10th Meeting of the Advisory Committee on Science and Technology for ACP Agricultural & Rural Development
"Safeguarding the ACP Food System through Science, Technology and Innovation”
Garraway Hotel, Commonwealth of Dominica, October 9-13, 2011
REPORT, November 23, 2011
The members of the Advisory Committee (AC) on Science and Technology for ACP Agriculture and Rural Development held their 10th meeting in Dominica from 9-13 October, 2011. The theme of the meeting was “Science and Technology for ACP Agricultural & Rural Development: Safeguarding the ACP Food System through Science, Technology and Innovation.” The objectives and expected outcomes are in keeping with CTA approved Strategic Plan 2011-2015 which features the attainment of three strategic goals, namely:
- strengthening ACP agricultural and rural development policy processes and strategies;
- enhancing priority agricultural value chains; and
- enhancing ACP capacities in Information, Communication and Knowledge Management for ARD.
This year’s meeting coincided with 10th Anniversary of the Caribbean Week in Agriculture and was hosted in one of the member countries of the Caribbean Common Market (CARICOM), Dominica. Delegates to the 10th AC Meeting participated in the joint opening ceremony of the Climate Change and Science and Technology Workshops at which a member of the AC delivered one of the keynote addresses. Key messages distilled from the AC meeting were delivered at the Alliance for Sustainable Development of Agriculture and the Rural Milieu Meeting. The collaborative Opening Ceremony was indeed instructive for as much as the 10th AC Meeting focused on postharvest knowledge systems, it was noted that this year’s deliberations also dealt with the role of Climate Change and its impact on agricultural production and food and nutrition security.
The identification of the ACP postharvest knowledge system as a priority issue to be addressed this year emerged from the discussions and outcomes of the 2010 Advisory Committee meeting. This was considered to be of strategic importance for a number of reasons:
- high postharvest losses due to poor pre- production and postharvest handling and limited availability of suitable processing, marketing and transport infrastructure;
- inadequate policy support;
- inadequate research and development;
- insufficient information, knowledge and skills to facilitate strategic decision-making; and
- absence of appropriate support intervention for strengthening the postharvest knowledge system.
At their 10th meeting, AC members reflected on ways they can ‘Invest in New Knowledge: Safeguarding the ACP Agri-food System’ by deliberating on the following issues:
- Do we have enough data on the extent of postharvest losses? Is this a problem for the ACP region?
- If we need to collect data on postharvest losses, should we focus on particular commodities? If yes, which commodities and what criteria should be used? What research is needed – what, why and at what product level to reduce postharvest losses?
- Is food waste a problem for the ACP region? Do we have data on the extent of food waste? Is collecting data and monitoring the extent of food waste a priority for the ACP region for evaluating the environmental impact or its contribution to food insecurity? Why?
- Is value addition only a small or a huge part of the commercialization continuum for transforming agricultural produce? Do you agree? Why? What mechanisms should be put in place to improve the postharvest knowledge system to catalyze greater efficiencies in the value chain to take full advantage of commercial opportunities? Are there existing mechanisms or best practices that the ACP region can build on?
- If you had to advise ACP governments on policies, programs and strategies for improving postharvest knowledge systems for food security and wealth creation, what evidence is needed to convince them of the priorities for policy and investments (finance, research, education and training, physical infrastructure)? Which key policy processes at national, region, and international level should be targeted.
Presentations were made on a range of key issues which provided for further opportunity to drill down into the discussions during the break-out group work which were reported back to the plenary session.
