Donors keen to spur agricultural research

Nari, Normal

The National – Tuesday, November 30, 2010

THE notion of Agricultural Research for Development (AR4D) is gaining international attention, both technically and financially.
In a new powerful display of solidarity with the world’s poor, a donors and stakeholders meeting in Washington, DC early this month, took a decisive step to harmonise funding for AR4D.
The development comes at a time when a lot of the national agricultural research systems (Nars) globally are focused on meeting the real needs of resource poor farmers in the context of AR4D.
AR4D is a paradigm shift of making agricultural research more effective in creating positive development impact, especially for smallholder farming and rural communities.
The 2008 World Development Report’s focus on agriculture for development is a direct manifestation of this shift, especially in its bid to address the millennium development goals. The focus is to reduce and eradicate poverty, assure food security, improve livelihoods and bring in sustainable and equitable growth and development for the overall welfare of individuals and communities in the world.
The Washington meeting agreed to channel their collective support into major strategic research initiatives that will decisively confront hunger and poverty in developing countries, while cushioning climate change impacts and curbing natural resource destruction.
Inger Andersen, fund chairman of the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) says the agreement “represents a bold response to the major challenges that agriculture faces today”.
Andersen is also vice-president for sustainable development, World Bank.
“A more collective approach for supporting agricultural research will give new impetus to the work of the 8,000 scientists and other professionals of the CGIAR, building on a strong record of major positive impact on human well-being.”
The new agreement establishes a multi-donor trust fund (the CGIAR fund), connecting donors with the Consortium of International Agricultural Research Centres.
Approval came after deliberations by the CGIAR fund’s decision making body, the fund council, on Nov 1-2.
Director general of PNG’s NARI Dr Raghunath Ghodake is a member of the fund council, which is a 22-member apex body responsible for allocating research funds to international agricultural research centres and national research and development organisations.
The CGIAR fund is a new multi-donor, multi-year funding mechanism that provides strategic financing to support agricultural research. The fund is focused on reducing poverty and hunger, improving human health and nutrition and enhancing ecosystem resilience through high-quality international agricultural research, partnership and leadership. 
This is supported by creating and accelerating sustainable increases in the productivity and production of healthy food by and for the poor; conserving, enhancing and sustainable use of natural resources and biodiversity to improve the livelihoods of the poor in response to climate change and other factors; and promoting policy and institutional change that will stimulate agricultural growth and equity to benefit the poor, especially rural women and other disadvantaged groups.
More specifically, the CGIAR fund will finance research guided by the strategy and results framework that sets out common goals, objectives and results for the new CGIAR partnership.
The strategy will be implemented by the CGIAR-supported centres and their partner institutions through a portfolio of mega programmes, ambitious research programmes that aim to address today’s most pressing AR4D challenges.
The fund is being set up at the World Bank, which will serve as trustee for the fund.
Fund donors also confirmed new leadership and members of the CGIAR’s independent science and partnership council.
CGIAR fund donors further agreed to support two new strategic research programmes – one dealing with rice-based farming systems and the other with climate change, agriculture and food security.
Building on consultations with hundreds of collaborators around the world, the rice programme underwent rigorous external review and revision.
The result is a broad research agenda centering on major
rice ecologies and fostering critical developments in rice genomics, genetics, agronomy and post-harvest handling and policy.
To ensure maximum impact, the research will be carried out jointly by three CGIAR centres and major international organisations in France and Japan in collaboration with hundreds of partners, including the private sector, Nars and civil society.
Partners officially launched the new initiative on Nov 10 at the third international rice congress in Hanoi, Vietnam.
The initiative on climate change, agriculture and food security, developed with the Earth System Science Partnership (ESSP), will involve all CGIAR centres and a wide coalition of partners. It will offer developing country farmers new options for coping with current climate variability, adapting to emerging impacts in the coming decades and mitigating climate change through a “carbon-friendly” agriculture that also strengthens food security and reduces poverty.
This programme will be launched during the United Nations climate change conference early next month in Cancún, Mexico.
CGIAR is a global partnership that unites organisations engaged in research for sustainable development.
Funding agencies include developing and industrialised country governments, foundations and international and regional organisations. The work they support is carried out by 15 members of the consortium of international agricultural research centres in close collaboration with hundreds of partner organisations, including national and regional research institutes, civil society organisations, academia and the private sector.