We do not believe in the existence of magic, especially not the kind of magic that can change our lives and solve our problems. Even if we could have a magical stick helping us, we would still have to define our problems and the changes we want. We do that by analyzing the situation and defining the problem.
So, let’s take food security and agriculture – we understand that projected population growth, particularly of the urban population, will increase demand for food and prices globally. This, in turn, will result in even greater use of limited natural resources. In addition to that, the effects of climate change as well as the deterioration of ecosystems are creating challenges for the agricultural sector. The most vulnerable are those whose lives and work are closely linked to agriculture.
Considering all these issues, people realize that there should be some changes in the approaches to agriculture. This means that they can change the ways in which water and land are exploited, along with attitudes to organization of work. The changes could be relevant to anything that can help resolve existing problems and anticipated threats.
Being aware of the challenges, it is natural to have a diversity of views on how to make changes in livelihoods. It could be improving the productivity of agriculture, improving availability and access to nutritious food, or stopping the degradation of nature.
Imagine, there is a magical stick (MS) that can fulfil only one wish for any given person. Let’s assume that a wish can resolve a key problem hindering progress in agriculture. The magic stick is not as clever as policy-makers or scientists, and therefore it is only able to fulfill precise wishes. This means that the MS cannot bring about wishes like ensuring food security and nutrition for all people in the world, or reversing climate change. However it is a magical stick and so it can help with individual, specific wishes.
Thus, we can picture diversity of men, women, young people standing in a long line waiting for their opportunity with the magical stick. They have various wishes, because they have different views, understanding, priorities, needs, expectations and of course resources.
So those that came with unclear wishes, for example “I want to have a high yield” or “I want to produce more with less”, left with unanswered wishes . But others that came with more precise requests, did get their wishes fulfilled. So if someone wished to have a 100 kg of drought-resilient, disease -rust resistant, high yield variety of wheat suitable to soil and climatic conditions – then, the MS would say “Here you are!” and give him or her a 100 kg of the requested seeds.
Back at the long line, people are getting bored waiting for their turn with the MS so they start talking to each other. Naturally, one person asks another “What is your wish?”, and a response could well be “Why, what for?”. Essentially, this is how communication starts and innovations are triggered. Multiple communications marry different opportunities with demands.
The real world is very similar – we can find out that there are more options for solutions, than problems. Human beings are not only destructive, but can be constructive as well. We use our intellect, abilities, knowledge and resources to create value-added initiatives, be they cultural, economical, social or financial. This is called innovation. With the diversity of actors of agricultural and food systems comes a diversity of needs and opportunities. Knowing and systematizing problems in the different agri-food system sectors and chains offers us a solid picture of the core problems and their causes. In the same way, we can map our resources and opportunities to address those needs. Otherwise, we can identify where additional efforts and resources should be mobilized to make the system well-functioning.
It is positive that people from different sectors and niches in agriculture as well as related businesses have different interest and opportunities. This creates an environment with diversity of ‘supply and demand’ combinations of products and services across the value-added chain. Multiple interactions between different actors of the agricultural and food system can accelerate the process of micro-solutions in the overall system. But this will happen only if voice of each actor is heard by others. So, to improve the linkages between different actors, we need to openly and willingly listen to others and voice our needs and opportunities. Better yet, these interactions should be facilitated so as to effectively guide solutions towards desirable changes.
This is how innovations happen. It is not magic, and we don’t need to have a magic stick to improve our lives. What we need is to cooperate towards one goal, whether it be food production or achieving a Sustainable Development Goal (SDG).
Blogpost and photo by Botir Dosov (ICARDA), who is also a #GCARD3 Social Reporter – dosov.b(at)gmail.com