Over the past few years the context of agricultural research for development and, more generally, of international agricultural research has rapidly been evolving. For example, the role of agriculture in development processes in southern countries has acquired new recognition, evident in the World Development Report 2008; global problems, such as climate change, food safety and new diseases have moved to the top of the international policy agenda; and research topics tend to transcend the traditional North-South divide due to new models of research cooperation and research questions that concern both southern and northern countries.
The ERA-NET project entitled ForSociety notes that “there is no generally accepted formal definition of what distinguishes foresight from other future-oriented activities. It is interesting to note that none of these definitions explicitly recognizes the idea that the future is genuinely uncertain, with the implication that foresight has to prepare us for a variety of futures.
The idea behind foresight is that better investment decisions will be made if the longer term future is taken into account. To do this, there needs to be a receptive and competent culture, resources and a reliable process and methodology to drive forward the policy into tangible benefit. This article reflects on how this is done and provides some results of foresighting work in a few countries.