GCARD2: Closing thoughts

November 2, 2012

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.

What about the farmers?

November 2, 2012

Rodrigo de Oliveira Andrade
Latin America correspondent, SciDev.Net

Yesterday at the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2) delgates heard some of the main recommendations that will constitute the meeting’s priorities over the next two years. At the same session, an overview of the parallel session over the past three days of meeting was also released.

During ‘Agenda for Action toward GCARD 2014’ we heard that the conference’s value goes beyond mere discussion. The key messages were: foster a culture to better enable partnership; develop guidelines and standards for partnership between research and development actors in particular; and promote innovative arrangements that enable, rather than frustrate, partnership.

Delegates also heard that there is a need to clarify what public-private-civil partnerships are, who they involve and under what conditions they work. New mechanisms need to be created to unify all partners within a trusted relationship that includes country-level platforms, regional investment forums and global initiatives.

Regarding public investment, it was recommended that GCARD and its stakeholders synthesise available information on investment levels and impacts by country and subject matter.

Lot of actions were proposed, but nobody knows who will put them into practice in the upcoming months. This was one of the main criticisms raised by Ajay Jakhar, from the Farmer’s Forum in India, who also said in his talk that in the next GCARD meeting, “the farmers need to have more representation”.

I only had the opportunity to hear what farmers and non-governmental organisations had to say about the meeting in one session throughout the entire conference, even though the official discourse had constantly said that farmers need to take part in the agricultural research process.

Once again institutionalist discourse has remained rooted in official discussions. And the question which hasn’t been answered is [again]: how is everything that has been discussed going to benefit smallholder farmers, particularly the poorest ones?

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.

From research to action

November 1, 2012

Rodrigo de Oliveira Andrade
Latin America correspondent, SciDev.Net

The field trip day has been the most exciting activity promoted by the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2) so far. Not just because we had the opportunity to find out about agricultural production in Uruguay, but also because we could learn a little bit more about the country itself and interact with people from all over the world closely, by sharing points of view over the work that had been done in the meeting during the past two days.

After the buses left the Conrad Hotel yesterday morning, we made our way to the Montevideo countryside. During the journey through Punta del Este’s roads to the Rincón del Colorado zone, our guide, Roberto Zoppolo, introduced us to the local landscapes, agriculture, weather, and Uruguayan fauna and flora.

I had chosen Circuit 5, entitled ‘Sustainable Production’. Our first stop was at the Wilson Ferreira Aldunate experimental station at the Uruguayan National Institute Agricultural Research (INIA), based in Las Brujas.

Credit: Rodrigo de Oliveira Andrade

Zoppolo, who also is director of the INIA National Research Program on Fruit Production, told SciDev.Net: “Our rural development programmes focus on social and environmental sustainability, by ensuring the food security of smallholder farmers”.

INIA has four others experimental stations around the country, including Salto Grande, in Camino al Terrible, and La Estanzuela, in Colonia.

We saw some of the work being done by the institute in the field of horticulture, as well as onion crops adapted to different growing seasons and production areas.

After our trip to INIA, we visited the Solari family, who introduced us to a new method of plague control that uses pheromones to prevent its reproduction. The women living there also shared with us their experiences in fruit production.

Our visit to the Zunino family involved finding out how soils are preserved to achieve sustainability. The family uses a technique known as crop rotation on their farm, which helps to preserve soil quality while reducing the incidence of plagues and soils diseases.

It was good take part in this circuit to understand how some partnerships are going on and how governmental institutions are dealing with the smallholder real problems and concerns.

By the end of the day, everybody was exhausted and starving as well. So it was good to know that a barbecue was waiting for us at the Estancia Siglo XX. We witnessed a lovely sunset, accompanied by good food and conversation.

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.

Research and innovation through the roads of the nation

October 31, 2012

Daniela Hirschfeld
Latin America regional consultant, SciDev.Net

No agricultural meeting would be complete without a trip to the places where things happen. For this reason, GCARD2 devoted its third day to field visits.

