By NORAH OMOT and RAGHUNATH GHODAKE
MILLIONS of people are living in extreme poverty with hunger and malnutrition.
These people are also experiencing hardship and misery.
Many of them rely heavily on natural resources such as land, water, fuel, wood and genetic resources. Those resources are also degrading as a consequence of population increases in marginal areas.
As a result of these situations, increasing calls have been made for science (research) to work better for the farmers and other resource poor people in abolishing hunger and poverty.
World leaders (in agriculture sector and policy arena) are increasingly becoming concerned about the situation.
As a result, the first global conference in agricultural research for development (GCARD2010) was held in Montpellier, France, from March 28-31.
The aim of the conference was to deliver a global action plan for agricultural research for development (ARD) and to improve investment in agricultural research. An estimated 1,000 researchers, policymakers, farmers, donors and representatives of farmer organisations including those representing the poor, the youth and women, from every region of the world congregated for the conference.
It was the first time that all key players and stakeholders gathered to iron out an action plan for ARD.
PNG representation at the GCARD2010 included Prof Alan Quartermain of Vudal University, Dr Raghunath Ghodake and Norah Omot from the National Agricultural Research Institute (NARI) and Dr Adiel Mbabu from ARDSF/AusAID.
In his address to the conference, former UN secretary and current chair of the Alliance for a Green Revolution Africa (AGRA) Kofi Annam stressed that the core work of science should be to support the millions of resource poor farmers and emphasised that agricultural research should align with development.
Calls were also made for science to be accessible by farmers, thus stressing the need for innovative ways and effective partnerships among all involved.
The GCARD2010 was a culmination of several processes commissioned by the global forum on agricultural research (GFAR).
The processes began last year and were facilitated by regional associations including APAARI (for Asia-Pacific), FORAGRO (Latin America and Caribbean), FARA (Africa), AARINENA (West Asia and North Africa), CACAARI (Central Asia and Caucasus) and EFARD (Europe); involving a number of e-conferences and face-to-face consultations with a range of stakeholders both nationally and regionally.
These identified important issues and concerns for decision making and for pursuing alliances between countries of the regions and between them and the international system. The processes identified regional priorities, where calls were made for research on issues that were found to be common throughout the regions.
The priority areas included climate change, food security and management of land, water and natural resources and increasing overall agricultural productivity and efficiency. The subsets of those areas calling for focus are major cereals, forestry, fisheries, root and tubers and access to markets and extension.
The key issues emerging from the GCARD2010, which need addressing, were:
nGlobal policy issues (trade, food stock, external shocks such as agriculture and climate change, agricultural biodiversity, etc);
*Foresight and analysis to expand options for research priorities and pathways;
*Filling under-investment gap in agricultural research and rural development in developing countries, investment to be combined with scaling-up development efforts;
*Balanced public goods, private enterprise and community action to achieve broad-based increase in productivity and value chains;
*Greater partnership at national, regional and global levels (considered as essential);
*Inclusion of gender in research and development (considered as “non-negotiable”);
*Strengthening capacity for national agricultural research systems for bottom up research agenda setting and implementation; and
*Putting poor farmers and food providers at the centre of agricultural research for development at all levels.
The stakeholders who should commit to the ARD system are as follows:
*National policymakers of developing and developed countries;
*All stakeholders at the local, national, sub-regional, regional and international levels engaged in and/or supporting agricultural research knowledge and information systems including the CGIAR and advanced research, educational and extension institutions;
*Donors, foundations, inter-governmental agencies including bilateral and multilateral institutions and development banks;
*The private sector including small, medium and large agricultural input companies, food companies, agricultural banks and insurers;
*Farmers organisations and CSOs/NGOs at all levels;
*Representatives of the poor and women; and
*Stewards of the environment.
This international event of unique dimension has set the pace for much needed and urgent efforts by all concerned in mobilising the necessary resources and partnerships so that agricultural research can deliver on development impacts on the lives of millions of people.
The PNG national agricultural research system has been at a much advanced stage of reshaping and reorganising itself to deliver on.