Researchers in ACP countries are facing a growing range of challenges. They are required to respond effectively to the demands of policy makers, private sector investors and donor agencies, farmers and other stakeholders in the agri-food chain. They are being asked to deliver research outputs that will improve agricultural productivity, food quality and food safety, in order to increase their countries competitiveness in global markets, and contribute to food security, poverty alleviation and sustainable development. At the same time, researchers must be socially and ethically responsible and contribute to the advancement of science and technology. As the demands for accountability increase and the levels of funding diminish, researchers need to prioritize and strategize their responses.
ACP farming systems are very diverse and the scientific community must be able to provide adequate responses to meet the varied needs of small subsistence farmers who make up the majority of the ACP farming community while simultaneously addressing the needs of the medium to large-scale farming enterprises to compete on price, quality, responsiveness to changing consumer demands and reliability in supply in all markets. Therein lies the challenge as there is no one-size fits all approach that will enable researchers to respond to the needs of small scale farmers who are primarily concerned with sustainable livelihoods or medium to large-scale farms who wish to remain competitive and take advantage of any opportunities despite deteriorating environmental conditions and trade and economic restrictions. Within the last few years, the ACP region has seen a resurgence of emphasis on family farms which are being valued not only for their contribution to maintaining social order but to environmental sustainability. This dossier provides guidance and lessons learned on the need for the ACP region to apply a differentiated strategic approach for using science to enhance the performance of ACP agricultural sector.