On the opening day of the Second Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD2), experts from over 70 countries are gathering to track global progress in how agricultural research is improving the livelihoods of the world’s poorest farmers, especially through foresight and partnerships for future innovation.
In his opening remarks, Uruguayan President José Mujica is expected to discuss the importance of investing in agricultural research and to recognise its great potential for boosting crop productivity, improving farmers’ resilience and driving economic growth.
Uruguay’s investments in its own agricultural research and development initiatives have paid dividends, with agricultural production increasing by 25 percent in recent years and total rice production currently the third highest in the world. Furthermore, Latin America as a region has become the main agricultural and food net exporting region in the world, having increased its share in global crop production from 10 percent in the 1960s to about 13 percent today.
Ahead of GCARD2, a newly launched global trends report, entitled “ASTI Global Assessment of Agricultural R&D Spending”, highlighted positive signs of new public expenditure for agricultural research and development, with a promising 22 percent global increase from the 2000 – 2008 period. Yet worryingly, most of this additional investment has not occurred in low-income countries, which only experienced an increase of 2 percent during this period.
Monty Jones of the Global Forum on Agricultural Research (GFAR), one of the organisations co-authoring the report and the organiser of GCARD2, says:
“With close to one billion people waking up and going to bed hungry, most of them deriving their livelihoods from agricultural activities, and with global population set to expand by a further two billion in coming decades, a radical change for agricultural research for development is needed.”
In conjunction with the conference opening, Uruguay also became the first Latin American country to recognise the “International Organisation” status of CGIAR Consortium, the world’s largest publicly funded network of scientific research centres.
Carlos Perez del Castillo, Chair of CGIAR Consortium and Uruguayan national, comments on the signing:
“I am proud that Uruguay is the first Latin American country to sign the agreement that establishes CGIAR Consortium as an International Organisation, demonstrating its support to CGIAR and the 15 CGIAR Centres. This sends a strong political signal that Uruguay is committed to the improvement of livelihood conditions nationally and internationally. It will also facilitate the mobilisation of financial resources and the co-ordination of global agricultural research for development initiatives, allowing us to make an even greater impact on the millions of smallholder farmers in South America and the world.”
As part of this year’s focus on inclusion and capacity building, GCARD2 also provided a training session for 26 young “social reporters”, part of a wider network of 130 reporters from 32 countries, tracking and reporting on the conference and its outputs. Each reporter in attendance was awarded a diploma for their contribution, presented in person by the Uruguayan Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Tabaré Aguerre during the opening session.
Mark Holderness, Executive Secretary of GFAR Secretariat, reinforced this commitment to youth:
“Hearing young peoples’ voice at this conference is critical. They are tomorrow’s leaders – the farmers, scientists, environmental stewards and others who will be required to build a food secure and sustainable future for all.”
The programme for the week’s conference includes high-level panel sessions, a ministerial roundtable, and the opportunity to visit sites of agricultural innovation around the country.