NGO Statement at GCARD 2010!

NGO participants in the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD), 28-31 March 2010, in Montpellier, France, made a statement about the process and content of the consultations and pointed out some gaps. Among other issues, it called for inclusion of farmer organisations and NGOs in governance of agricultural research and development at international, regional and national level. The statement was read out by Assétou Kanouté from PROFEIS-Mali. Dr Monty Jones, the incoming Chair of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), reinforced this call in his closing speech at the conference.

We appreciate the support that enabled the participation of NGOs at this first Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development. However, our presence here should not be seen as an automatic endorsement of the outputs of the conference. 

While some of us participated in the electronic consultations and a handful were invited to the face-to-face regional consultations, these are not adequate. There should be more efforts in ensuring CSO participation in the regional processes, and good experiences in regional engagements should be replicated. There must be much more women in the regional and global processes. 

There was no process that allowed CSOs to collectively prepare substantive inputs into the deliberations of the agenda of GCARD 2010. The planning and design of the subsequent GCARD must include support for self-organized preparatory processes that would allow civil society to deliberate our views and inputs among ourselves. 

Our legitimacy and responsibility as a strong partner in agricultural research at different levels stand on our collective expertise from decades of experiences in directly working with peasants, rural women, fisherfolks, herders, pastoralists and indigenous peoples – the world’s food providers. There is so much to learn from our experiences and the innovative approaches that we have developed with rural communities to respond to local needs and realities which could contribute to reshaping agricultural research, building partnerships, and increasing investments in agricultural research. 

Food providers must be at the center of agricultural research and equally so, in the governance of agricultural research at the international, regional and national levels. NGOs, as equal partners in this so-called “new era of agricultural research” should have a role in its governance too. We cannot selectively involve farmers and NGOs in discussing thematic programs, while completely shutting them out of the discussion of governance of agricultural research. The rhetoric on partnership with farmers and NGOs cannot go on, while the current trends point to the increasing emphasis on the role of players from the business and finance sectors. 

Making the “new era of agricultural research” a reality requires a new paradigm with poor farmers and food providers at the center of WHAT we do and at the top of HOW we operate. Top-down agricultural research is history. Scientists must learn from poor farmers and with poor farmers, beyond lip service. The crucial role of women in agriculture can no longer remain invisible. Empowering farmers by enabling and supporting local organizations to become equal partners in all stages of agricultural research, development and extension is a responsibility. Agricultural biodiversity nurtured by farmers through millennia should be sustainably managed to attain economies of scope, not economies of scale. We welcome the efforts to balance increased productivity and increased added value on existing production. Agricultural research cannot delude itself that it can increase productivity and production indefinitely without addressing unsustainable production and consumption patterns and the unequal distribution of world harvests. 

Responsive agricultural research cannot afford to ignore the realities facing farmers in developing countries today. Millions of hectares are currently being grabbed from peasants and farmers to produce energy crops and ensure food security in richer countries. Responsible agricultural research cannot close its eyes while farmers are being robbed of the land which their lives and future depend on.

We welcome opportunities to be able to engage constructively and contribute our expertise in future deliberations on substance and methodologies, and to play our role in the governance of agricultural research and development.

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