(JOHANNESBURG, SOUTH AFRICA) 5th April 2016 – CGIAR scientists spearheading agricultural research programs around the world are gathering with partners this week, to set new research and investment priorities for the global agri-food science community.

The Third Global Conference on Agriculture for Development (GCARD3) is taking place against the backdrop of severe droughts and floods triggered by one of the strongest El Niño weather events ever recorded, that have placed 100 million people in southern Africa, Asia and Latin America in food and water insecurity.

At the GCARD3 global event, CGIAR’s network of international research Centers will showcase the solutions already transforming rural lives in the face of such complex global challenges. Most importantly, CGIAR will work with partners to understand and address new priorities set out by national and regional consultations that took place throughout a two-year process leading up to this event. These priorities include creating viable employment and enterprise opportunities in agriculture, boosting farmers’ resilience to future climate shocks, and equipping the researchers and agriculturalists of tomorrow with the skills required.

Ending hunger, water stress and combatting climate change are among the core targets of Agenda 2030, the UN’s framework for sustainable development that CGIAR’s work is closely aligned with. To contribute to the ambitious agenda, CGIAR has pledged to bring 100 million people out of poverty, and 150 million people out of hunger, by 2030.

“GCARD3 will help us ensure the research we undertake now, will be fit to solve the challenges of the future,” comments Frank Rijsberman, CEO of the CGIAR Consortium. “Scientific innovations can take 20 years to move from research to farmers’ fields. Essentially, we have one research cycle left to get our response right, before climate change, population growth and environmental degradation wreak havoc on our food supply.”

A recent CGIAR research paper highlighted the need for investment and research priorities to remain future-focused. It revealed that in sub-Saharan Africa, approximately 30 per cent of areas growing maize and bananas and approximately 60 per cent of areas growing beans will become unsuitable by 2100 under certain climate change scenarios, and in some countries, areas growing these crops need to be “transformed” by as soon as 2025i.

Catalysing agribusiness in the developing world is a key component of CGIAR’s strategy, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa. Several CGIAR centers now have business incubation platforms that develop efficient manufacturing methods that can be replicated by the private sector. One such hub in Uganda – Afri Banana Products Ltd – has nurtured 39 entrepreneurs; commercialized six technologies and helped generate employment for over 420 people.

“Africa has a ready workforce of 200 million young people, and a booming urban market demanding diverse and processed foods,” comments Kwesi Atta-Krah, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Integrated Systems for the Humid Tropics. “CGIAR is helping to equip a new generation of agricultural entrepreneurs to get a share of Africa’s food and beverage market that could reach $1 trillion by 2030ii. But we need targeted investments and collaboration between the public and private sectors to make this happen.”

Improving access to markets through improved rural infrastructure, enabling policies and interventions that will “de-risk” agriculture as a business, are also critical factors, according to CGIAR.

“Farmers need access to better services such as insurance products, to help them overcome losses and invest in better practices,” comments Bruce Campbell, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). A new index-based livestock insurance product is now available through three commercial insurance partners in Ethiopia and Kenya that trigger payouts to vulnerable pastoralists following extreme weather events, helping to build their resilience to climate change.

“Innovations that channel climate information into farmers’ hands are also going to be vital, so that farmers can be prepared for future shocks at the community level,” Dr. Campbell adds.

“GCARD3 also offers us a unique opportunity to review how and who we need to partner with to address these challenges,” notes Tom Randolph, director the CGIAR Research Program on Livestock and Fish. “The landscape of actors in agricultural research for development is constantly changing and we need to keep redefining the partnerships that work.”

For an overview of CGIAR’s activity at GCARD3, visit www.cgiar.org/gcard3

Photo: Vivian Atakos/CCAFS