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Global conference on agricultural research for development

By James Laraki (December 30, 2012)

RESHAPING agricultural research together so that it better answers the needs of resource poor smallholder farmers and delivering the change together was the focus of the second global conference on agricultural research for development (GCARD II) held from 29th October to 1st November in Punta del Este, Uruguay.

The GCARD II was a follow-up on the outcomes of the first meeting (GCARD I) held in Montpellier, France, in March 2010. The 2012 conference with the theme “Foresight and partnership for innovation and impact on small-holder livelihoods” was organized by the Global Forum on Agricultural Research in association with the reformed  Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) and the host country.

The purpose of the conference was to move from WHY transformation of AR4D, to HOW to implement the GCARD RoadMap in practice and WHAT difference does it make. The objective of the GCARD II was to take stock of progress and lessons from experiences in developing and strengthening collaborative actions to transform innovation processes towards achieving large scale development impacts, in particular on the livelihoods of resource poor smallholder farmers.

In 2010, CGARD I produced a Roadmap paving the way towards more responsive and relevant agricultural research for development systems around the world. The Roadmap was created to deliver change and urgent transformation to the way we do agricultural research and development to better meet the needs of resource-poor farmers and rural communities.

GCARD II focus on the ways to implement the tasks identified in the GCARD Roadmap.  The conference attended by over 600 participants representing about 101 countries became an excellent platform to build cooperation around key forward-looking agenda and plans of joint actions among all stakeholders.

The GCARD II looked at the questions: where are we today, how are we making these changes happen, and what impacts can we show. The GCARD II addressed these as part of an ongoing process towards sustainable development and better impact. It also opened international partnership opportunities and helped the development of concrete research and development programs that could lead to substantive impacts.

The GCARD II provided participants an opportunity to share their experiences, build effective partnerships and plan their work together to meet future needs. The key elements considered were:

  • Considered how AR4D systems can align with major development policies such as those of national governments of the G8 and G20 and the establishment of post-2015 development goals
  • Repositioned women farmers’ needs firmly at the centre of AR4D processes
  • Directly engaged the voices of youth into consideration of the issues involved.
  • Developed and agreed collective actions that will bring together diverse foresight analyses, to better understand future needs and priorities and help us all to shape the future we desire, particularly exploring the future for smallholder farming
  • Brought a range of innovative agricultural research-for-development agendas to centre stage: household nutrition, gender-based needs, attracting young people into agriculture, meeting the needs of communities shattered by protracted crises, linking farmers to markets, adapting to climate change impacts and fostering community-centred innovation were all addressed as key agendas alongside actions generating productive, sustainable and resilient agricultural production systems
  • Set out what is required for solid actions to track and stimulate investments and returns and make these more effective and comprehensive, linking public, private and civil mechanisms
  • Agreed practical concerted actions to develop required capacities at national, regional and global levels, providing a launch pad for a wide range of new partnerships and collective actions to deliver change.

GCARD II also provided an opportunity for all sectors and regions to report their activities since 2010 and to agree on collective actions and next steps in implementation of the GCARD Roadmap.

GCARD offers a special opportunity to strengthen international agricultural research. The GCARD process proposes key challenges and opportunities facing agricultural research, technology generation, knowledge dissemination and delivery systems be prioritized and addressed. It identified the changes required in research and innovation systems so that millions of resource-poor smallholder farmers and consumers could benefit from environmentally sustainable productivity growth and improvement in systems that can increase their food security and incomes to tackle the root causes of poverty.

The National Agricultural Research Systems (NARS) in PNG is part of this process and was represented at the conference by participation of Drs Norah Omot and Raghunath Ghodake of NARI. Our NARS has already made substantial progress on this front and has realigned itself to take up the challenges.

We hope the necessary support is given to our NARS to meet the outcomes identified through the GCARD process and to identify the changes required in research and innovation systems so that smallholder farmers and rural communities could benefit from sustainable growth and improvements that can improve their livelihood.

Photo: Villagers in Tambul, Western Highlands, preparing sweet potato mounts to plant new crop.

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