GCARD2: Closing thoughts

Rodrigo de Oliveira Andrade
Latin America correspondent, SciDev.Net

The Second Global Conference on Agriculture Research for Development (GCARD2) is officially over. As I have previously said, the meeting has produced a lot of recommendations, but nobody knows how and who will put them into practice over the next two years. The conference’s closing session was chaired by Raj Pandora, from the GCARD Organising Committee, and had the presence of Rachel Kyte, World Bank vice-president.

But the most anticipated speech came from the Uruguay’s minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries, Tabaré Aguerre.

In his talk, he exalted the importance of the meeting, saying that GCARD has created a huge forum for sharing experiences and ideas, and has given Uruguay international visibility.

“Our country has been committed to agricultural development focused on sustainability and farmers’ quality of life for years. And I believe that key to continuous improvement of this system is governance. It’s only through governance that we will have an efficient and sustainable national agricultural innovation system,” he said.

Aguerre also highlighted that the GCARD has contributed with these actions and that the private-private and private-public partnerships must be coordinated by public policies well structured, given that many countries have experienced a growth of their development rates by using the natural resources in an exaggerated way.

“Different examples of productive systems have been showed during the GCARD meeting. The world needs a more efficient and competitive agricultural system through the improvement of the smallholder farmers’ life from the food security and sustainability of production process. We won’t achieve our goals while exists poor farmers seen as secondary actors in the elaboration of public policies to the field. The measures need to be fair and compassionated and it won’t come from markets, but from the public sectors,” emphasised.

Myriam Pérez Diaz, one of GCARD2’s social reporters, questioned whether the meeting was really able to address smallholders’ real problems, given that in the eyes of some participants GCARD2 is a very ‘big’ conference, which hampers inserting the smallholders’ interests on the meeting agenda discussion.

“Global trading and price volatility, developed countries dumping under-priced products in poorer countries, land access and land grabbing and private companies buying arable land on developing countries. These are the real barriers to lifting smallholders out of poverty,” she wrote in one of her reports.

“I really don’t understand the reason why nobody is addressing these concerns, which are precisely linked to the main agricultural issues to be overcome through this meeting,” she told SciDev.Net.

Marcio Adriano, from Caritas Internacionalis, told SciDev.Net that he was disappointed with the sort of debates established during the conference and said that the GCARD appears to be distant from the smallholder farmers’ reality.

“They are still trying to put the small farmers into the logic of the big agribusiness, which is indeed in the middle of the discussions. It seems that they still believe that increasing food productions is the solution against hunger in the world. They don’t seem to take into account the problem of the inequality of its distribution,” he said.

Adriano concluded by saying that the academic knowledge still prevailed instead of the dialogue with the smallholder farmers’ local knowledge. Align these knowledge in a same direction is one of the main challenges postponed to the next GCARD meeting, which takes place in 2014.

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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