New GFAR Steering Committee sets agenda to meet Sustainable Development Goals

gfarDuring a two-day meeting on 8-9 February 2017, members of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR) Steering Committee met at the GFAR host organization, FAO in Rome, to set the agenda for this global forum on agri-food research and innovation, towards helping to meet the UN’s 2030 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). GFAR has undergone a major transformation and now brings together a vibrant and fast-growing community of self-declared Partners in GFAR (presently 433 partner organizations), who recognize that these complex challenges can only be met through working together for success. The Forum’s Steering Committee now comprises 34 elected representatives, from across 13 sectors involved in agricultural research and innovation at international, regional and local levels. Prof. Agnes Mwang’ombe of the University of Nairobi is among the new Steering Committee Members, representing the Higher Education Constituency.

Through the meeting in Rome, members of the Steering Committee agreed on the key areas of focus to be addressed in the next GFAR Medium-Term-Plan. Based on the challenges determined through the GCARD3 process and the need to deliver towards the SDGs, the Steering Committee identified the following GFAR key focus areas in 2018-2021:

  1. Enable and empower sustainable rural communities: Poor communities have little say in their own future, nor the innovations needed to get there. Communities need to be able to determine their own futures,through tools such as foresight,farmers’ rights advocacy and capacity development, and to drive and ‘own’ the research, innovation, policies and support needed to achieve their desired sustainable futures.
  1. Increasing knowledge flow for development impact: Innovation systems operate as complex webs, yet links between their elements are often fragmented and disconnected. Multi-stakeholder research and innovation platforms must be fosteredat different levels, to create more effective and equitable systems, capable of collectively generating, accessing and using the knowledgeand resources required for successfully meeting the SDGs.
  1. Supporting transformative learning and youth leadership development:Neither formal nor informal education are as yet meeting the needs of youthfacing global challenges. Comprehensive transformative learning and leadership development schemes are needed, to develop not only academic skills, but also intellectual, spiritual and emotional development,toinspire and equip our youth with the knowledge, skills and attitudes to meet their aspirations, access resources and mobilize themselves to create sustainable rural development.
  1. Changing value systems and metrics to deliver the SDGs:“Agricultural Productivity” has long been the core driver of agricultural research and innovation. However, the SDGs set out much wider development objectives and indicators, all impacted by, or on, agriculture and food systems.Meeting these requires re-thinking the values and metrics for agri-food innovation, and demonstrating delivery towards SDG social, environmental and economic impacts.
  1. Enabling sustainable rural enterprise: Agriculture is often seen as unattractive and in decline and there is a global exodus of rural youth. Sustainable rural enterprise development can address this challenge through using agriculture and food innovation, new developments such as ICTs, value-added linkages to consumers/markets,and supportive policies and inputs,to create new rural enterprise opportunities, particularly for resource-poor women and youth.

Steering Committee members recognized that within this frame, there is tremendous opportunity for a wide range of new and existing networked action towards specific SDG outcomes. The Members set out initial ideas for their actions within each area of focus. These will be further elaborated through input from GFAR Partners in the coming weeks to shape proposed collective actions as the draft GFAR Medium Term Plan 2018-2021.

Also at the meeting, current GFAR Chair, Juan Lucas Restrepo, confirmed his intention to step down, due to an anticipated change of role. The Committee appointed Shantanu Mathur of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) as interim Vice-Chair.

Adapted from the document: Key points summary for GFAR Steering Committee members to share with their constituency

Universities recognised as important stakeholders in enhancing the impact of Agricultural research for Development – RUFORUM at the GCARD3 Conference

Above: Seedlings grown from tissue samples in a laboratory being showcased during the exhibition at the ARC, South Africa. Photo Credit: Photo by IISD/Kiara Worth

Above: Seedlings grown from tissue samples in a laboratory being showcased during the exhibition at the ARC, South Africa. Photo Credit: Photo by IISD/Kiara Worth

The third Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD3), jointly organised by the Global Forum on Agriculture Research (GFAR) and the Consultative Group on International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) under the theme “No One Left Behind: Agri–food Innovation and Research for a Sustainable World” was attended by over 400 participants representing academia, government, civil society, research and the private sector. The four day Conference was held 5-8 April, 2016 in Johannesburg, South Africa.  RUFORUM Secretariat, representing its network of 55 universities attended the Conference.

During the Opening Ceremony, Dr Lindiwe Majele Sibanda, Chief Executive Officer at Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) applauded the Conference Organisers for bringing together key stakeholders to promote effective, targeted investment that will build partnerships, capacities and mutual accountabilities at all levels of the agricultural system. This action she hoped would ensure that today’s agricultural research will impact on the rural poor.  She also emphasised the need to work together differently, develop collaborative strategies that are realistic to emerging challenges, enforce higher stakeholder commitment towards engaging, debating and formulating real policies that are holistic and not linear in approach. She applauded all the female participants and thanked them for their contribution to the Agricultural development sector.

The Conference noted the need for capacity building across the research for development sector and for universities to be included into the global consultations under GFAR. Universities were challenged to transform themselves towards academic enterprises and knowledge entrepreneurship whist staying grounded as student –centric institutions that are preparing students to be “master thinkers”, able to grasp a wide array of skills and contribute to the desired workforce, a gap that still needs to be addressed.

RUFORUM also participated in the exhibition, together with other 13 exhibitors. The event included a one day field trip to ARC-VOPI Rooderplaat and the Onderstepoort Veterinary Institute campus. Click here to download the Press Release.