the creation of the GCARD Road Map, a six-point global plan for transforming agricultural research for development. The conference this year served to track global processes towards meeting goals set out in the GCARD Road Map.


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