The Power of Partnership – Interview with Patrick Caron

Dr PAtrick Caron 3

At the GFAR Constituent Assembly in Bangkok earlier in the year, CIRAD – the French Agricultural Research Centre for International Development – was among the first to renew its commitment as a partner in the Global Forum. Dr Patrick Caron, CIRAD’s Director of Research and Strategy, has clear expectations about what “partnership” entails, and what the partners in GFAR must deliver to meet future development challenges.

CIRAD’s mandate is to work with developing countries to generate and pass on new knowledge, support agricultural development and fuel the debate on the main global issues concerning agriculture. It’s a significant player in the world of agricultural research, with more than 1,650 staff, 34 research units, 12 regional offices, and operations in more than 100 countries. Dr Patrick Caron says CIRAD has been a strong supporter of the Global Forum from the beginning, and it wants to continue to be part of the “renewed” Forum.

“At CIRAD we talk about development through research, not research for development,” he explains.  “We believe that research and the production of knowledge within a society is a strong driver for development and that society cannot just depend on the transfer of knowledge that has been produced elsewhere. The strengthening of the capacity of scientific communities in developing countries to produce knowledge is essential.

“We use the expression, the ‘production of partnership’, and in this we see the vision and mission of GFAR as fundamentally aligned with CIRAD’s approach.  It is the master piece in organizing partnership, and we are one of the institutions that is part of the game.”

CIRAD well understands the value of partnership. It works primarily through joint research platforms – regional coalitions of research institutions, universities and development stakeholders – focused on specific scientific issues, with project terms of up to 10 years. Currently there are 23 of these self-governing “Platforms in Partnership” around the world, working on a range of topics, from sustainable intensification in Africa to animal health in South East Asia. Altogether the platforms comprise a research community of more than 5,000.

“We already have very strong links with national agricultural systems through these platforms, but we want to be part of an emerging international coalition in terms of programming, together with CGIAR and other advanced research institutions, and we expect that as a partner in GFAR – and its regional constituent bodies – this will be facilitated. This is usually discussed at GCARD (Global Conference on Agricultural Research), a process to which we have contributed to in the past and which we look forward to continuing to be a part of.”

Future focus

August’s Constituent Assembly marked a critical step in GFAR’s evolution, Dr Caron says, and CIRAD was pleased to participate in the discussions on the Forum’s future.  “It was a very important moment in terms of reaffirming GFAR’s Vision and Mission and gaining the commitment of partners to those.”

Not surprisingly, given CIRAD’s research orientation,  Dr Caron believes the Global Forum needs to stay focused on facilitating research partnerships.“We must continue to play a strong role in forging links between research institutions and users of research, and not just for the purposes of innovation. I am referring to research in all its aspects: not only the production of scientific knowledge, but also the contribution of research to innovation processes, to foresight, and to expertise that may be used to support policymaking.”

In the meantime, as a partner in the Global Forum, CIRAD will continue to support GFAR’s vision and mission in moving toward its goals.  Dr Caron is looking forward to the GFAR Partner Assembly in April next year (aligned with the GCARD3 Global Event), when aspects of the Forum governance will be finalized. “We are very happy to be able to participate as a partner in GFAR’s renewal.”

By GFAR Correspondent Tanya St George


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