Stories tagged: agricultural research

How Europe-Africa Research Collaboration Can Uncover Climate Solutions for Farmers

Dorine Odongo, Communications Manager, African Women in Agricultural Research and Development (AWARD), explores how collaboration can lead to a more resilient and equitable future.

Scientific innovation plays a key role in equipping Africa’s smallholder farmers to adapt to the impacts of climate change. But before African researchers can develop the solutions and innovations that farmers need, they must first be scientists of uncompromising quality.

Supporting African agricultural scientists, particularly women, to develop their research skills is essential, not only for African food security but also for global food security. Sub-Saharan Africa is home to a quarter of the world’s arable land but to date, produces just 10 per cent of its agricultural output, leaving an enormous source of potential untapped. Continue reading

Video: An Africa-Led Science Agenda

Yemi Akinbamijo, the Executive Director of the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA) met with Farming First TV to discuss why an African research agenda must be Africa-led, Africa-driven, and Africa-owned.

“For the first time, Africans should be given a say about the design and the development of the strategy we are taking” he commented. “If the agenda is not Africa-led, it is synonymous with raising your family from your neighbour’s kitchen, it does not make sense”. Continue reading

GCARD2 puts agricultural research firmly in the spotlight

On the opening day of the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2), experts from over 70 countries gathered to track global progress in how agricultural research is improving the livelihoods of the world’s poorest farmers, especially through foresight and partnerships for future innovation.

In his opening remarks, Uruguayan President José Mujica is expected to discuss the importance of investing in agricultural research and to recognise its great potential for boosting crop productivity, improving farmers’ resilience and driving economic growth.

Uruguay’s investments in its own agricultural research and development initiatives have paid dividends, with agricultural production increasing by 25 percent in recent years and total rice production currently the third highest in the world. Furthermore, Latin America as a region has become the main agricultural and food net exporting region in the world, having increased its share in global crop production from 10 percent in the 1960s to about 13 percent today.

Ahead of GCARD2, a newly launched global trends report, entitled “ASTI Global Assessment of Agricultural R&D Spending”, highlighted positive signs of new public expenditure for agricultural research and development, with a promising 22 percent global increase from the 2000 – 2008 period. Yet worryingly, most of this additional investment has not occurred in low-income countries, which only experienced an increase of 2 percent during this period.

Monty Jones of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), one of the organisations co-authoring the report and the organiser of GCARD2, says:

With close to one billion people waking up and going to bed hungry, most of them deriving their livelihoods from agricultural activities, and with global population set to expand by a further two billion in coming decades, a radical change for agricultural research for development is needed.

As part of this year’s focus on inclusion and capacity building, GCARD2 also provided a training session for 26 young “social reporters”, part of a wider network of 130 reporters from 32 countries, tracking and reporting on the conference and its outputs. Each reporter in attendance was awarded a diploma for their contribution, presented in person by the Uruguayan Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Tabaré Aguerre during the opening session.

Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary of GFAR Secretariat, reinforced this commitment to youth:

 Hearing young peoples’ voice at this conference is critical. They are tomorrow’s leaders – the farmers, scientists, environmental stewards and others who will be required to build a food secure and sustainable future for all.

The programme for the week’s conference includes high-level panel sessions, a ministerial roundtable, and the opportunity to visit sites of agricultural innovation around the country.

New Paper on Improving Agricultural Research

The Global Harvest Initiative has published the first of five policy briefs that address the need for action on global hunger and food security. Building from recent GHI research that suggests the rate of agricultural productivity must increase at a minimum of 24% per year to meet demand over the next 40 years, the policy brief focuses on the innovation and productivity gains necessary to sustainably grow more and better food.

GHI Executive Director, Dr. William G. Lesher, spoke of the pressing need to increase and improve international research in agricultural productivity,

With a surging global population and new demands on food crops, the inadequate and declining support for basic food and agricultural research must be addressed quickly, as the research process takes a minimum of ten years from laboratory to field.

