GCARD is described as a process. What did this process entail so far and where is the process going beyond the event?
From July to November 2009, priorities of those engaged in agriculture were captured through a series of approaches including regional desk study reviews, electronic surveys, open electronic consultations, and face-to-face meetings in each of the regions of Near East, Asia Pacific, Central Asia, Europe, Africa and Latin America/Caribbean. More than 1,700 participants were mobilized to contribute to the process and the delivery of regional research priorities.
“GCARD aims to develop greater synergy between research and development processes,” states Mark Holderness, GFAR’s Executive Secretary. This objective requires consultation processes that “bring together diverse partners to develop priorities, agendas, capabilities and constructive implementation pathways for agricultural research for development.”
GFAR responded by designing and developing comprehensive consultation processes with a number of mutually reinforcing steps that have been executed according to the important principle of subsidiarity and through its regional constituencies. Desk study review documents led to six regional and multi-lingual e-consultations that were then further discussed and distilled in regional face-to-face meetings. Those documents are available for review at: http://www.egfar.org/egfar/website/gcard/updates/documents. A group of global expert consultants are currently producing a synthesis of all the regional inputs to reflect a global picture of the needs and issues articulated from the regions.
The e-consultation component encompassed six regional electronic consultations in parallel between September and October, 2009. The basis for the facilitated discussions was provided by desk study reviews of the regions that had previously been commissioned. These highlighted key issues that the participants were invited to address. The process surpassed expectations by engaging more than 1500 participants from more than 150 countries all over the world in lively discussions, with new participants joining throughout the exercise. This has demonstrated proof of concept that the Regional Research Fora (CACAARI, FARA, APAARI, FORAGRO, AARINENA and EFARD) have capacity to reach out to their contacts and make progress in involving the yet underrepresented regions and actors, mainly the private sector and civil society.
Whilst the process did have limitations in the extent of the representation, there is good potential to build the capacity of these regional organizations to be entirely representative of all the major actors in the agricultural sector. In the case of sub-Saharan Africa, for example, the enthusiasm created around the e-consultation was evident: 500 members from 65 countries signed up for the event. As FARA’s Myra Wopereis-Pura put it, “Way after the end of the consultation, the GCARD-Africa listserv was still very active. We didn’t know how to stop people.” While some professionals might suffer from consultation fatigue, it is important that the novelty did not wear off for others. As a member of the Central Asia and the Caucasus CAC forum put it, “This is the first time ever we experienced such an e-consultation among all the researchers of the region towards a common goal, i.e., AR4D. It’s great to learn and improve towards further steps in the GCARD process.” The e-consultation evaluation survey with 231 responses shows that 86% of the respondents felt that they had increased their understanding of AR4D issues in the region; 86% rated the e-consultation as excellent (29%) or good (57%).
Regional face-to-face meetings followed the e-consultations in each region and attracted a total of 370 participants in meetings lasting two to three days. The meetings were designed to discuss the regional reviews and the outcomes of the e-consultations as well as the Strategic Results Framework of the CGIAR reform process.
These face-to-face meetings provided space for parallel group discussions on regional key issues and allowed further refinement of the AR4D priorities being promoted by regions.
The penultimate step in the process, and closest to the GCARD Conference in Montpellier, is the work of the global authors team composed of and led by Uma Lele, together with Jules Pretty, Eugene Terry and Eduardo Trigo. The team has combined the regional syntheses with published authoritative documents. This has led them towards developing a road map that will bring together the outcomes of discussions and analyses prior to and during the GCARD Conference. The road map will provide a reference basis for driving reform and reorientation of agricultural research systems and innovation pathways around the world. It will identify actions and responsibilities required at national and international levels amongst all constituencies. It will include milestones for all constituencies working together towards the next GCARD and an opportunity for reflection and reassessment of progress against these expected milestones. This will contribute to improving the orientation of agricultural research systems, structures and processes to achieve maximum impact for the benefit of the poor. In subsequent years, the GCARD will enable public and transparent accountability of progress and impact as research strives to meet these objectives.
This way, the road map that emerges from Montpellier will be representative of stakeholder’s voices and priorities, which should lead to “a variety of public, private and civil agricultural research for development pathways,” as Holderness states.
GCARD decided to include social media as an additional and broader communications channel to its listservs and web-based consultation platforms. The GCARD blog (http://gcardblog.wordpress.com/) and Twitter account (http://twitter.GCARD2010) have been used to share updates in form of stories, summaries and quotes with the aim to involve those who cannot physically join the events and have access to Internet.
