The Global Conference on Agricultural Research and Development (#GCARD3) recently hosted in South Africa at the Birchwood Hotel and OR Tambo Conference Centre in Boksburg, has ushered in renewed hope for farmers, against a background of climatic challenges and poor funding affecting mostly rural farmers.
Over 500 delegates drawn from 83 countries across the globe took part in this global conference held under the theme, “No-one left behind”. The conference placed more value on the importance of food security in all continents. As highlighted in the opening speech by Dr Shadrack Moephuli, President and CEO of Agricultural Research Council of South Africa, an estimated 800 million people are suffering from chronic hunger and malnutrition, and many of these people live in the rural areas.
Welcoming participants, Shadrack Moephuli, emphasized the importance of ensuring that research outcomes are translated into products and technologies that offer value for farmers and contribute to countries’ sustainable development objectives. He called for all stakeholders to explore how agri-food innovations can contribute to improved food and nutrition security.
The issue of climate change was brought to the fore, by Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, CEO, Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN), who in her keynote address, described climate change, and malnutrition as two wicked problems facing the AR4D community.
“ I therefore applaud GCARD for bringing us all here today to promote effective, targeted investment and build partnership, capacities and mutual accountabilities at all levels of the agricultural system so as to ensure that today’s agricultural research will meet the needs of the resource-poor end user. Our region is currently facing one of the worst droughts in living memory and we believe these erratic weather patterns are the consequences of climate change”, said Dr Sibanda.
She highlighted that climate change has been dubbed a super wicked problem due to its sheer complexity on a scientific and human dimension level, as she went on to say, “From 1880 to 2012, the average global temperature increased by 0.85°C. To put this into perspective, for each 1 degree of temperature increase, grain yields decline by about 5 per cent. We in Africa depend on agriculture and cannot afford a decline to our already compromised productivity. When it comes to climate change, agriculture is a unique sector that needs to adapt and but also play a role in mitigating climate change. Our agriculture needs to be climate smart and I am impressed that the global research community has a specific programme dedicated to climate change, agriculture and food secure.”
Dr Sibanda closed her keynote address noting that Research to Development can do a lot to uplift farmers from poverty, create wealth and sustainable livelihoods, emphasizing the need to work together differently, develop collaborative strategies that are realistic to our challenges, enforce higher stakeholder commitment towards engaging, debating and formulating real policies, and we are holistic and not linear in approach.
GCARD3 thematic sessions were held on 6 and 8 April and included plenary discussions and parallel thematic roundtables based on five key challenges identified during the preparatory national and regional dialogues. The five themes covered: Scaling up – from research to impact; Showcasing results and demonstrating impact; Keeping science relevant and future-focused; Sustaining the business of farming; and Ensuring better rural futures.
The Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) process was initiated to promote investment, partnership, capacity-building and mutual accountability in national agricultural systems to meet the needs of resource-poor farmers and their communities. The GCARD Global Events and their associated processes aim to help to refine regional and global agricultural research priorities, as identified by different stakeholder groups and representatives, in an inclusive way. GCARD1 was held in March 2010 in Montpellier, France, and focused on ‘Enhancing Development Impact from Research,’ and was preceded by a broad-based consultative process that aimed to identify the key themes and issues being addressed by stakeholders who are actively engaged in the entire agricultural system.
GCARD2 took place in Punta del Este, Uruguay, in October 2012, under the overall theme of ‘Foresight and Partnership for Innovation and Impact on Small-holder Livelihoods.’ This Conference provided an opportunity for all sectors and regions to report their activities since 2010 and to agree on collective actions and next steps in implementing the GCARD Road Map and the CGIAR Strategy and Results Framework.
And with a record participation of over 500 participants, GCARD3 came up with notable resolutions which will shape the future of agriculture. These were suimmarised in the plenary session reports. Some of the recommendations were that, there is a need for inclusiveness, the importance of recognizing a diversity of approaches; and the value of taking a realistic approach towards achieving the SDGs, the need for an African agrarian philosophy that is built upon moral ethics, creativity and innovation to prioritize small-scale producers and nurture ‘agripreneurs’ and ‘agripreneurship’; and the use of decision analysis to prioritize.
As well it was noted that there is need for attracting and retaining agricultural students and building capacity to promote innovation, including future-relevant agricultural research; university programmes that combine multidisciplinary training in agriculture-related sciences with skills in leadership, entrepreneurship, interpersonal relations and team building; and continuing professional development in agriculture for innovation and entrepreneurship in agricultural practices, products and services.
In the other sessions it was noted that to ensure better rural futures, Chair Iman El-Kaffass, expressing confidence that collaborative actions would begin within the next three months, and that the platform will help shape stakeholders’ work in coming years.
It is in such statements, that most farmers, especially rural farmers will find the hope that indeed, the GCARD3 will present them with solutions that will enable them to take farming to another level.