Foresight for better futures, GFAR blog

#Foresight4Ag: Empowering rural communities to determine their own futures

The workshop participants, core of the Africa Foresight Academy

GFAR and FARA are leading the facilitation of a Collective Action embedding foresight into agricultural research and innovation in Africa.

Climate change, population growth and migration are some of the challenges that face the future of agriculture. Caught in the middle of these challenges are smallholder farmers and rural communities who produce a substantial proportion of the world’s food.

For them to be able to better manage these challenges, farmers and rural communities need new and improved knowledge and technologies. However, for such products to be relevant and useful for farmers, they need to be well tailored to their needs – both present and emerging.

In designing and implementing effective agriculture and rural development programmes in farming communities, foresight analysis is required to understand how current and emerging trends and drivers are shaping present realities and the plausible futures. Foresight analysis can help explore plausible future changes and make decisions that will influence the trajectories of change. In essence, it is the use of the plausible knowledge of the future to change the present in order to influence the future.

By becoming future-smart, farming communities and agriculture stakeholders realise that change is not just what happens to them, but a process that is well influenced by their own conscious decisions. This change in mind-set can transform them from being reactive bystanders to becoming pro-active agents and influencers of the kind of change they would like to see.

For farming communities to be able to use participatory foresight to engage agricultural researchers and innovators to better serve their own needs, they need greater capacity to understand and appropriately use foresight approaches to improve their own decision making.

The GFAR Collective Action on Empowering rural communities to determine their own futures aims to create inclusive spaces, through foresight, for the co-development of research needs and priorities, with the aim of producing research and innovations that truly address farmers’ problems as they see them. GFAR Secretariat, with relevant Partners in GFAR, support foresight activities, particularly in farmers’ organizations and Regional Fora, by building their capacity in forward thinking, especially young professionals.


To this end, GFAR Secretariat co-organized and co-resourced with the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA)—the Regional Forum convening actors in agricultural research and innovation in Sub-Saharan Africa and long-time Partner in GFAR—a foresight training workshop on futures of agricultural research and innovation in Africa. Held 10-18 February 2018 in Accra, Ghana, the training workshop was conceived and implemented to serve as the foundation for an Africa Foresight Academy.

This Collective Action of GFAR contributes to strengthening foresight capacity and futures literacy in Africa. The goal is to build a critical mass of foresight practitioners in the region who will help shape the futures of agricultural research and innovation for development. The practitioners will be expected to embed futures thinking and foresight processes into their own engagements. FARA will facilitate the Academy with the active support and guidance of GFAR.

The Young Professionals for Agricultural Development (YPARD) also contributed through the participation of young professionals in the training, 2 – 3 of whom are YPARD members. The participants brainstormed on the forces and drivers shaping the futures of agricultural research and innovations, their interactions or mutual influences, and building scenarios based on the states of the most influential forces they have identified.

Working together
Group working on clarifying definition of driving forces by brainstorming

By the end of the workshop, 15 young professionals from across Africa were trained in the co-elaborative analysis technique of foresight and used this technique to analyze the futures of agricultural research and innovation in Africa. After the 5-day training, the 15 participants then formed the foundation of the Africa Foresight Academy which was launched at the end of the training.

In all, participants found the training workshop engaging and inspiring, with “insightful” being the word most used to describe the training.

Going forward, Bunmi Ajilore of GFAR Secretariat will work alongside FARA Secretariat on developing the architecture of the Africa Foresight Academy. Follow-up meetings of the members of the Academy will be held to look at the futures of specific issues/areas of agricultural research, innovation and development in Africa.

Bunmi Ajilore leading the training

GFAR is also engaging with partners in Nigeria, through IITA, to collaborate on a Country Consultation on Integration and Alignment towards Agricultural Transformation in Nigeria meeting being planned for April 10 – 12, 2018. The Country Consultation meeting in Nigeria will be a Collective Action of GFAR partners, which include the IITA, the Agricultural Research Council of Nigeria (ARCN), and other stakeholders such as IFAD, World Bank and AGRA (Nigeria Offices), GIZ etc. The purpose of the meeting is to work towards developing a framework for action for aligning research and delivery activities of AR&ID institutions working in, or with interest in, Nigeria towards the achievement of national strategic goals, and also in line with the goals of CAADP and SDG2.

Follow #Foresight4Ag for more tweets and posts from the trainees and those engaged in the Africa Foresight Academy.

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