Facts and Figures region by region
- The review for Europe was prepared in July 2009 by Wyn Richards and Olivier Chartier (Euroquality.) It is based on an analysis of around 60 peer-reviewed and other documents available at the time of its preparation.
- The e-consultation for Europe started on 2 September and ended on 25 September, 2009. More than 190 participants from 49 countries participated and around 115 messages were exchanged.
- The face-to-face GCARD-Europe workshop was held in Brussels on 29September 2009. The workshop was attended by 55 stakeholders from Europe, one observer from AARINENA, one from FARA and one CGIAR representative.
- The GCARD process in Europe was positively evaluated by participants (e.g., 70% positive reaction from the e-consultation).
Latin America and Caribbean FORAGRO
- This process was facilitated by FORAGRO, with support from Instituto Interamericano de Cooperación para la Agricultura (IICA, Office in Uruguay) and the Cooperative Program for Agro-Food and Agro-industrial Development in the Southern Cone (PROCISUR.) The regional consultation workshop was also supported by CIAT.
- The regional review was conducted by a team coordinated by Prof. Dr. Sergio Salles Filho, University of Campinas, during the months of August and September, 2009. This team prepared a document entitled “Background,” structured on previous studies, and also prepared a review document on the “key factors” for the discussion.
- In the electronic consultation, held between 14 and 30 September, 2009, there were 550 participants from 32 countries, with a broad and balanced representation from the fields of academia, national research institutes, government entities, producer and private sector associations, NGOs and international agencies and institutions, among others.
- The face-to-face GCARD LAC process was conducted on 19 and 20 October, 2009, at the International Center for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) in Palmira, Colombia. It brought together over 70 participants, representatives of agricultural research and other stakeholders from universities, NGOs, producer organizations, enterprises, international organisms and centers, and others. The breadth, diversity and representativeness of the participants allowed for an open, respectful and constructive discussion, generating contributions of great interest to the GCARD process and the region.
- The GCARD process in Africa was facilitated by the FARA Secretariat.
- The regional review was undertaken by Prof. Uzo Mokwunye between July and August, 2009.
- The e-consultation was held between September 2-30, 2009, and involved 500 participants from 65 countries representing various sectors such as research and academic institutions, farmer organizations and civil society organizations.
- The face-to-face consultation was held from October 5-7, 2009, at the FARA Secretariat in Accra, Ghana. It brought together 56 participants from all major stakeholders engaged in African agriculture, with a majority of participants coming from farmer organizations.
West Asia and North Africa (WANA) AARINENA
- The regional review was prepared by Dr. Mohammed Samir El-Habbab with input from sub-regional focal points.
- The e-consultation was held between September 2 and 18, 2009, with 180 participants who exchanged 150 messages.
- The face-to-face meeting was held on November 10-12, 2009, in the Bibliotheca Alexandria in Egypt and had57 participants from 18 countries representing the NARS, NGOs, farmer organizations and the private sector.
Central Asia and the Caucasus (CAC) CACAARI
- The regional review was prepared by lead consultant SPS Beniwal.
- The e-consultation was held from September 3-23, 2009, with 120 participants and 200 messages exchanged.
- The face-to-face meeting took place on October 16- 17, 2009, in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, with more than 60 participants.
Asia Pacific APAARI
- The consultation process was supported by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Asia-Pacific Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (APAARI.)
- The regional review was coordinated by Prof. R.B. Singh, based on sub-regional and regional reviews and studies commissioned from South Asia, Southeast Asia, China and the Pacific, and the Asia-Pacific Region.
- The e-consultation took place from September 1-24, 2009, with 120 participants from 50 countries who exchanged about 350 messages. The participants comprised 93 scientists from NARS, 66 from NGOs, 47 from CGIAR, 35 from public sector and extension agents, 17 from civil society and farmers’ organizations, 15 from private sector and industry, and 27 unclassified.
- The face-to-face meeting took place in Bangkok, Thailand and involved 75 stakeholders from 17 countries. They represented APAARI members, NARS, CGIAR, IARCs, GFAR, ARIs, universities, NGOs, farmers/farmer organizations, the private sector and donor organizations from the region.
 According to the evaluation survey, 25% of the participants rated the e-consultation “excellent”, 45% “good” and 25% “average”.