3rd GFAR Program Committee Meeting 

The 3rd GFAR Program Committee (hereafter, PC) met on 28-29 November 2007 in Beijing, China. Dr. Adel El-Beltagy, Chairman, GFAR in his welcome address to the members of the Committee traced how the GFAR retreat at Alexandria, Egypt had resulted in the GFAR Business Plan for 2007-2009. He emphasized that the World Development Report 2008 and the FAO Independent External Evaluation clearly offer unique opportunities for enhancing GFAR’s role in ARD. He called for all GFAR members to jointly pursue a more proactive stance in resource mobilization for ARD and GFAR. He also stressed the importance of the PC in strengthening inter-regional collaboration. Dr El-Beltagy ended his remarks highlighting the importance of Biofuels, Climate Change and other challenges. He wished the PC would lay greater emphasis on Program, whereas budget could be discussed by the Steering Committee to ensure effective implementation of the technical Program during 2008. 

The meeting was chaired by Dr. Raj Paroda. In his opening remarks he welcomed all members and drew attention on the finalization of the new Terms of Reference of the PC. He emphasized the broadening of the composition of the PC, having representation of the youth, through the YPARD platform, as well as other stakeholders: the private sector, farmers and the civil society organizations. 

During the meeting reports from the GFAR Secretariat, the Regional Forums, the Stakeholder Groups and activities of GFAR such as the Global Partnership Projects (GPPs), DURAS and the various networks were presented and reviewed. 

GFAR’s role to promote and facilitate inter-regional collaboration, based on recommendations of the Regional Forums Executive Officers Meeting was discussed in detail. The PC recommended that the following should be identified as priority items for GFAR to act upon: ICM, ICT and Knowledge Management, Linking Farmers to Markets, strengthening engagement of the Civil Society in ARD, impact evaluation of ARD, linkages between research and extension and agricultural innovation, Biofuels and climate change, inter-regional networks on cotton, biotechnology and biosafety and support for inter-regional linkages and exchanges. 

The PC also recommended that all GPPs should be working in an outcome-oriented mode (rather than activity-based) and with 3 year budget planning phase. It was also emphasized that all GPPs should be working in active partnership with at least two Regional Forums. A proposed initiative led by FAO on Plant Breeding Capacity Building was also discussed and it was recommended that GFAR be used as a platform to promote this important initiative as well as to provide linkages with the stakeholders via website & regional networks. The PC also recommended partnership of GFAR in new Challenge Programs such as on Climate Change, High Value Crops and Desertification. 

The PC recommended a GFAR Plan of Work for 2008. This plan of work included a list of prioritized activities stressing inter-regional collaboration. 

Dr. Paroda at the conclusion of the meeting thanked all the PC members for their commitment and active participation. He expressed the need to elect a PC Vice-Chair and to make its membership fully comprehensive through representation of all different stakeholder groups. 

The draft minutes of the 3rd Program Committee of GFAR are available here

20th GFAR Steering Committee Meeting 

Following the 3rd GFAR Program Committee Meeting, the GFAR Steering Committee met for its 20th Meeting on 30th November and 1st December, 2007 in Beijing, China.
The Chairman of the GFAR Steering Committee (hereafter, SC), Dr. Adel El-Beltagy, welcomed the participants to the meeting. He congratulated Dr. Isabel Alvarez, representing FAO on the GFAR SC, for her new appointment as Director of the Natural Resources Research and Extension Division of FAO. He also welcomed Dr. Mark Holderness as the incoming GFAR Executive Secretary. In his opening remarks he mentioned the progress made by GFAR in 2007 especially in getting its External Review, developing its Business plan for 2007 – 2009 and appointing a new Executive Secretary. He also reiterated, as he had in welcoming participants at the 3rd GFAR Program Committee Meeting, the challenges that Agricultural Research for Development (ARD) and GFAR faced. 

A report of GFAR Secretariat’s activities in 2007 was presented by Dr. Ajit Maru during the meeting. Dr. Adel El Beltagy reported on the activities he had taken up on behalf of GFAR. In his report he emphasized that GFAR’s role is not to manage projects but to be a key player in influencing the wider agenda of agricultural research for development, across all partners. 

