After months of hard work and preparation for the first-ever Science Forum 2009, we can now say it was all worth-while. This multi-faceted two-day meeting, organized by the CGIAR Science Council in association with GFAR, Wageningen University and the CGIAR Alliance, set out to examine the implications of scientific advances in 6 key areas for the future of agriculture and to explore the role of advanced science and the CGIAR could play in making scientific advances available through partnership with others. The 6 areas of focus were:

  •  Resilient natural resource systems
  •  The future of food: developing more nutritious diets and safer food
  •  ICTs transforming agricultural science, research and technology generation
  •  Beyond the yield curve: exerting the power of genetics, genomics and synthetic biology
  •  Eco-efficiencies in agro-ecosystems
  •  Agriculture beyond food: science for a bio-based economy

During the first day, participants at the opening ceremony were welcomed in speeches by Prof Adel El-Beltagy, GFAR Chair, Rudy Rabbinge, Science Council Chair, Annemie Burger, Dutch Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality and a keynote address from Martin Kropff, Rector Magnificus and Vice-President of Wageningen UR.

In Prof El-Beltagy’s opening address, he outlined the major agricultural challenges facing the world and the role that GFAR played in reshaping agricultural research systems to address these needs and deliver development impact at scale.

                                     Prof Adel El-Beltagy, Chair, GFAR

After a series of inspiring keynote speeches, participants later broke off into parallel groups focusing on the above 6 themes, which sought to define long-term goals and perspectives for these crucial topics. These working groups were very active and enthusiastic, with a number of exciting potential ideas identified from each.

                 Participants brainstorm together in the ICT-focused Workshop

Day 2 saw plenary addresses from Ren Wang, CGIAR Director, Akinwumi Adesina, Vice-President (policy & partnerships) AGRA, Pramod Kumar Aggarwal, National Professor, ICAR (India), among others.
The parallel groups then again met to continue their discussions from Day 1, except this time they tackled the challenge of how to address the medium-term perspectives and goals of each topic.

In the closing ceremony, GFAR’s Executive Secretary, Mark Holderness, focused on the upcoming Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) and how the findings of the Science Forum 2009 contributed towards the GCARD processes by exploring the potential value science felt it could best bring towards achieving development impacts around the world.

                           Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary, GFAR

When asked what was one of the highlights of the Science Forum 2009, Timothy Kelley, Senior Officer at the Science Council Secretariat emphasized the diversity of the participants. “It was impressive how the Science Forum 2009 was able to pull together people from diverse backgrounds and institutions. Being able to have that kind of varied perspective and interaction made this very beneficial.”

In the coming weeks, we look forward to reading about the outcomes developed from the Science Forum, and ways in which the results of this Forum can be cohesively integrated into the GCARD process.

To read more about the Science Forum 2009, check out the Science Forum pages on the CGIAR website here and read opinions in the ICT-KM blog (scroll down to the Science Forum section) by clicking here.