Setting the scene for GCARD2

Daniela Hirschfeld
Latin America regional consultant, SciDev.Net

Next week Uruguay is hosting farmers, researchers, entrepreneurs and policymakers from all over the world.

Punta del Este, arguably the most famous resort in Latin America, will set the scene for the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2). The biennial conference, which started in Montpellier, France, in 2010, will provide the opportunity to share experiences and build partnerships; to discuss future agricultural challenges; to improve agricultural research; and to ensure that women and small farmers are equal partners in agricultural processes.

The fact that Uruguay was chosen to host such an important conference is not a great surprise. The country has been building a name for itself as a conference destination and in 2011, Uruguay hosted 42 per cent more conferences than five years ago.

In the early decades of the 20th century, Uruguay was known as “the Switzerland of the Americas”. It is still recognised for its advanced education, its stable democracy, good health record, liberal social views and for having less economic disparity than other countries in Latin America.

Despite its geographic location between two of the eight biggest countries in the world, Uruguay has managed to overcome its size to notch up a list of ‘firsts’.

It was the first country in South America to have universal suffrage (1915), one of the first to enforce the eight-hour work day,
it is also the only country in the continent never to have slavery, one of the first in the world to have a minimum wage for rural workers, and most recently the first country in South America to ban smoking in public places (2005) and to decriminalize abortion (this month). It was also the first country to both host and win the FIFA World Cup.

Uruguay is primarily an agricultural country and most of the exports come from the agricultural sector, but in recent years the
country has developed a modern software sector and it exports more software than any other country in Latin America.

Of course Uruguay is far from perfect. It has faced economic crisis in the last decade, as well as brain drain, with many young citizens leaving the country. Signals from past governments to improve scientific production in the country have led to improvements but many gaps remain.

For this reason, high-level scientific meetings like GCARD2 are an opportunity for Uruguay to learn from other realities, to show what Uruguyan farmers and researchers can acheive – and of course, to offer visitors luxurious beaches, vast prairies, a relaxed countryside lifestyle, a wide range of locally-grown foods and the warmth of its people.

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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