If the size of the booth is any indication of the size of the commitment, then the CGIAR Consortium is serious about its involvement in African agricultural development.
The Consortium is certainly one of the most active participants in the 6th Africa Agriculture Science Week in Accra, Ghana, hosted by the Forum for Agricultural Research in Africa (FARA). With the participation of dozens of international staff, 7 of the 15 CGIAR research centers and several of its dedicated research programs, the Consortium has programmed 15 side events in a space of 2 days during the conference.
However, a shred of doubt remains: Does CGIAR have a place here, at a uniquely African conference whose theme is “Africa Feeding Africa?”
The answer, says Professor Monty P. Jones, outgoing executive director of FARA, is an unequivocal “Yes.”
CGIAR’s place at the conference–and in African agricultural research for development–says Prof. Jones, begins with himself. “I am a product of CGIAR,” he declares with a grin. “It was during my 13 years with CGIAR that I did my work on NERICA rice,” he explains, referring to the high-yield, high-protein variety of rice whose development won him the prestigious World Food Prize in 2004.
“CGIAR has incredible expertise. Their laboratories are the best equipped in Africa,” he goes on. “They have a lot to offer to Africa.”
In recognition of emerging challenges and opportunities in the realm of agricultural research for development—increasing demand for food, growing impacts from climate change, worsening natural resource degradation— CGIAR recently restructured its strategic outlook. A focus on measurable impact and cross-cutting research and a renewed dedication to gender, capacity building and partnership is a development that “everyone is happy with,” says Prof. Jones.
“I am so very happy with the participation of CGIAR in this meeting,” affirms Prof. Jones. “Africa needs CGIAR and will always need CGIAR, and I believe CGIAR wants to collaborate with Africa.”
The Consortium, after all, is not an isolated entity. On the contrary, its greatest emphasis is on partnership, uniting organizations from all over the world involved in research to reduce poverty, increase food security, improve nutrition, and sustainably manage resources.
This emphasis is the key to understanding CGIAR’s role at the AASW conference, and in African agricultural research as a whole. “We are working together on the process of aligning CGIAR with the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme (CCADP) agenda, and aligning the CGIAR research programs with African country investment programs.” An enormous accomplishment, according to Prof. Jones.
Achieving this alignment will be a milestone achievement that means worlds of good for Africa’s science agenda. “If done right, the agenda will ensure the participation of all the key partners,” remarks Prof. Jones, “and CGIAR is a formidable partner for agricultural research for development.”
At the end of the day, it will indeed be Africa—not CGIAR—that feeds Africa. That said, such a partnership will doubtless be pivotal in helping Africa to reach that goal.
Blogpost by Caity Peterson, a social media reporter for AASW6.
Photo: N. Palmer (CIAT)