International representatives from key sectors in agri-food research and innovation have pledged to ‘leave no one behind’ by committing to create more opportunities for rural women and youth, to equip tomorrow’s farmers and researchers with the skills they need, and to push for more investment so that rural communities can grow and flourish.
These were some of the commitments made at the Third Global Conference on Agricultural Development (GCARD3) held recently.
Extensive national and regional consultation on country priorities and needs over 2015 and 2016 had identified five key challenges in realizing the full development value from agricultural and food innovation systems. They were: to ensure better rural futures; keep science relevant and future-focused; scale up research results for impact; showcase results and demonstrate impact; and sustain the business of farming. To address these challenges, participants agreed to 17 actions that they would take collectively to help deliver on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
To ensure better rural futures, participants called for the establishment of foresight platforms that bring together research and innovation actors to develop a shared vision for their futures. Together they can then plan, design and implement initiatives to achieve that future vision.
To keep science relevant and future-focused, agricultural education programs will be overhauled in 100 universities on five continents, to combine multi-disciplinary training in agriculture-related sciences with skills in leadership, entrepreneurship, interpersonal relations and team building. Continuing professional development will focus on innovation and entrepreneurship in agricultural practices, products and services.
In scaling up research to achieve more impact the GCARD3 committed to developing a ‘culture of impact’ across the agri-food research sector, to lobby for investment and capacity building, and to embed research and innovation into country’s own national agricultural systems.
To better demonstrate the impact of investment in research and innovation, stakeholders will contribute to national measures of progress toward the SDGs, and build the capacity of countries to undertake integrated measures, as well as engage with farmers, women and youth. Agriculture indicators will be harmonized and linked to the SDGs.
To support farming as a sustainable business, actions will include “clustering” of smallholder farmers so they can better participate in research and development and develop links to finance and markets. Evidence-based and demand-driven data will be developed to enrich policy and attract finance. At the same time, research and science will recognize the value of traditional farming methods and knowledge.
Dr Shadrack Moephuli, President and CEO, Agricultural Research Council, South Africa, said the GCARD3 Global Event had been very successful in galvanizing participants in understanding and exploring ways of implementing some of the SDGs. “Now it’s up to everyone who has a stake in agricultural research and innovation to find ways to implement these actions,” he said. “An important next step will be to take the GCARD3 Outcomes Statement to policymakers to ensure that the specific resolutions are properly resourced and implemented. We then need to follow up with monitoring and learning from the impact of implementing these decisions.”
Dr Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research and Co-Chair of GCARD3, said the meeting was a milestone in a continuing dialogue on how to transform agricultural research and innovation systems in developing countries around the world. “If we are to get research out of the labs and into the hands of resource-poor farmers, it’s going to require a more concerted approach across the different sectors, and more targeted investment in national agricultural systems. As a result of this week’s meeting, and the extensive national and regional consultations that have gone on in the lead-up to it, we can align our efforts and ensure we are meeting countries’ own development needs. We are ready to take action.”
Frank Rijsberman, CEO, CGIAR Consortium, said agriculture is the backbone of sustainable development, but agri-food systems today are not sustainable, nor are they providing healthy food for all. ”We are also facing increasingly complex and alarming global challenges, particularly climate change. Action and forethought are required from us all – there is no longer time to wait. To ensure that CGIAR is best equipped to deliver solutions to these pressing challenges, we need to ensure our current and future research agenda is, on the one hand, well aligned with the global development agenda and, on the other, with national priorities and needs.”
ICRISAT at GCARD3
ICRISAT was represented at the event by Dr Peter Carberry, Deputy Director General for Research, Dr Shoba Sivasankar, Director, CGIAR Research Programs on Dryland Cereals and on Grain Legumes, and Mr Showkat Nabi Rather, Senior Officer, Communications.
In his Live Periscope interview Dr Carberry said, “Agricultural research has been trying to deliver benefits to Africa from many decades. There is some success, but when we look at the overall performance, there are some constraints like connecting farmers to markets.”
“Agriculture is a market-based enterprise; there has to be development of markets, we have to have the value chains in place and Africa doesn’t have it to the degree that can connect farmers to markets in an efficient and cost effective manner,” added Dr Carberry.
Quoting examples from recent initiative of ICRISAT, where six underprivileged youth from South Africa were trained at ICRISAT, Dr Carberry highlighted the need to engage more youth in agriculture.
Dr Sivasankar co-chaired a Theme on “Keeping science relevant and future-focused” and the theme discussions highlighted challenges, perspectives, strategies, solutions and collective actions needed to scale-out individual and institutional capacity development.
Mr Rather participated as a youth delegate and social reporter for the GCARD3, where he was involved in live social media reporting including live tweeting and blogging.
The GCARD3 was held in Johannesburg during 5-8 April. Over 500 representatives from farmers’ groups, research organizations, education and extension services, development agencies, civil society, and the private sector participated in the event.