‘Action, not just networks’ for agricultural development

Rodrigo de Oliveira Andrade
Latin America correspondent, SciDev.Net


It has been an action-packed day at the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2) so far. During the plenary session, which officially opened the meeting, we heard about the importance of discussing with smallholder farmers their needs to better define research priorities, as well as public policies to improve the agricultural development around the world, and about the essential role of partnership.

Monty Jones, chair of the Global Forum on Agriculture Research, said during his talk that radical changes in agricultural research for development are needed and that although research is essential, it in itself is not sufficient to impact the lives of smallholder farmers.

“We value scientific knowledge. However, it’s equally important to capitalise local knowledge, combining it with scientific knowledge to better attend to the needs of resource-poor farmers and smallholders,” he said.

Jones also highlighted the importance of putting farmers at the center of innovation.

“Researchers must talk to farmers and think with them — not for them — to determine their needs, and give them innovations that meet the actual challenges.”

He concluded by saying that achieving impacts requires continued efforts together and commitment to practical actions and that GCARD2 is an opportunity to set out our own commitments about this.

“We need to be active during following days. The time for action is now.”

Credit: GCARD2

Carlos Perez del Castillo, chair of the CGIAR Consortium, asked for feedback from partners working with the consortium to improve the work being done.

And Sujiro Seam, deputy director for Global Public Goods at the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that “a key component of the system is partnership at all levels: national, bi-lateral, public-private, research-extension-farmer”.

But Codrin Paveliuc-Olariu, a postdoctoral researcher at Gembloux Agro Biotech in Belgium, told SciDev.Net that only a few things have been done since the first GCARD meeting, in 2010. Most of the things that have taken place are related to capacity-building and partnerships, and more networks have been created and supported by GFAR and CGIAR.

In his opinion this is not enough, since if organisations continue to create new networks and new partnerships without really giving value for money to the present ones, “we will be going nowhere”.

“We don’t need more evaluations, assessment and studies, we need to give support to grassroots projects, to support stakeholder initiatives directly,” he said.

“GCARD2 should be an improvement on the first meeting, not just a showcase of what has been done and ‘let’s move forward with that under a new name’. We need to take into consideration the changes in the past years, we need to consider what hasn’t been done and why, we need to listen to other voices also.”

He also tweeted that he doesn’t agree with Monty Jones when he says that farmers are the only part of the food chain. “A full system made by multistakeholders approach is needed.”

Additional reporting by Daniela Hirschfeld.

This blog post is part of our coverage of GCARD 2012, which takes place on 29 October–1 November 2012 in Punta del Este, Uruguay. To read news and analysis on agricultural research please visit our website.

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