GCARD3: Advancing a practical approach to agricultural research

A farmer discuss his new harvest with a researcher and extension agent (Ghana)
A farmer discuss his new harvest with a researcher and an extension agent (Ghana)

A range of agricultural issues was robustly debated at the recent Global Event of the Third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3) in South Africa. What made the event exceptional was the way it engaged local farmers while also facilitating the research priorities of national governments, in line with their production objectives.

GCARD3 brought together stakeholders involved in agricultural research and development from around the world. Organised by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) and the CGIAR, and hosted by the Agricultural Research Council (ARC) of South Africa,in Johannesburg, the meeting was based on the theme “No one left behind: agri-food innovation and research for a sustainable world”. Participants included  farmers, women groups, youth groups, media groups, students, researchers, private and public sectors, representatives of national governments and policy makers. This represents an interesting departure from conventional conferences where participants are drawn solely from a narrow field of expertise.

Invited guests and key speakers reflected on the roles of agriculture in addressing food insecurity and reducing world hunger. Dr. Lindiwe Majela Sibanda of the Food Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) advocated increased participation of rural female farmers in decision making processes in agricultural policy. She also canvassed for a shift away from climate-unfriendly agricultural practices to a more sustainable “climate-smart” agriculture, highlighting how the effects of drought and climate change on food production  could be minimised.

One of the most interesting sessions was the plenary session moderated by Dr. Kwesi Attah-Krah of CGIAR, in which selected country representatives gave a detailed report of the engagement processes with various stakeholders involved in implementing CGIAR programmes in their countries.

In a breakaway session, Aboubakar Njoya presented a fascinating report on streamlining agricultural research in line with the production needs of national governments.  He talked about a West African agricultural productivity programme implemented by the West and Central African Council for Agricultural Research and Development (CORAF/WECARD ). According to Aboubakar Njoya, participating countries decide on their agricultural production needs such as aquaculture, livestock farming, grain or tuber crops based on their strengths and weaknesses. CORAF/WECARD will then assist the countries in setting up centres of excellence which cater for the needs of the countries and the region as a whole.

The CORAF/WECARD approach to agricultural research could be adopted by research institutions, and universities in particular. Research and higher learning institutions can contribute more to  society if their research priorities are more aligned with the agricultural needs of their governments. It is believed most research conducted ends up gathering dust on the shelves .

The era of doing research purely as academic exercise and in “partial fulfilment” for being awarded degrees with little or no beneficial impact on the society should be confined to the past. It is high time all stakeholders in agriculture at different operational levels collaborated on inclusive agricultural research that will advance innovation in agri-food systems and address issues such as food security and nutrition, climate change, gender representation and sustainable rural development, as demonstrated by the various presentations in the recently concluded GCARD3 Global Event.

Blogpost by Gbenga Ogidan, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – gbenga365(at)gmail.com
Picture courtesy CCAFS

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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