Investing in New Knowledge
It was the view that ACP countries face a daunting challenge re food and nutrition security – high and volatile food prices; climate change and vulnerability to natural disasters; improved agricultural productivity. However, it is not all gloom and doom, but countries need to act urgently by adopting systematic, focused and evidence-based approaches in partnership with strategic allies (north-south and south-south);
CTA’s mandate, reinforced in its Strategic Plan 2011-2015, emphasizes knowledge generation and sharing and the use of ICTs and knowledge management systems in support of sustainable agriculture and rural development. It also focuses on fostering capacity building and regional cooperation in science and innovation as well as quality higher education among priority areas for food and agricultural development. Some key observations made during the AC meeting were:
- There is need to advance demand-led science by fostering strong international partnerships between academia, government and the private sector. This requires adequate investment at all strata of the education system inclusive of higher education and technical and vocational training and skills in order to make the quantum leap; The recently adopted G 20 Research Agenda in Agriculture is evidence of increasing political will to mobilize new knowledge and advance concrete global initiatives to address food and nutrition security and provide space and opportunity for investing in science and technology for agricultural development;
- The impact of investments in higher education will only be realized, and manifested in improvements in the food and agricultural sectors, if pursued comprehensively, with a focus on quality and linked to markets and societal needs, within coherent national and sectoral policy and programmatic frameworks. The allocation of scarce resources across competing demands will be a problem requiring careful attention;
- CTA-supported initiatives may not directly speak to deficiencies at the primary and secondary education levels, but it is recognized that capacity strengthening in higher education must be done on the basis of keeping the pyramid intact at all stages.
Reducing food losses and waste: investing in post-harvest knowledge systems
- A large proportion of food produced is lost for a variety of reasons. This is a problem which is perpetuated by intervention programmes that focus only on increasing production. Improved post harvest technology is necessary but not sufficient for resolving the issue of food losses. Agriculture and food and nutrition security development are not limited to considerations of food production, but involve livelihoods and income generation to increase purchasing power. The response must encompass the range of activities from production through harvest to consumption.
- Prudent application of science and engineering principles leads to the development of technologies, the utilization of which enhances value and safety along the supply chain by mitigating losses and waste; promotes transformation of agriculture; creates wealth and improves wellbeing and economic development.
- Science, engineering, technology and innovation (SETI) must be continually renewed/lubricated by quality research and development. Innovation is the transformative element of the SETI process and takes place at the boundaries of knowledge and is facilitated by collaboration and strategic alliances.
- There is the critical issue of data and information gaps to support development of evidence-based approaches to inform policy and action: e.g. points along value chain where post harvest loss/waste occurs; the different attributes of different commodities; data collection, monitoring and market intelligence and the use of foresight methods, to be applied to enhance trade and market penetration (including regulatory and SPS, HCCAP etc requirements). As a matter of fact, the Scope Note for this meeting highlighted the work of the UK Foresight Group and the need for policy makers to address how the global food system is consuming the world’s natural resources thus inflicting untold hardships on the most vulnerable people who are still suffering from hunger and malnutrition.
- Need to understand more clearly the factors that cause relatively high food losses and wastage at the consumer/household level, including for example: lack of information and public awareness, throw away culture, convenience foods, lack of planning.
- There is a raft of new and emerging technologies to support food conservation and preservation, extending shelf life and reducing food loss and waste, such as mild conservation; active packaging; intelligent packaging.
Strategic priorities of the CTA S&T Programme and Advisory Committee
Science, technology and innovation (ST&I) remain relevant particularly the emphasis on having innovations systems mainstreamed in policy processes, development thinking and the food and agriculture research and development agenda.
Given the current challenges in food and nutrition security, it is necessary for the ACP region to continue with a robust programme to produce more scientists, to influence the wider application of science and technology, to clarify understanding of the underlying complexities and connectivities, to bridge the science/policy divide and to nurture North/South and South/South cooperation. There is equal need for entrepreneurship.
The Partnership Platform confirms the value and contribution of CTA support to networking to strengthen science, technology and innovation systems in ACP Countries. As part of the 10th meeting of the Advisory Committee, different field trips were arranged to meet the range of participants’ interest and as a complement to the discussions. The sites visited provided the participants with hands-on knowledge of the experiences of farming in a small island developing state and sensitized them to Caribbean rural life. This resulted in a better understanding of the issues discussed during the workshops and realization of commonalities among ACP countries – be they large continental states or small island countries.
Up to relatively recently, agriculture in the small island states of the Caribbean had been dominated by export crops such as cocoa, coconut, coffee, citrus, bananas, nutmeg, sugarcane, etc. "Agriculture" was therefore taken to mean "export crop" agriculture. Crops such as bananas and sugarcane are still very important at the present time in some countries. As export agriculture flourished, the Caribbean became increasingly food import dependent. Yet significant domestic food production for local consumption also took place. There is dichotomy in the agricultural sector as mainly small farmers, – similar to those visited during the field visits and commercial operations exist.
