18 April 2009


The G-8 Agriculture Ministers Meeting: The critical role of agricultural research in development

The first ever G-8 Agriculture Summit, held from 18 to 20 April in Treviso, Italy, is a milestone in international action. It will strive to put agricultural development on the global development agenda and has succeeded to bring attention to this essential issue of worldwide importance. Governments from around the world have recognized its vital role as we see spiralling food prices and face enormous future challenges.


This Summit will see the agricultural ministers from leading governments identify a joint strategy for containing increasing food prices and limiting the impacts of future world crises.  This goal was set out by the member countries of the G-8 in the statement approved by the G-8 Summit in Japan in 2008. In order to fully address the gravity of the present food crisis in the medium to long-term, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) underscores the inherent need for agricultural research for development to be highlighted in this upcoming Summit so that medium to long term needs can be met, as well as the immediate crises of hunger and poverty.


Paolo Sarfatti, Technical Advisor for the Italian Overseas Institute for Agriculture states that "Italy is convinced of the importance of enhanced support to innovative agricultural science, research and technology for ensuring global food security in the medium and long term.” Mr Sarfatti also noted the important need to “increasingly share technology, processes and ideas with other countries in the interest of increasing the capacities of regional and national institutions, as well as reducing food insecurity.”


Effective systems of agricultural innovation that link science and society and involve public, private and civil partners are essential to meeting global development goals, both by generating relevant new knowledge and by empowering rural communities to make use of new ideas and technologies.


Kevin Cleaver, Assistant President for Program Management, International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), spoke to GFAR of IFAD’s plans to fund agricultural research as instrumental in solving world hunger. “IFAD will both contribute its resources to the immediate issue of expanding food production by smallholders in developing countries, and also towards agricultural research as an important ingredient to solving rural hunger and poverty in the future, “explains Mr Cleaver.  “We have been a major funder of international agricultural research, such as through GFAR and the CGIAR, as well as a funder of national agriculture research and extension systems.  We will continue this support now and in the future."


Both the Global Partnership for Agriculture and Food Security (GPAFS), established as an international response to the recent food crisis and the Committee on World Food Security of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO), have also recognized the need for scientific and technical knowledge to guide the investments and processes they are undertaking to increase food security around the world. 


As governments and international agricultural and financial institutions highlight the need for agricultural research for sustainable food production, and as the scale of the challenges involved become recognized around the world, so too does the need to mobilize and strengthen agricultural research  in new and dynamic ways.  This is recognized at all levels, including in the international agricultural research centers of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR), currently itself undergoing a major process of reform (in which the GFAR is directly involved) to better meet the needs of today.


Over the year ahead, the Global Forum on Agricultural Research, which brings together key agencies such as the CGIAR, the FAO, IFAD, farmer organizations, regional and national research organizations, civil society organizations and donor agencies, is leading a rolling process of global consultation to establish new agendas and new ways of working in agricultural research for development. 


Electronic and face-to-face consultations will enable all those who care about the future of agriculture to have their say in determining research priorities that best deliver against development needs and in shaping the systems required to generate new knowledge and technologies and to make these accessible to those in most need.  These consultations will lead to a Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development in Montpellier, France in March 2010, which will address the key needs for change and investment in agricultural research and extension institutions of all kinds and marks the first phase in a multi-year process to integrate agricultural research into development processes driven by the needs of societies. 


Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary of GFAR, emphasizes that: “These regional and global processes of consultation will provide a unique opportunity for all involved, from farmers to policy makers, to have their say on major issues around the future shape of agriculture. They provide a critical means to truly link agricultural research into wider processes supporting rural development and for those who generate and use new knowledge to become better connected with, more valued by, and more accountable to those they seek to benefit."


"We urge all those concerned with the future of agriculture to become actively involved in these open and inclusive discussions over the months ahead and to work together in new ways to truly realize the potential of agricultural research in overcoming the twin scourges of hunger and poverty.” 


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