Thursday, 22 October 2009

Call for a £2 billion "Grand Challenge" research programme on global food security

The raw statistics are alarming: by 2050 there will be 9 billion people to feed and climate change will make water and land more scarce. A report published on 21st October 2009 by the Royal Society: Reaping the Benefits: Science and the Sustainable Intensification of Global Agriculture highlights these statistics and goes on to recommend an investment of £2 billion publicly funded research on global food security over the next 10 years.

But who is setting the research agenda: farmers or scientists? developed countries or developing countries? rich or poor? public or corporate?

Earlier in 2009 two new books emphasised the importance of putting farmers at the centre of agricultural innovation and development: Farmer First Revisited: Innovation for Agricultural Research and Development and Innovaton Africa: Enriching Farmers’ Livelihoods.

According to a panel at the launch of these two books, farmer centred innovation needs to do four things:
  • Move from an exclusive focus on farmers, farms and technologies to broader innovation systems.
  • Revamp agricultural education systems for a new era.
  • Overhaul incentive and reward systems to put farmers first and promote ‘participatory innovation systems’.
  • Put ‘a politics of demand’ at the centre of a new set of accountability mechanisms for research and development.