Dr. Raj Paroda presented a report on the proceedings of the 3rd Program Committee. In his report he included recommendations on priority programme areas for GFAR in 2008. GFAR’s activities in Climate Change were also discussed, including consensus building, collaboration with the CGIAR System at a global level and with the Science Council and links with FAO. A joint event on Climate Change with the CGIAR was proposed by FAO. GFAR endorsed the Biofuel initiative of APAARI. The main role for GFAR was to influence policy in this area. A new Global Challenge Program on High Value Crops was discussed. This includes a number of international centres and the Global Facilitation Unit on Under Utilized Species is a partner. It was felt that GFAR stakeholders needed to find constructive linkages with this and the other Global Challenge Programs under preparation. 

Dr. Monty Jones emphasized the role of the Regional Fora in providing support to the global agenda and helping to draft relevant papers, recognizing that the Forum is for everybody and requires everyone to play a role. Dr. Enrique Alarcon suggested that there should be an opportunity for the Regional Fora and other stakeholders to present to the SC. The presentations in the Program Committee should be related to program activities but presentations in the SC should be at a more strategic level. He also asked the Forum to consider policy issues including socio-economic dimensions of research. 

There was a discussion on agricultural science and technology indicators and it was suggested that GFAR should not look only at indicators of investment in agriculture science but also at returns on investment. 

Dr. Holderness introduced the programme of work planned for 2008. Foremost in this plan will be GFAR’s role as a mechanism for global advocacy on behalf of agricultural research and development for the poor. Inter-regional learning was considered a crucial role for the Global Forum. The value of GFAR in strengthening North-South and South-South learning was strongly endorsed. Each region felt they had much to benefit from the sharing of experiences, which could greatly reduce the transaction cost of developing new approaches. Technical support to existing global partnership programmes was endorsed. However, the Committee now seeks specific learning from these experiences and expects the concerned partners to both take forward the programmes into implementation and report back to the Global Forum on their subsequent successes and failures. GFAR’s unique role in helping to create appropriate institutions for the future was clearly recognized. GFAR has a critical role in ensuring that multi-partner programmes are linked effectively to both the intended users of their scientific outputs and their intended beneficiaries in rural communities. In 2008 this will begin with a revival of stakeholder representation in the Generation Challenge Programme and linkage with new Challenge programmes currently being fostered by the CGIAR. Global Partnership programmes will continue to be fostered among diverse institutions with common concerns, each addressing themes of agreed importance and linked to at least 2 Regional Fora. A stakeholder proposal to revitalize conservation agriculture partnerships was a first priority, together with other nascent programmes previously endorsed. GFAR will seek improved ways of transforming knowledge from one form to another, to overcome the communication and trust barriers between science and society. In 2008 the ICM4ARD programme will focus first on the harmonization and cross-searchability of information databases on agricultural science (FAO, CABI, CGIAR etc). All of these activities are considered of great importance by GFAR’s constituents at regional and national levels as they seek to increase the relevance and value of agricultural research to meet real development needs. 

Dr. Ren Wang, Director, CGIAR also met the GFAR SC members. He indicated the importance of GFAR for the CGIAR and requested that the Global Forum support the CGIAR in building close partnership with all ARD stakeholders, especially Civil Society, via GFAR participation in the CGIAR Change Management process (particularly in soliciting input from the South and from CSOs). He emphasized that the CGIAR sought to serve the needs of the smallholder farmers and he asked for GFAR’s assistance in enabling the CGIAR to link effectively with the Regional and Sub-Regional Fora. 

The GFAR Chair in his remarks to Dr. Ren Wang’s address, stated that the International Agricultural Research Centres are an important constituent of the Global Forum and the Forum wishes to see strong international research efforts, targeted at areas where there is a clear value addition to the work of national systems and addressing areas explicitly demanded and prioritized by stakeholders in the regions concerned. In concluding the meeting, he thanked all those present for a rich and healthy discussion. He commended the Secretariat for their work under very difficult circumstances and again called for all stakeholders in GFAR to play an active and constructive role in ensuring the future success of this vital mechanism, that brought together all of agricultural research for development, so that it could meet the challenges facing the world into the future.

Ajit Maru