30 March 2010

Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development, part 1

11am Tuesday March 30.

I'm in Montpelier for one of the days of this conference. I'm presenting in the afternoon on partnerships.

The global agricultural research community is reforming around 8 themes and 4 cross-cuts.

The 8 themes are
1. Agricultural systems for the poor and vulnerable
2. Enabling agricultural incomes for the poor
3. Sustainable crop productivity increases
4. Agriculture, nutrition and health
5. Water, soils and ecosystems
6. Forest and trees
7. Climate change and agriculture
8. Mobilizing biodiversity for food security and resilience

And the new cross-cutting foci are
* Results for poor communities
* Gender
* Agriculture's contribution to wider development challenges
* Wider partnerships

I am pleased with the profile of the nutrition and health linkages. I am also pleased with the focus on partnerships, farmer-focus, the need to link science to politics, institutions and anthropology.

We heard some key questions from the floor:

• What is in it for users to engage?
• Need to deepen engagement with farmers, but need to build a wider alliance too
• How do we bring in different cultural world views?

These concerns are very close to IDS’ new strategy—we are aiming for new alliances, and for the co-construction of research—so the resonance was interesting. I found it interesting that we have not yet talked about how impact will be assessed—who defines it, who assesses it, and who acts on it, and what incentivizes them to?

I'm now in Theme group 1. This theme group is seen as foundational by many. Can it frame the entire CGIAR-GFAR partnership? But the discussion in the theme group is pretty disparate and unfocused, hopefully not symptomatic of this theme.

One worry at this stage is that the CGIAR and GFAR leaders and members have not thought through the changes needed in skills, incentives, organizations, institutions to support this very different way of working (e.g. user orientation, new partners, awareness of political, cultural and institutional terrains).

More later.

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