Traditionally the output of the small scale food producing sector was not properly accounted for in terms of the national agricultural statistics, so that it would have been difficult to assess levels of poultry or eggs, mutton or root crop production. The small scale production system was and is still characterized by mixed farming, featuring crops and livestock as was observed during the field visit. Food crops were allowed on the state lands as long as they did not interfere with or reduce resources allocated to the "main" crops.
- Citrus Certification Facility: operated by the Ministry of Agriculture, with a mandate to facilitate the rehabilitation of the disease –riddled citrus industry with the provision of disease-free germplasm, supported by the introduction of improved technologies including certified germplasm and drip irrigation.
- Banana Post-harvest: focus was on demonstrating the Good Agricultural Practices (GAP) of a small commercially oriented banana farmer targetting niche markets.
- Protected Agriculture: focus was on a young, dynamic, entrepreneurially oriented farmer accessing and using modern technology for economically viable farming targetting the domestic niche market. Lack of reliable technical service support and labour availability were constraints on expansion of this industry which has potential for servicing the expanding tourist market. Questions arose as to the suitability of this technology and the need for more research with respect to sustainability under various agro-ecological systems.
- Small Integrated Farming System: this holding typified the small scale farming system characteristic of the Caribbean. It evidenced a mix of the traditional and the modern, producing crop and livestock products for the local market.
The Future Role and Modus Operandi of the Advisory Committee
The main issues which emanated from the four-day discourse, revolved around:
- what has been achieved through the enhanced ACP/EU scientific cooperation and;
- what impact has this cooperation had on improving agricultural performance and reducing poverty in Africa, Caribbean and Pacific?
The AC noted that inter and intraregional and international cooperation on Science, Technology and Innovation has been strengthened. However, while there have been advances in agricultural productivity, the enhanced cooperation has not made a significant dent on mobilizing more national resources for research (1% GDP), or on increased agricultural performance and wealth creation in the ACP region. ACP scientists are still not sufficiently engaged in national, regional and international policy processes.
Members were asked to reflect on the future role and modus operandi of the AC. The ACP-EU representativeness of the AC was underscored. The Committee is regional in character and it is anticipated that the messages deriving from meetings are shared at organizational, national and regional levels. CTA published reports of meetings which were widely disseminated. Moreover recommendations of the AC are shared with the ACP/EU and other arms of CTA. Members agreed to identify new national organizations to replace various existing organizations who have already served for the required period. It was also agreed that consideration should be given to the establishment of sub-committees of the AC and a small operational core which reports back to the larger AC membership. Partial funding of ACP representatives participating in future meetings should also be explored.
The multi-dimensional agricultural sector is embedded in a fast changing global environment: markets, technology, policy and trade and regulation – all of which present major challenges and opportunities. The AC agreed that, there is clear evidence that science and technology and research and development are central to agricultural reform and modernization and there is an increasing need for national funding for public sector research and for leveraging the best in international scientific cooperation. The opportunity for the private sector to fund research also needs to be tapped.
The Alliance for Sustainable Development of Agriculture and Rural Milieu (The Alliance)
The Caribbean Week in Agriculture (CWA), conceptualized by the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture (IICA), is aimed at placing agriculture and rural life at the forefront of regional integration activities. The CWA is the premier event on the Agriculture calendar for The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and is convened under the aegis of the Alliance for Sustainable Development of Agriculture and the Rural Milieu, known as The Alliance. The main collaborating agencies are IICA, the CARICOM Secretariat, the Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Caribbean Agricultural Research and Development Institute (CARDI) and the ACP-EU Technical Centre for Cooperation on Agriculture and Rural Development (CTA). In 2003, the ACP/EU CTA became a major partner and sponsor of the CWA Activities.
The Alliance is a grouping of organizations and individuals whose intent and purpose are to ensure stakeholder representation –governments, private sector, academia, rural women, youth and technology – in the determination and implementation of agriculture and food and nutrition security policy and programme. The 10th meeting of the Alliance was chaired by the Minister of Agriculture, Dominica, and attended by the newly appointed Secretary general, CARICOM and newly elected Director General of IICA. The following key issues were raised by the Alliance Stakeholders:
- The importance of agriculture as the backbone of the rural sector and rural livelihoods not only of Dominica but also the Region;
- The significant advantages to greater CARICOM cooperation and collaboration to address:
- Poverty Alleviation Technology transfer;
- Capacity building;
- Institutional Strengthening;
- Management of Natural Resources;
- Food and Nutrition Security.
