June 21, 2013

Commentary - Let a Hundred Flowers Bloom: Promoting a New Era of Innovation for Agricultural Development

By Michael Howevel
Deputy Director, Agriculture for Impact

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 below):

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.

About

The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Blogroll

1,000 Days Blog, 1,000 Days

Africa Can End Poverty, World Bank

Agrilinks Blog

Bread Blog, Bread for the World

Can We Feed the World Blog, Agriculture for Impact

Concern Blogs, Concern Worldwide

Institute Insights, Bread for the World Institute

End Poverty in South Asia, World Bank

Global Development Blog, Center for Global Development

The Global Food Banking Network

Harvest 2050, Global Harvest Initiative

The Hunger and Undernutrition Blog, Humanitas Global Development

International Food Policy Research Institute News, IFPRI

International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center Blog, CIMMYT

ONE Blog, ONE Campaign

One Acre Fund Blog, One Acre Fund

Overseas Development Institute Blog, Overseas Development Institute

Oxfam America Blog, Oxfam America

Preventing Postharvest Loss, ADM Institute

Sense & Sustainability Blog, Sense & Sustainability

WFP USA Blog, World Food Program USA

Archive

Video Interview with Secretary Dan Glickman

Former U.S. Secretary of Agriculture and Chicago Council on Global Affairs Global Agricultural Development Initiative Co-Chair Dan Glickman addresses the importance of agricultural education, the effects of climate change on agriculture, and the need to fund agricultural research.





Roger Thurow - Outrage and Inspire - Africa's Good News

“We are controlling the diseases of malnutrition, like kwashiorkor, marasmus,” she says on her small farm in the western Kenyan village of Kabuchai.  “In this community of ours, we don’t have these diseases any more.  People are working harder to improve their farms.”




Interview with Doug Bereuter on Global Food Security

In this video interview, The Chicago Council on Global Affairs' Global Agricultural Development Initiative Co-Chair Doug Bereuter discusses the importance of investing in women farmers and sustaining the US leadership in global agriculture and food security programs.





Commentary - Africa: A Continent of Opportunity

I recently returned from a conference hosted by the Aspen Institute in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia with a number of scholars and members of Congress. Over a period of several days we did an in-depth exploration of the myriad issues encompassing U.S. relations with the 54 nations of Africa.


Photo of the Week

Annette Kwamboka peels the husk off a cob of her mother's maize in Bugita, Kenya.