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Agricultural research, rural poverty and climate change—(Some of) the weakest links


Stefan Dercon (left) and Mark Howden (right) presenting at the ISPC Science Forum 2016 (picture credit: ILRI/Susan MacMillan). 

We’ve been a bit quiet recently on the ILRI blog front as we focused on covering the Science Forum 2016 organized by the Independent Science and Partnership Council (ISPC) of CGIAR, held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, 12–14 Mar 2016.

Below are links to a couple of the more challenging presentations.

Knowledge workers at work: Agricultural scientists get down to brass tacks (and new pathways) for rural prosperity, 
3 May 2016.
Reporting on the responses by Stefan Dercon (links between agricultural research and rural poverty reduction) and Mark Howden (agricultural research and climate change) in a Q&A session that followed their presentations in the day 1 opening plenary session, on 12 Mar. Dercon is a development economist at Oxford University working for the UK’s Department for International Development (DFID). Howden is a climate change scientist at the Australian National University serving on the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

‘In their uncompromising, tough-love scientific stump speeches, both Dercon and Howden argued for a kind of ‘intelligent design’, if you will, a back-to-basics path that blurs boundaries and dispenses with knee-jerk disciplinary biases and hit-and-run science projects to address the seemingly impossible agricultural deliverables promised by this group as well as, of course, the crushing complexities and power asymmetries facing the two billion people the group works to benefit.

‘While both speakers are obviously data-literate and data-driven, they both appeared to view research ‘business as usual’ as a ‘clear and present danger’. Dercon’s cheerful indignation at the lack of coherent syntheses for real-world policymaking, and Howden’s sympathetic understanding of farmer resistance to climate change rhetoric, were tonic. Dercon’s deconstruction of the evidence linking agricultural research and rural prosperity may have caused some concern within this elite conference group, but such discomfort is rather the norm in mission-oriented scientific circles, where the disputatious, and the original, have honoured places.

‘Both speakers focused on the importance of raising the capacity of agricultural research to enhance decision-making—by policymakers in the case of Dercon and by farming communities in the case of Howden. Interestingly, neither speaker focused on increasing agricultural research impacts per se, but rather on how agricultural research can support other communities (aid workers, food producers) in making the most appropriate decisions. . . .’

If you like the full article above, read the whole article and the other articles below.

Rethinking pathways for rural prosperity: The agricultural challenge 
by Stefan Dercon13 Apr 2016.
Reporting on Dercon’s day 1 plenary talk on agricultural research and poverty reduction.

+ SLIDE PRESENTATION for Dercon’s talk: Does agricultural research reduce poverty?
VIDEO OF PLENARY TALK (23 minutes) by Dercon is here in full (watch from 35:42 till 58:20 minutes).

The changing, real-world, climate change challenge for agricultural researchers
by Mark Howden27 Apr 2016.
Reporting on Howden’s day 1 plenary talk on agricultural research and climate change.

+ SLIDE PRESENTATION for Howden’s talk: Challenges ahead as a result of climate change
VIDEO OF PLENARY TALK (17 minutes) by Howden is here in full (watch from 4:30 till 21:55 minutes).

Be sure also to check out all 15 good short video interviews as well as blog articles (see full list below) from the Science Forum:

03 May
Knowledge workers at work: Agricultural scientists get down to brass tacks (and new pathways) for rural prosperity (Stefan Dercon and Mark Howden day 1 Q&A)

28 Apr
Holistic research embedded in development processes and strong partnerships key to sustainable agriculture in Africa (day 2 breakout session)

27 Apr
The changing, real-world, climate change challenge for agricultural researchers (Mark Howden day 1 plenary talk)

26 Apr
Increase research investment: Karen Brooks on priorities for rural prosperity (video interview)

25 Apr
Closing gender gaps in control over assets for lasting development outcomes (Ruth Meinzen-Dick day 1 plenary talk)

22 Apr
Interdisciplinary teams and delivery linkages: Gebisa Ejeta on research pathways to rural prosperity (video interview)

21 Apr
Not by agriculture alone: Segenet Kelemu on research priorities for rural prosperity (video interview)

20 Apr
Work along value chains: Victor Manyong on research pathways and priorities (video interview)

18 Apr
Pathways to rural prosperity: Priorities for agricultural research (day 3 plenary panel discussion chaired by Doug Gollin, of the University of Oxford and the CGIAR Standing Panel on Impact Assessment; ILRI’s director general, Jimmy Smith, was a panel member)

14 Apr
Human and institutional capacity development for rural prosperity, a question of survival (day 2 panel discussion)

13 Apr
Improving the impact of international staple crop research on poverty reduction (day 1 breakout session)

13 Apr
Rethinking pathways for rural prosperity: The agricultural challenge (Stefan Dercon day 1 plenary talk)

12 Apr
No single magic bullet for rural prosperity: Interactions between agricultural research and the economy (day 1 breakout session)

12 Apr
Science Forum day 1—Presentations set the scene on poverty, gender and climate change (links to Stefan DerconRuth Meinzen-Dick and Mark Howden day 1 plenary slide presentations)

11 Apr
Agricultural research pathways, partnerships and priorities for rural prosperity: Maggie Gill interview (video)

For more information and materials, check out the main portal for the ISPC Science Forum 2016.

With thanks to the 20 communications staff, scientists and students from CGIAR centres and partner institutions who provided facilitation, blogging, tweeting, photography and video support to the Science Forum 2016.

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