Accountability for actions, GFAR blog

Shaping the Future of Agriculture and Food Together

By MARK HOLDERNESS, GFAR Executive Secretary

This article on GFAR’s role was originally published on the G20 Portal on the occasion of the 2017 G20 Summit held 4–5 September 2016 in Hangzhou, Zhejiang, China.


We all know that humanity faces huge challenges in achieving sustainable development and that we must act now. Our agri-food systems, and our very societies, are threatened by unsustainable consumption habits and production practices, by our failure to provide a viable and sustainable living for young people in rural communities and by the looming spectre of climate change and its impacts on entire ecosystems.

GCARD handsWe will not overcome these challenges unless we break down the institutionalized barriers and systemic challenges that are stopping agri-food research and innovation from contributing to our sustainable development.

GFAR is a unique open forum and a movement for change, bringing together partners from all around the world, from farmers and consumers to upstream research and across public, private and civil sectors. Our goal is effective, responsive and equitable agri-food research and innovation, changing lives for the better and driven by the needs and demands of societies themselves.

Working together across millions of stakeholders and through their representative bodies, GFAR addresses 6 key needs in transforming and strengthening agricultural research and innovation:

1. Inclusive foresight to define future needs

2. Equitable partnership in innovation systems

3. Better investment of human, institutional and financial resources

4. Developing human and institutional capacities

5. Embedding agricultural and food innovation in wider development processes

6. Accountability and demonstrated impacts

Our actions are developed through a rolling series of global conferences, national and regional dialogues:

The Global Conferences on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD).

GCARD collage 2To meet the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), agriculture and food research and innovation must address a complex series of intertwined challenges, ensuring that no one is left behind.

The 2015-16 GCARD3 process links agricultural science and society, with an agenda that tackles these major systemic challenges head-on. How can rural communities shape their own futures? How can we put the resource poor at the centre of our innovations, and meet their particular needs? Why are potentially-valuable innovations not taken up in practice? Why is productivity still the sole measure used for success, when agriculture impacts nearly all the SDGs? And how can we convert agrifood innovation into enterprise and opportunity for rural youth, in a world facing huge social pressures through the exodus from rural communities? The GCARD3 process has given rise to vital new multi-stakeholder actions, each driven by the Partners concerned and addressing key practical challenges in achieving agriculture and food related SDGs. These Alliances address:

1. Investments and capacities for integrated innovation.

2. Re-thinking impact metrics for the SDGs.

3. Creating agricultural leaders of the future and reforming education.

4. Sustaining the business of farming.

5. Re-appropriation of rural futures by local actors.

3K1A6363Collective action is vital; no single organization has the capacity to meet all needs in the complex webs and value chains of agri-food innovation around the world and we are all inter-dependent. Each of us holds a small part of the picture required, but without the other pieces we are incomplete.

The G20 has a key role to play here. Three quarters of all investment and much of the capacity in the sector is in the G20 Nations, vital not only for the G20 themselves, but also for enabling sustainable development around the world.

We call on the G20 Nations and their institutions to now become actively involved in these processes.

Through GCARD3, we have together set a clear path forward, in which the future of agriculture is driven by rural communities themselves, led by national actions and commitments, with knowledge shared regionally, and processes supported internationally.

We have agreed Collective Actions that have been readily embraced by all and which can be delivered in practice. They address the need to link agricultural science and society: turning agricultural research and innovation into enterprise and impact; ensuring that the resource poor farmers have a direct say in shaping their own futures and are no longer the left behind.

These actions will resonate around the world, because they were formulated through the collective voices of those who care about the role of agri-food research and innovation in ensuring sustainable development for humanity. Want to get involved in GFAR? Simply enter your organization’s contacts at:

There is no financial obligation or legal commitment involved.

Contact us at: GFAR-Secretariat@fao. org and see our website

We look forward to working with you!

GCARD is recognized in the 2016 G20 Agriculture Ministers Meeting Communiqué as an important mechanism for increasing exchanges in agricultural innovations and sharing relevant policy experience and successful practices.

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