A turn for the better

In Montpellier, blue skies have given way to grey drizzle, but inside the Corum Centre, GCARD has taken a turn for the better. If this morning’s session on agricultural biodiversity is anything to go by, concerns that farmers are not being given a chance to contribute will be yesterday’s news.

“I’ve been trying to interact since yesterday and today I got the opportunity to do so”, said one Indian delegate.

The session saw lively discussion (credit:GCARD)

The session saw some lively discussion from farmers, nongovernmental organisations, researchers and policymakers, among others, on what the CGIAR’s agricultural biodiversity mega-programme should look like.

The session was led by Kwesi Atta-Krah, deputy director general of Biodiversity International.

A key message from the delegates was well summarised by Atta-Krah: “We need to stop talking about linking to farmers and start talking about involving farmers”.

This means ensuring that farmers take part in every step of the research process—from setting research agendas to monitoring the effectiveness of their results.

The same is true for CGIAR’s development partners. “What is the real role of development partners? They are not really partners—they are there to disseminate your products but they are not involved in all stages of research and development”, said Neth Daño, programme manager for the etc group in the Philippines.

Atta-Krah threw the question back on the delegates, inviting concrete proposals for addressing the issue.

A myriad of suggestions emerged, from creating advisory panels to getting involved in private extension services to setting up virtual consulting centres. One coffee-grower from Costa Rica suggested simply sending researchers out to get their hands dirty alongside farmers. “By the end of one day they will know what the problems are”.

Atta-Krah seemed dedicated to using the session to get a list of concrete actions to feed in to the agricultural biodiversity mega-programme.

What happens beyond that remains to be seen.

Sian Lewis
Commisioning editor, SciDev.Net

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