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Stakeholders, Experts Meet To Develop Agriculture Reform Roadmap

Experts meeting in Montpellier, France, for the Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) are calling for restructuring agriculture “to focus as much on new seed varieties as on good governance, women’s empowerment and things like curbing commodities speculation,” Reuters/Independent Online reports. According to the news service, the conference aims to formulate “a road map to reform agricultural research to meet development goals” (Goering, 3/31). VOA News reports that the plan will be presented to G8 leaders (DeCapua, 3/29).

A report released at the conference indicates that “[d]eveloping countries will have to double or even triple their own investments in agricultural research to meet food needs,” SciDev.net reports. According to Eduardo Trigo, a co-author of the report, “If the developing countries do not assume the responsibility, do not realise that capacity building is needed at the national level, and all countries need to participate in that effort – no matter what you do at the global level – it’s not going to make a difference at the local level.”

According to SciDev.net, “[t]he report states that neither developing countries nor foreign donors have met targets they have set themselves for agricultural research though it adds that misallocation of available funds has also contributed to this problem” (Antony, 3/29).

International Fund for Agricultural Development President Kanayo Nwanze told participants that keys to improving agriculture are fostering local demand for food and encouraging entrepreneurship among the 500 million small farmers worldwide, SciDev.net reports in a second story.

“When farmers begin to make money, they start to invest, and that’s when they begin to use your technologies and want to buy fertiliser and improve their small irrigation schemes,” Nwanze said. “We must help them demand [the] new technologies that we produce and can only do that by creating a local domestic market incentive,” he added.

2009 World Food Prize winner Gebisa Ejeta “added that policymakers should have respect for science and the role it plays as a vehicle of change. They should also appreciate the importance of making connections between the new technology and users of that technology. And the best way to link technology with its users – in this case, farmers – is to create opportunity at the end for farmers,” SciDev.net reports (Antony, 3/29).

In other news, regional experts at the conference raised concerns about the potential of conflict and corruption with nearly 20 countries outside of Africa now leasing tens of millions of acres on a continent with little regulation governing the practice, Reuters reports.

“If rules for responsible foreign land investment can be drafted and followed, leases could provide a much-needed cash infusion for African agriculture, which has struggled to find investment elsewhere. … The deals have provoked international criticism, not least because opponents fear the proceeds may end up in the hands of politicians rather than small farmers who could be pushed off their land,” the news service writes (Goering, 3/30).