Improving Agricultural Research Funding, Structure and Collaboration” describes the notable returns on agricultural research and the role of research as the primary source for developing solutions. Dr. Jason Clay, WWF Senior Vice President of Market Transformation and a consultative partner of GHI, said,

Research is a first step in acquiring data to measure our real impact and identify alternatives. Half of the world’s farmers are producing below average results and cannot even feed their own families. Learning how to leverage research and data is critical to stimulate innovation, identify new ideas and improve productivity.”

The issue brief also highlights key research areas such as more efficient water use and the reduction of post-harvest losses, and notes that public sector research investments must be on par with private sector research to achieve significant increases in the rate of production worldwide.

300 Agricultural Research Projects in Africa Are Mapped

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At the FARA Science Week in Burkina Faso last month, a map was launched that details over 300 of the agricultural research programmes currently taking place in Africa.

‘CGMap Ongoing Research in Africa’ enables different research groups to learn about the challenges faced across the continent and also provides opportunities for collaboration.

The map lists information about research projects across Africa, including the project priorities, time frame, location, partners, funders and contact information. According to the map coordinator, Evelyn Katingi, the map represents an ‘86% coverage of information from all 15 centres of the CGIAR.’

According to the map, the focus areas of the projects are divided as follows:

  • 21% focus on crops
  • 14% focus on policy and institutions
  • 10% focus on livestock
  • 5% focus on land management
  • 4% focus on soils
  • 2% focus on fisheries

The majority of the projects are being conducted in East Africa: 120 in Kenya, 91 in Uganda and 87 in Tanzania.

The initiative was coordinated by two CGIAR programmes: Collective Action in Eastern and Southern Africa and ICT-KM (Information and Communication Technologies – Knowledge Management). ‘CGMap Ongoing Research in Africa’ is available to CGIAR staff, partners and other key stakeholders in African agricultural research.

Farming First Session at GCARD 2010: Public-Private Partnerships in Agricultural Research

At the first ever Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) at the end of March, Farming First hosted one of the sessions for delegates from around the world.  The session looked at the role of public-private partnerships (PPPs) in agricultural research and how these will help achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).

Led by Lindiwe Sibanda of FANRPAN and Joyce Cacho of Novus International, the panel showcased a number of case studies of successful partnerships to an audience representing science, farming, public, private and civil society organisations from all over the world, who later gathered to discuss the ways to strengthen partnerships to help advance agricultural development.

Out of these discussion groups, three main points emerged:FF at GCARD

  • Knowledge needs to be turned into something tangible and the key role of the private sector in delivering these products or services should not be underestimated.
  • The risks and benefits of all partners in a public-private partnership should be identified and agreed upon from the beginning in order to have clear objectives and responsibilities in place.
  • All partners need to think, plan and work on a much more collaborative level than ever before.

The Farming First background paper for the session offers an in-depth look at how partnerships between the public and private sectors can provide the necessary financing, training, monitoring and infrastructure to ensure that agricultural innovation is both adapted to the farmers’ needs and accessible to them. The paper also includes case studies of successful PPPs, exploring why they have worked well, and how their learnings could be shared. 

GCARD provided a crucial occasion for all key players, from farmer to donor, to debate the best ways for advancing agricultural research.  But whilst discussions help us to shape the future path of research, it is essential that these discussions are turned into viable solutions which are delivered to farmers themselves in the fields.  This imperative is clearly illustrated by GCARD author Uma Lele’s closing mantra, “We need action, action, action.” The Montpellier Roadmap marks the first step on that path.

At GCARD, Farming First also spoke with Sir Gordon Conway, an agricultural ecologist and professor of international development at Imperial College, London.  During the interview, which was broadcast by Reuters, Sir Gordon discussed the Green Revolution of the 1960s, looking at the potential for a similar agricultural revolution in Africa. The Guardian Katine site also featured the interview, highlighting the various challenges that Sir Gordon noted, such as a lack of infrastructure and poor soils, meaning that an African ‘green revolution’ would have to be led by local solutions.