29.10.2012 - 01.11.2012 | Punta del Este, Uruguay

Central Asia and the Caucasus represented at Global Agricultural Research Conference 2012

The Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) was held in Punta del Este, Uruguay, 29 October to 1 November 2012. The event focused on ways to implement the objectives identified in the GCARD Roadmap, which was endorsed at the first GCARD two years ago.  Specifically, attention was given to foresight and partnerships for innovation and impact on smallholder livelihoods.
The conference was set to become an effective platform to build cooperation around key forward-looking agendas and to plan joint actions among all stakeholders to facilitate wider international partnerships and development oriented research programmes that could lead through to substantive impacts.

The conference was opened by Prof. Monty Jones, Chair of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), Dr. Carlos Perez del Castillo, CGIAR Consortium Board Chair and H.E. Tabaré Aguerre, Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries of Uruguay. It was mainly held in the format of thematic parallel sessions addressing foresight, partnerships and capacity building for impact on smallholder farmers.  A “market place” with lots of information and knowledge sharing opportunities was also open to the participants, and six different field trips were organized on the last day. GFAR and its regional organizations held a number of pre-conference meetings of the key partners.

About 700 participants representing different partner groups of agricultural research for development attended.  A small delegation from Central Asia and the Caucasus (CAC) was led by Acad. Dzhamin Akimaliev, chair of the Central Asia and the Caucasus Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (CACAARI), one of the six regional fora of GFAR.  The delegation comprised representatives of national farmers’ associations from Georgia, Tajikistan and Turkmenistan, education and extension services (Georgia, Kyrgyz Republic, Uzbekistan), private sector (Armenia), non-governmental organizations (Uzbekistan) and research organizations (Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyz Republic and Tajikistan).  The regional consortium of agricultural universities for development (called “CASCADE”) also attended.  Universities traditionally play a crucial role in agricultural research in this part of the world.

The participants from the CAC Region made two presentations in the technical sessions.  Dr. Oleg Shatberashvili (Georgia, CACAARI) highlighted regional views on research and innovation priorities for future needs and impacts, combined with foresight.  He made specific reference to the recently adopted Regional Synthesis report of CACAARI.  Key identified problems faced by agricultural research at national level include inadequate attention and lack of political commitment, poor linkages between research and development agendas, and lack of involvement of all relevant stakeholders.  At CAC Regional level, absence of a larger international policy commitment represents one of the key challenges.

In his presentation made in the session “Partnerships for Environmental Resilience: Land, Water, Forests and Landscapes”, Dr. Jozef Turok (CGIAR Program Facilitation Unit for CAC and ICARDA Regional Coordinator) focused on international actions for the Aral Sea.  The drying up of the Aral Sea was called by the United Nations one of the worst manmade environmental disasters in the world. He shaped his message to the audience in three steps: challenges immediately around the Aral Sea and in the wider Basin; on-going initiatives and partnerships; and perspectives with specific emphasis on large scale investment needs in agriculture and water management. The presentation highlighted the role of national, regional and international institutions in place, the partnership mechanisms they have built and the success stories, which some of them could be counted as the results of implementation of the tasks set up by the GCARD Roadmap.

Several new collaborative initiatives aimed at strengthening environmental resilience in different parts of the world were presented during the session. The lively discussion focused on the role and perspectives of natural resource management in the CGIAR. Two global Research Programs, namely Water, Land and Ecosystems; and Forests, Trees and Agroforestry, were introduced.

In his interview with one of the social reporters, Dr. Alisher Tashmatov, CACAARI Executive Secretary, mentioned recent Tashkent Declaration on Climate Change Adaptation and Food Security Strategies in the CAC Region.  He also emphasized the importance of knowledge sharing facilitated by this global conference.

No conference without clear commitments by “stakeholders” (partner groups) will have substantial impact on the ground. So what are the outcomes of GCARD 2012? At the time of writing this article, the comprehensive list of outcomes and commitments made by all of the constituencies were not yet publicly available. Dr. Frank Rijsberman, chief executive officer of the CGIAR Consortium of research centers gave an overview of fifteen key commitments made by his organization in the event in Punta del Este. These commitments are related to foresight, knowledge, capacity building and partnerships.

“Taken together, these commitments will shape and drive the next-year collaborative research agenda of the CGIAR Consortium in partnership with the CGIAR Fund Council and advisory bodies, numerous partners and stakeholders outside the system”, he said. Provided that there are eight CGIAR centers (and three non-CGIAR international centers) operating in CAC, these commitments will surely re-define the way of thinking and the progress of work undertaken and supported through the Regional Program for Sustainable Agricultural Development in the CAC Region.

As a last note but not least, this year’s GCARD has seen a dramatic increase in the youth voice in agricultural research for development. Bringing almost thirty young professionals from around the world (12 of them as fully funded trainees) to act as young social reporters is the reflection of this point. Initiated by Dr. Enrica Porcari, chief information officer at CGIAR and coordinated by Young Professionals' Platform for Agricultural Research for Development (YPARD), the project was hugely successful in bringing the youth voice into the conference and taking and spreading the outcomes of the conference to the world. Above all, the social reporters were given freedom in expressing their thoughts and insights through the tools they had at hand. CAC was represented by Firdavs Kabilov of International Water Management Institute’s Tashkent office and Meerim Shakirova of Central Asian Regional Environmental Centre – Bishkek office. In fact, they contributed this article for the E-Newsletter.

“GCARD is a unique space, where the world’s agricultural research for development stakeholders meet to plan together, take stock of progress and make joint commitments. GCARD is a process but not merely an event” said Prof. Monty Jones while opening the event. 

Further information on the conference: www.egfar.org/gcard-2012

Source: Regional Program for Sustainable Agricultural Development in Central Asia and the Caucasus