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The way forward to inclusive agricultural development and innovation in Central Asia

Click here for the Russian version of the video

Participants at the International Conference on Eurasian Food Security and Nutrition Network and Eurasian Soil Partnership call for a wide and inclusive process of reform to enhance innovative capacities and mobilize the full power of agricultural science and innovation in Central Asia. A new video on Innovation Platforms is launched to raise awareness of effective collaboration approaches among varied stakeholders.

Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic - The region of Central Asia and the Caucus (CAC) is facing major challenges and transformations affected by globalization and localization processes, the development of information and communications technologies, changing consumption patterns and population dynamics, ecological decline and resource scarcity, urbanization, technology development, and so forth. These drivers of change are all interconnected and affect the regions’ agriculture and food security in multiple and complex ways.

Therefore, research organizations operating in the region must strengthen their capacities and collaboration in order to set a robust agricultural research and innovation agenda to:

  • address the goals of food and nutrition security  in the region by meeting the needs of smallholder farmers and consumers;
  • improve rural agriculture livelihoods by creating better and more employment opportunities for women and young people and increase household incomes, rural development;
  • ensure environmental sustainability by addressing land and resources degradation.

This calls for a wide and inclusive process of reform to enhance innovative capacities and mobilize the full power of agricultural science and innovation towards meeting agriculture and food-related development needs.

These are the current themes emerging from multi-stakeholder discussions at the International Conference on Eurasian Food Security and Nutrition Network and Eurasian Soil Partnership taking place in Bishkek, Kyrgyz Republic from February 29 – March 2, 2016. 

The goal of the conference is to present participant with the opportunity to:

  • review and analyze current trends in food security management in the Eurasian region;
  • identify the best and most effective practices to promote and expand agricultural research-for-development collaboration across various disciplines and sectors at country, regional and global levels.

Several scientists from the International Centre for Agricultural Research in the Dry Areas (ICARDA) and the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems have come to present their research findings and successful approaches for tackling many of the aforementioned challenges affecting the CAC region.

Dr. Richard Thomas, Director of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems presented the new ICARDA research strategy for the CAC region, as well as the new CGIAR research program portfolio that will focus on the following themes:

  • Integrated Agri-Food Systems based approaches
  • Nutrition and health
  • Climate change
  • Soils and degraded land
  • Food safety
  • Global stewardship of genetic resources
  • Big data and ICT

Referring to land degradation as the greatest challenge facing CAC region and citing an important study by the Economics of Land Degradation in Central Asia, he noted:

The annual costs of land degradation due to land use change in Central Asia amount to about 5.85 billion USD. The costs of action against land degradation are lower than the costs of inaction by more than five times. Sustainable land management practices, improved access to extension services, markets and credit are all crucial factors to successfully addressing land degradation in Central Asia. This will require a concerted effort on the part of both public and private sector actors to work together and enable the conditions for cutting edge research and innovation to transform agriculture and affect equitable, sustainable, and inclusive development that benefits farming and vulnerable communities in the region.

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The effects of land degradation in the Aral Sea area of Central Asia. Photo: IWMI/Neil Palmer

This message was echoed by Dr. Botir Dosov, the Strategic Innovation Platform Coordinator for the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems in Central Asia, who presented on overview of the research priorities and challenges related to agricultural development and food security in the region.  Dr. Dosov highlighted the role and valuable contribution of agricultural research in achieving regional development priorities. He also mentioned that Central Asia and the Caucasus Association of Agricultural Research Institutions (CACAARI) periodically conducts broad consultation and review of the challenges and priorities of agri-food systems, as well as agricultural research and innovations.

In particular, he highlighted the lack of effective coordination between different actors of Agricultural Innovation Systems (AIS) in CAC countries, including the public and private sectors, the academic community and civil society organization within the national agricultural research system.

This is evident in a combination of poor planning, poor resource and labor distribution, de-fragmentation, and duplication of interventions, which seriously affect innovation in the agricultural sector.

Poor and insufficient linkages among agricultural research, education, rural advisory services, local community organizations, the private sector and other actors remain constraints in the application of innovation approaches to improve nutrition, food security and well-being of population. The establishment of Innovation Platforms can effectively overcome these challenges. However, this approach remains largely unappreciated and often misunderstood.

To provide a better understanding of the Innovation Platform and the roles that different actors can play in it, Dr. Dosov’s team have produced a new video in English and Russian, which was screened at the conference.

Conference participants reacting to the video noted the following:

It’s clear that without strengthening cooperation between different actors of agricultural sectors, we will not be able to achieve the overarching goals of food and nutrition security, as well as improve the lives of smallholder farmers and rural poor,” reacted Mr. Azizbek Sharipov, Chairman National Association of Dehkan Farms of Tajikistan.

The video made me think that the farmers are, in fact, the most important actors as they are the ones who actually produce food. We tend to forget that sometimes. All the other actors from researchers, extension agents, development agencies, national government and donors are there to help the farmers maximize their potential in sustainable ways,” said Mr. Shaibek Karasartov, Director of Training, Advisory and Innovation Centre (TAIC), Kyrgyzstan.

Everyone has a distinctive role to play, but the sum effect of these roles through effective collaboration is crucial. The scientist does research. The extension agent provides rural advisory services. Civil society and development agencies can help disseminate good practices and new technologies. We all need to work together as shown in the video so that our work means something in the ground,” noted Professor Rysbek Nurgaziev, Rector of the Kyrgyz National Agrarian University.

The International Conference on Eurasian Food Security and Nutrition Network and Eurasian Soil Partnership is jointly organized by the ECFS, FAO, the World Bank, IFPRI, and GFAR and conclude its proceedings today.

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About the author

Dr. Botir Dosov, the Strategic Innovation Platform Coordinator for the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems in Central Asia.

Acknowledgment 

The video on Innovation Platforms was produced under the framework of the CGIAR Research Program on Dryland Systems in Central Asia.

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