Located within a radius of 150 kilometres from Punta del Este, six ‘circuits’ invited participants to find out more about agricultural research and innovation “made in Uruguay” – and sample the beauties of the country too, Jorge Marzaroli, coordinator of the local committee that organised the circuits, told SciDev.Net.

Buses left the Conrad Hotel to explore each of the six paths, which also included lunches in various farms or country inns.

Circuit 1 was ‘Traceability and value add’, and was intended to show cattle farming — one of the main export sectors in Uruguay — and some sheep farming, both distinguished for its sanitation quality and traceability.

Circuit 2 was about ‘Co-innovation in family livestock production’ and comprised visits to three farms that are working with three national institutions to increase production with available technologies.

Circuit 3 was focused on ‘Certified genetic material’. It involved a visit to a small women’s cooperative that produces certified seed onion created by the state faculty of agronomy, a winery that produces wine with certified genetic material, and a nursery which is producing high-quality seeds.

‘Land access’ was the theme of circuit 4, and included visits to family dairy farmers and a collective farm which has a bank of fodder, both making remarkable use of natural resoursers.

Circuit 5 was ‘Sustainable production’ and it explored fruit production with strong participation of rural women, and a horticulture farm that combines its production with cattle farming to preserve the soil.

Circuit 6 was about ‘Production in protected areas’, and included visits to holdings that received support and advice from the national government to achieve a more productive and sustainable management of the existing natural pastures.

According to Ricardo Shaw, in charge of the booking system, participants chose their favorites based on three criteria: the topic that interested them the most, gender-driven concerns, and also the posibility to see some of the Uruguayan landscape.

Shaw said that the most popular trip was circuit 2, located in the southeast of the country, in Rocha, a Uruguayan department known for its natural beaches and green plains dotted with palm trees.

Other popular circuits were 1, 5 and 6, which took participants to 120 km to the center of the country; to outside the city of Montevideo — the Uruguayan capital — located 150 km to the west of Punta del Este; and to the east of the country, on the coast of Rocha department, respectively.

In the evening, after the visits, all the buses arrived at Estancia Siglo XX, a well-preserved country inn outside Punta del Este, where a traditional Uruguay barbacue was waiting for all participants.

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.

Foresight: the buzzword at GCARD2

October 31, 2012

Daniela Hirschfeld
Latin America regional consultant, SciDev.Net

Three concepts have been the focus of the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2): partnership, capacity-building and foresight – and the last one also seems to be the current buzzword.

Foresight studies aim to help identify research priorities, formulating broad national or local strategies and allowing NGOs and other groups to intervene in the policy debate.

The concept has arisen in many sessions during the conference and it was the centre of the Tuesday meeting ‘Foresight guiding research and innovation at a national and regional level’, in which representatives of institutions from five regions of the world shared their foresight experiences.

Central Asia and the Caucasus, Europe, Latin America and the Caribbean, Near East and North Africa, and Sub-Saharan Africa all had their turn. “We just saw the world in this session,” said Ruben Echeverría, director-general of International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT).

Also, delegates heard about how foresight studies are still new to some regions, such as in the Caucasus, where only few studies have been done, according to Oleg Shatberashvili, director of the Georgian Federation of Information and Documentation (CACAARI), while Christian Hoste, from the European Forum of Agriculture Research for Develpment (EFARD), detailed a long list of foresight studies and said that his region invests 3.3 billion euros on agriculture research each year.

“Foresight is not a luxury but maybe it is not for every region,” said Lance O’Brien, based at the head office of the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority, at the session.

“In Latin America, these types of studies are still new because agriculture research has focused more on technical development,” Emilio Ruz, executive secretary of the Cooperative Program for Agri-food and Agroindustrial Technological Development of the Southern Cone (Procisur), and also a panelist, told SciDev.Net.

He said that Europe’s experience could help other regions to save time and effort, and that Latin America is working with Europe on a project to train people in both doing these types of studies and using them. “The latter is even more important,” Ruz emphasised.

“For those who didn’t invest in agriculture research it would be premature to invest in foresight studies,” Echeverría said, adding that countries or institutions must first invest in research.

