GCARD, the acronym, may not have the letter ‘f’ in it but GCARD the conference is certainly meant to—f for farmer.
The meeting has, without doubt, heard a plethora of high-level speakers emphasise the need for agricultural research for development to embrace a participatory approach where farmers — among other non-research stakeholders — articulate their needs and help set research agendas.
To do so, they must be given a platform to speak. GCARD was meant to be that platform but by the end of day two, delegates were unconvinced that it is fit for purpose.
On Sunday, we sat through a day of well-meaning rhetoric marked by an absence of farmers’ voices.
It wasn’t until lunchtime yesterday that the meeting was opened up to questions from the floor and by then tensions were running high.
One delegate from Peru said “you must listen to farmers”—a sentiment echoed by almost all of the comments.
Others were concerned with the number of farmers at the conference. A female farmer from India said “equal partnership is dependent on equal representation”.
Outside the conference rooms themselves, delegates were also expressing their frustration. The GCARD blog quotes two participants involved in the GCARD regional consultations saying “We would have preferred … a longer discussion with the audience. “
To be fair, Sunday was always billed as a high-level summit meeting and it is today, through parallel break-out sessions, where farmers and other stakeholders’ contributions are meant to come to the fore.
Let’s hope they manage to do just that.