Tashkent is beautiful by the day. It is iridescent by night. The marriage season continues. Yesterday, 16 October, there were two beautiful brides both waiting their turn for a grand entry into the ballrooms of the Hotel. There was a musical quartet that played “here comes the bride(s) “when they made their majestic entrance. Cameraman all over shot their photographs and videos and the traditional pipe and drum players made a crescendo welcoming the couple. Evil certainly got scared away.
On the 16 October, we started our CAC Regional Face to Face Workshop. The achievement of previous days of establishing the Farmer and NGO Consortia plainly reflected on Dr. Ahmadov, the CACAARI Chair’s face. After his welcome, Dr. Khalikulov explained the Sustainable Agriculture Program of CAC-PFU.
Dr. Roozitalab had come in the previous day (I had not known of his arrival) and his presentation had been translated into Russian. He made his presentation and I expressed a sigh of relief. There was good discussion after the presentation including why small farmers were not expressly mentioned, the impact of CGIAR’s work on poverty and livelihoods in the region. Some participants during tea asked me why, if the decisions of GCARD were not binding to CGIAR as presented by Dr. Roozitalab, we were discussing the priorities. I explained that GFAR was looking at ARD globally and regionally through the Regional Forums and it was for the CGIAR to decide after looking at what stakeholders said they needed to design their program. The CGIAR is a large International agricultural research body but it is not the agricultural research body of the world. The CGIAR contributes only about 4 percent of the public sector investment in ARD. The rest comes from Government and we at GFAR are aiming to convey the GCARD message to all ARD stakeholders and not CGIAR alone. Acad. Akimaliev, who also chaired the session expressed his concern at the ever diminishing role of CGIAR in the region in spite of ICARDA and other members of CAC-PFUs very significant achievements. He regretted the minimal presence of ILRI, Forestry and Fisheries Institutes in the region. He also was not happy of the constant turnover of the CAC-PFU Coordinators and the weak engagement with National Systems by the CGIAR. Mostly it is ICARDA that makes the engagement, not CGIAR.
I presented the progress on GCARD. Dr, Beniwal presented his summary of progress on CAC Region Review and Report for GCARD. There were many queries to Dr. Beniwal especially around the priorities for livestock production systems in the Region.
We went into the first Group session discussion around seven farmer categories and a variety of commodities they produce as per the matrix which looked at research needs at the input, throughput, output, post harvest and marketing and consumers levels. It was a huge exercise but the groups dealt with the issues confidently. There were animated discussions among all ARD stakeholders. I noted an MP arguing with a farmer representative who herself was a farmer. It was fun also.
In the evening we had a dinner where all ARD stakeholders danced together. I never knew how agile Dr. Ahmadov was until I saw him dance the twist with the lovely ladies present at the Consultation. We all had even more fun and there was a lot of merriment.
Today, 17 October is Deepawali, the Indian Festival of Lights and one of the most important festivals in my part of India, Gujarat. This is when the victory of light over darkness is celebrated. Tomorrow is the Gujarati New Year day. I wish all of you a very happy Deepawali and a prosperous New Year where all your endeavours are successful. Of course I feel a bit lonely for being away from my family. But then I am surrounded by friends who share my joy and the spirit of the festival..
First thing in the morning, we started with the presentations from the Group I session. These presentations were fascinating. . The differences in needs and also the issue of scale within similar needs of various categories of farmers, especially dekhon. small, small and medium farmers, came to fore in this group session. How wrong are we to lump everything together in identifying an agricultural research agenda!
We did not have a group discussing the needs of the Fisher folk and this was a bit of a weakness.
After this plenary, we went into the Second Group discussion on cross cutting issues. We had totally different grouping that the previous one in the groups. Again, I observed very deep conversations around the topics. Dr. Beniwal certainly has a job on his hands to sift through the enormously rich data coming from these group sessions.
All the presentations from the groups and the facilitators’ reports have been collected and given to participants.
The second group session brought to the fore the complexity of ARD. But to me it was heartening that all participants wanted cutting edge science employed in ARD to satisfy the needs of the poor especially the resource poor farmer. They wanted Biotechnology (though GMO was a controversy that evoked a very sharp response), Nanotechnology and ICT especially GIS, Modelling and Simulation applied to solve many problems.
After this group session, we summed up the research needs at the regional level and using nearly 20 flip charts went through a voting exercise on the focus of ARD as regards to the user community or thematic relevance and specific areas of research that would have development impact.
All participants appeared to be enthralled and very happy with the processes that engaged them fully. In this region, this was a unique experience for many. The involvement of all stakeholders, farmers, NGOs, researchers, donors, policy makers, University representatives all together and through an inclusive process of engagement and involvement in the Workshop. The voting sheets could not be immediately counted.
The Workshop ended with thanks to all, especially ICARDA and its staff. Anvar, Shanoza, Sherzod, Mussaffar, Farhad, the drivers and so many others who had spent several sleepless nights arranging these workshops and meetings.
More on the outcomes of the F2F Workshop later. Watch this space.