Reform and Renewal: Building GFAR’s “Comparative Advantage”

The FAO’s Dr Ren Wang, who will be helping to shape the future of GFAR at the Constituent Assembly in Bangkok in August.
The FAO’s Dr Ren Wang, who will be helping to shape the future of GFAR
at the Constituent Assembly in Bangkok in August.

GFAR has a vital role to play in the future of agricultural research and innovation, says the FAO’s Dr Ren Wang, but it must continue to build on its unique position as a platform representing the many different stakeholders across the entire food value chain.

As a founding partner of GFAR, the FAO has a special interest in the Forum’s evolution and future development. Dr Wang, Assistant Director General of FAO’s Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, will be one of the 150 or so delegates at the GFAR Constituent Assembly in Bangkok this month (24-26 August), meeting to discuss the future of the Forum, its resourcing and governance.

Dr Wang is no stranger to GFAR, having represented the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences at the Forum in its early days, and later as Director of the CGIAR system. In the nearly two decades since GFAR was established, Dr Wang has seen the Forum evolve from a core group of regional and national organizations and networks in agricultural research, into a collective movement for change working to build capacities across national systems – in education, extension and enterprise, as well as in research. It is this broad scope and reach which make GFAR unique, he says, and its strategic focus fits well with that of the FAO.

“The goal of the FAO is a world without hunger. We work with national governments at a policy level but today, with so many different challenges, what is really required is fundamental change in the way agriculture is carried out. We must, for instance, reduce chemical inputs and increase productivity in developing countries while preserving the environment. That requires the empowerment of millions of smallholder farmers, a daunting task which cannot be achieved by any organization, institution or country alone.

“GFAR is able to bring together the whole range of actors along the axis of knowledge generation and dissemination and to align their efforts and activities, including the FAO. So the strategic partnership between FAO and GFAR is very important in that regard,” Dr Wang explains.

Dr Wang says the FAO wants to continue to support GFAR to be more effective, with more resources to help countries to fill the gaps in capacity and investment.

“I am optimistic about GFAR’s future – so long as it continues to get its strategy and priorities right, and if it continues to strengthen its competitive advantage; that is, its networks and links with multiple stakeholders. It will be important for GFAR to increase and enhance its representation, particularly of the emerging economies that continue to represent a large proportion of the increased investment in agricultural innovation systems. I hope that is a consideration when it comes to looking at the future governance of the Forum.”

Indeed, one of the tasks for this month’s Constituent Assembly will be to consider a governance model which includes a “Partners’ Assembly” to ensure wider representation of stakeholders. Resource mobilization will be another topic for discussion, including the proposed Investment Facility for Agricultural Innovation and Enterprise. “These are the kinds of initiatives and priorities that GFAR should be focusing on,” Dr Wang says.

“In the meantime, I am pleased to have the opportunity to take part in the Constituent Assembly and I am looking forward to playing a part in shaping the future of GFAR.”

This blogpost is part of a series introducing GFAR stakeholders attending the upcoming GFAR Constituent Assembly.

The GFAR Constituent Assembly is held on 24-26 August 2015 in Bangkok, Thailand. For more information email the secretariat at GFAR-Assembly-2015@fao.org or call +39 06 570 53189


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