The recent Chicago Council's Global Agricultural Development Initiative symposium, “Capitalizing on the Power of Science, Trade, and Business to End Hunger and Poverty: A New Agenda for Global Food Security” offered its participants a series of perspectives into the future of global agricultural development – both the promise and the challenge of feeding a global population expected to reach more than nine billion people in only two generations’ time.
Future solutions to feeding a growing world require addressing gaps and constraints across the entirety of the scientific value chain for agriculture. The Chicago Council rightly calls this a “two-pronged problem”: firstly to secure sufficient funding and education to develop new innovation and secondly to ensure adequate access to all innovations (existing or new), especially by smallholder farmers around the world.
Ren Wang, Assistant Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, put it aptly in the opening panel session that the agricultural sector is already going through a “quiet revolution” with the “science-technology-innovation nexus” being the pivotal breakthrough needed for addressing poverty and hunger alleviation.
I see these aspects as two halves of a virtuous circle for agricultural innovation (sketched out crudely in the diagram)
On one side (in red), we have the development of new innovation and education. Several of the speakers at the symposium exemplified the creativity and diversity of new solutions being developed – from improved seed varieties, new agronomic techniques, and ICT technologies to name but a few.
On the other side (in green) are access and feedback, whereby new innovations get into the hands of the people who can benefit from them and they are adapted and improved through two-way knowledge sharing. We heard about efforts to reach more farmers with existing technologies and capturing their voices and experiences for further learning.
This innovation cycle must be supported at every stage by an enabling policy environment and must be centered around the people who are impacted by it.
If each of our organizations understands clearly our mandate within this innovation value chain, we can seek out complementary partners who can help to amplify our impacts and extend our reach. This is the future of agricultural development, and it is how we can work together to let a hundred flowers bloom.