He explained that “after centuries of development, Europe can spend millions of euros in foresight”, but for poor countries maybe it is better to receive international collaboration under the form of foresight studies.

So is foresight is the current buzzword?

“Yes, we all talk about it because the speed of changes took us by surprise. Not seeing where things were going maybe made us waste money,” Echeverría said.

“A challenge for future foresight studies is to put focus on the conducting forces that are moving the world: food, water, energy and land. Agriculture interacts with them and the future must be analized within such framework,” said Ruz.

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.

‘Action, not just networks’ for agricultural development

October 29, 2012

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.

Setting the scene for GCARD2

October 26, 2012

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.

GCARD2: Innovation and impact on smallholder livelihoods

October 26, 2012

Rodrigo de Oliveira Andrade
Latin America correspondent, SciDev.Net

Next week, the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2), which takes place in Punta del Este, Uruguay, will focus its attention on how to implement some of the tasks indentified in the GCARD ‘roadmap’, a document produced during the first GCARD meeting, held in Montpellier, France, in March 2010.

Credit: GCARD2

The document urges collective action to transform and improve the Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D) system globally to strengthen it and better meet the needs of the poor, particularly resource-poor farmers, smallholders and rural communities.GCARD2 also aims provide the opportunity for different sectors to share their experiences and knowledge on dealing with key challenges facing agricultural research, technology generation, knowledge dissemination and delivery systems.

What has been done to deliver the key principles of the GCARD roadmap into practical changes? How is the knowledge 0n, and awareness of, future agricultural challenges and the needs of smallholder farmers helping to improve research prioritisation? What sorts of partnerships are required along the complex pathways between research and development to improve the lives of millions? These are some of the questions that will guide the meeting.

The GCARD2 programme includes several parallel sessions, such as ‘Partnerships to Achieve Food and Nutrition Security’ and ‘Environmental Resilience and Foresight Guiding Research and Innovation’, to name a couple.

The conference provides a great chance to update our perspectives with regards to the goals set in the previous meeting, that is, to reach a consensus on important needs in transforming agricultural research for developmentand the solutions required to satisfy those needs; to provide an inclusive mechanism going forward; and to provide a common framework to plan and coordinate actions for development impact.

Daniela Hirschfeld and I will be posting about the proceedings here over the next few days. Watch this space.

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.

News story from the conference: Dryland regions unite to combat food security

June 30, 2011

A. A. Khan

Credit: WCSJ

30 June 2011 | EN

[DOHA, QATAR] A global alliance to boost food security in the arid regions, through common research and adoption of new technologies is soon to be launched, a conference has heard.

The Global Dry Land Alliance, a Qatar government initiative, would enable member states to pool their research efforts to strengthen food security in arid countries.

Drylands make up about 45 per cent of the world’s land area where around two billion people live. But these countries do not share equal financial resources for combating food insecurity. The Alliance would provide technical or financial support to struggling member states through food security programmes, agricultural development investment partnerships and new regional centres of excellence.

Full news story here

Crucial science stories get lost in a time of political turmoil

June 30, 2011

It is easy to forget, amidst the violence in so many Middle Eastern countries, that the Arab region will face enormous food security problems unless action is urgently taken.

Only science research and technology transfer can hope to solve this enormous problem, said experts from the International Fund for Agriculture Development.

Important science stories get lost during political turmoil. Credit: Flickr/Kodak Agfa

Lack of water, and degradation of the agricultural land because of climate change are the key threats to the future of the region, said Mahmoud El-Solh, director-general of the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas.

Besides these problems, transborder diseases – such as the wheat rust, Ug99 – threaten agriculture. But science research and technology transfer cannot play their role unless the politicians are convinced of their necessity.

“We cannot do anything  if the politicians do not make serious policy to fight this challenge,” said Hussein Awad, of the West Noubaria Rural Development Project in Egypt.

The Arab region suffers from many problems at all levels, especially from a lack of security caused by political conflict, revolution and an increase in organised crime.

As a science  journalist in the Arab world it is difficult to draw the attention of politicians to this. How do we go about this? That is our challenge.

Hichem Boumedjout, SciDev.Net contributor in Algeria

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