GFAR blog

How do we ensure Better Rural Futures?


Having foresight is important. But using it can transform the future.

The 3rd Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3) is a consultative process with a series of consultations that took place from the national, regional and international level from 2015 to 2016.

It aims to develop collective actions among various stakeholders under different themes. These collective actions will then be wrapped up in outcome statements that basically say what stakeholders plan to do, with who, over a period of time.

Here at the Global Event at Johannesburg, South Africa, the conference is divided into five themes: 1) Scaling up from research to impact; 2) showcasing results and demonstrating impact; 3) keeping science relevant and future focused; 4) sustaining the business of farming; and, 5) ensuring better rural futures.

‘Better rural futures’ is a simple phrase with many underlying tasks. It can be ambitious, but without such ambitions there can be no efforts to address pressing issues, such as lack of foresight to effect positive change to the present and the future.

I have the honor of being tasked as one of the catalysts for the roundtable discussions under theme 5. As a young person, it was my responsibility initially to propose a collective action that would revolve around the use of forward-thinking among young professionals.

Forward-thinking (a.k.a foresight) is using the future (scenarios) to change the present to change the future. In other words, it is envisioning what the ideal future scenario one wants to be in, then analyzing the factors that might affect that by creating a plan of action to change the present situation. By doing so, stakeholders using foresight take a more pro-active role in changing the future.

Aside from the efforts for the youth, other collective actions were proposed: for farmer organizations, for rural development based on territories, working together with regional fora, Mediterranean rural communities, and balancing the specialization and diversity of agricultural production to transform rural livelihoods sustainably.

As the day progressed, the stakeholders present at the session agreed to merge various topics, which resulted to two main groups: farmer organizations and regional fora. The youth were distributed between the two. As for me, I sat with the regional fora group.


Then came the meat of the session. Objectives, milestones, partners and resources – these were the things that needed to be laid down. The following hours were intense, which is just right because planning a mode of collective action entails a lot of hard work; which is needed for proper implementation in the future. The challenge of working with various stakeholders, no matter how much we want to be inclusive, starts even at the planning stages.

But the beauty of it all is when the stakeholders present begin to see common goals and shared interests. It is like seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. That is where the roundtable discussion left off and will pick up again on Day 2 of GCARD3.

As a young person, it is my hope that we, young professionals, will become pro-active in using the concept of forward thinking. Because if we believe that we are the future, then we have to change the present situation based on future scenarios, to reach the ideal state in agri-food systems.

To know more about the concept of Foresight or Forward-thinking developed by the Global Forum for Agricultural Research through the initiative of Dr. Robin Bourgeois, click here.


Blogpost by Jim Cano, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – jim.cano7(at)

Photo Credit: Jim Cano

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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