Foresight for better futures, GFAR blog

Back to the Future

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Marty McFly: Wait a minute. Wait a minute, Doc. Ah… Are you telling me that you built a time machine… out of a DeLorean?

Dr. Emmett Brown: The way I see it, if you’re gonna build a time machine into a car, why not do it with some *style*?

“Back to the Future- Part 2”, 1989

What if we can have scenarios and ideas of what could occur with agricultural development in the coming years while still being in the present time? On a national, regional and global level, what role are we going to play in agriculture within the next 20 or 30 years?

This is not an imaginary, intangible prediction. It is rather a real, strategically constructed approach to influence the future. We call it “foresight”

Foresight (alternatively called “forward thinking”) is a tool and a process which combines three fundamental elements:

  • prospective approaches: long-term or forward-looking – it is all about the altering future;
  • participative approaches: engaging stakeholders and knowledge sources – all of us are a part of this process which serves to change the mindset of the generation;
  • planning approaches: including policy-making and priority-setting – objectives for future goals, predicting possible results.

Who can use foresight?

Here comes the main point: ANYBODY can engage in foresight. It is about achieving goals together using joint forces and how collective actions can achieve better rural futures.

The foresight mechanism works as a comprehensive method where we:

  • Firstly, imagine the future from various perspectives and development scenarios, pick one specific pathway for a change.
  • Keeping in mind the selected transformation track, we need to return to the present in order to identify the crucial issues, challenges and barriers which prevents from achieving the desired outcomes and avoiding undesired ones.
  • When it is done, we can go back to the future and improve it respectively by using five basic steps for improvement: establishing a title, setting up objectives, proposing exact milestones (results) defining partners and the resources which will be used to attain the outcomes.

Furthermore, what is essential in the process of forward thinking is that all these steps must be specific and pragmatic in order to ensure the efficiency of the process.

In practice, GFAR and CGIAR have been integrating the forward thinking approach in different regions. For example, farmers’ organizations have conducted grassroots of foresight workshops in Asia and Central Africa. This is just a start.

By virtue of the projections that are generated, the foresight process can be associated with travelling in time and changing the future. However, the main difference here is that there is no “butterfly effect”. Hence, when you travel back to the present, it has not changed yet. But with this tool, you can alter the future to make it sustainable for generations to come.

Currently, it is a time of change and innovations where each one of us are catalysts. Young specialists and scientists in agriculture are not only the leaders of tomorrow, but also the leaders of the present. We can ensure and promote the best scenarios while keeping in mind the lessons from the past and altering the present by acting NOW.

Together, we can do it.

Watch the interview of Dr. Iman al Kafass, International Independent Consultant, HR and Capacity Development and Dr. Botir Dosov, Innovation Platform Coordinator for CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems for Central Asia and the Caucasus, CACAARI Technical Advisor are providing an overview of foresight and how it can be integrated in ensuring better rural futures:

Blogpost and video by Rustam Alimjanovich Ibragimov, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – r.a.ibrakhimov(at)
Photo Credit: Sara Kelly

This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Global Conference in Johannesburg, South Africa, 5-8 April 2016. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

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