Taking a break from preparing for my presentation for the GCARD conference, I was surfing the BBC site and found an article by Richard Black, citing Uma Lele, one of the authors of the GCARD cornerstone paper.
I have not read the latest paper, but given that Uma is a colleague and an IDS Board member and that I work with another co-author, Jules Pretty on a Foresight project on the Future of Farming and Food, I have seen earlier copies. (Also another author, Yvonne Pinto, is the Director of ALINe, which IDS and Keystone Accountability support.)
What caught my eye was a quote from the article:
"There was no single, simple measure, she said, that could bring about the yield increases needed in poorer countries, and make sure that the increases were sustainable."
Brilliant. This is, in fact, the single simple message that should come out of the GCARD conference: there is no single simple measure to defeat hunger.
Is this a sign of despair? Absolutely not. It is a rallying call. For what we are all saying is that we need a sustained cross-society approach to dealing with the seemingly intractable problem of low productivity in farming in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Technology, infrastructure, knowledge, institutions, incentives, leadership. We need all of this, but only a driven collective effort can deliver it. Neither the private sector, the state or civil society can do it on their own--they need to work together.
But how? I hope much of GCARD is about how to build the irresistible force that makes the existence of hunger too uncomfortable to bear. At the moment, the discomfort does not extend too far beyond those directly affected by hunger.