Key Messages Presented to the Alliance by the AC
The AC highlighted to the Alliance that the ACP scientific community needs to provide more evidence to support policy and decision-making to convince governments to make adequate resources available for agricultural research, teaching and training.
Among the key messages to the Alliance comprising of Ministers of Agriculture for the Caribbean and other key stakeholders were the following:
- There is a problem not only of ageing farmers and technocrats but also of ageing scientists. It has been noted that there are not enough scientists and not enough science is being done to respond to the common challenges impacting on agriculture in the ACP region and the Caribbean in particular.
- There is need to improve the postharvest knowledge system to reduce food losses and maximize economic returns and for enhancing value addition, commercialization and business opportunities through SME development.
- The ACP scientific community needs to provide governments with the evidence for investing in research and tertiary education and for convincing them that this is a long term investment which will provide high returns. societal challenges remains a priority and a key strategic goal for the AC.
- The AC recommendations to the Alliance meeting were noted and the interest in taking the key messages forward to COTED was appreciated. However, the AC noted that other recommendations to the Alliance were not characterized by a strong call for research, science and innovation suggesting that Caribbean representatives on the AC had much more work to do.
CARICOM Regional Food and Nutrition Security Action Plan
The AC further noted that a Regional Food and Nutrition Security Action Plan, covering a fifteen-year period from 2012 to 2026, was developed to implement the CARICOM Regional Food and Nutrition Security Policy. It involved consultations with relevant bodies/stakeholders at the regional and national levels to obtain the inputs necessary to ensure consistency of the Strategic Thrusts and Action Programmes/Activities with the objectives of the RFNSP.
The consultative process aimed at creating a strong sense of ownership among regional and national stakeholders, which is essential for the implementation of the RFNSAP. The process is in line with the Right to Food provisions of the RFNSP which promote widespread participation and inclusiveness. The programme focuses on actions that will benefit all households (with special emphasis on small, poor producers, indigenous peoples, youth, women and consumers). Particular attention will be paid to private/private partnerships, governmental/private strategic alliances and participation of non-governmental institutions, civil society and community-based organizations and producer and consumer associations involved in development.
A budget is structured to ensure that regional actions are in all cases linked to national level follow-up within countries where the intervention is relevant and assigned a high priority. The Action Plan contributes to four of the eight Millennium Development Goals:
- eradicating extreme poverty and hunger;
- promoting gender equality and empowering women;
- reducing child and maternal mortality; and
- ensuring environmental sustainability.
The Alliance also noted messages on the following:
- Civil Society Organisation (CSO) Declaration: a consortium of regional CSOs declared the establishment of a CSO Network chaired by CaFAN with the secretariat located in the CAIC. They committed to having a full-fledged Network operational by mid-2012.
The Government of Mexico funded scholarship programme, facilitated by IICA providing 100 scholarships per year for IICA country nationals to pursue graduate study in agriculture-related fields.
Need for greater attention to Research and Development in support of Science and Technology and to generate new knowledge.
- The ageing farmer population is a constraint on the modernization of agriculture. There is need for interventions to attract youth – youth engagement in agriculture. However, aging farmers can serve as mentors and a reservoir of traditional and indigenous knowledge. Agriculture suffers from a data deficit.
- The inadequacy of data sets to support evidence-based decision-making often results in bad, ineffective policies and programmes.
- There is much potential for strengthening agro-tourism linkages for the overall benefit of the economies of the Caribbean countries e.g. Herbs to the hotel industry.
- IABD’s Compete Caribbean Project piggy-backs on the outputs of the Regional Initiative.
- Gender and Agriculture was a major issue – assist female headed households:
- Land acquisition
- Office Space – need to move from the kitchen for agro-processing
- Enhance the revolving loan fund
- Women need to build capacity for understanding basic processes e.g. project preparation,
- Issues for the consideration of COTED:
- Climate Change
- S&T with a focus on reducing postharvest losses and building capacity on S&T
- Need for Food Security in agri-business;
- Education System and Youth Involvement;
- Reform CPA – CABA;
- Question of Regional Markets;
- Boost Production.
- Download DOC (115.50 kB)