Earlier this month I had the pleasure of attending the GCARD3 Global Event – a conference that really enabled me, as a farmer and farmers’ organization representative, to feel that we were making a difference.
I step back just a bit to explain that over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to participate in a number of meetings organized by the Global Forum for Agricultural Research (GFAR). I left many of these meetings with the feeling that the research community was so busy doing research for the sake of research that they had lost sight of what it was they were trying to accomplish. This meeting – GCARD3 – was different.
I was invited and sponsored by the Global Forum to attend the GCARD3 Global Event as a representative of farmer’s organizations in North America. When I registered I also mentioned that I was on the board of directors of the World Farmers’ Organization and as such could bring that perspective to the table. I joined two meetings associated with the GCARD3 Global Event. The first was the GFAR Partner Assembly and was an opportunity for stakeholders from many different sectors – including farmer organizations – to contribute to decisions on the governance and program of the Global Forum. The second series of meetings were associated with the GCARD3. GCARD3 provided an opportunity for me to join with others in the agricultural arena to discuss research and development priorities needed to reach the new sustainable development agenda and to tackle some of the more topical issues emerging in agri-food research and innovation.
With respect to the new GFAR Partner Assembly; it was designed to change the way GFAR operates. Concerns were identified several years ago the organization was taking direction solely from the research community and little attempt was being made to engage the farmer community and other players in identifying and implementing the global research agenda. What I can see now is that the new GFAR, with its new Charter puts farmers at the center of the discussion. Farmers will now be engaged in identifying priorities and ensuring that research results in real difference at the farm level. The eighty representatives present, farmer organizations, youth, researchers, private sector and NGO’s, approved with some minor revisions, this revised Charter.
We were also presented with a proposed new governance structure for the Global Forum. This structure included spaces on the steering committee for three farmer organization representatives. With the other farmer partners present we suggested a mechanism for identifying how the one global farm representative and two regional farmer representatives would be selected. These representatives would be selected democratically from nominations received from farmer organization partners.
The GCARD3 Global Event meetings include a much broader base of participants with close to five hundred participants from research, extension service, NGOs, education, funding organizations and farmer groups. These people divided up in to five separate thematic areas to develop specific recommendations for action on the research agenda. Each of the groups reported back with specific actions that had the common theme of ensuring that the farm community was engaged.
This meeting opened up a whole new dialogue. I came away impressed by the way that GFAR is intentionally reaching out to farmer organizations, youth, women and other players. This should result in targeted and effective research that has the ability to make a difference at the farm level.
Blog post by Ron Bonnett, President of the Canadian Federation of Agriculture
Photo credits: IISD/Kiara Worth