23/01/2017 - Article
The international conference on Agri-Chains & Sustainable Development (AC&SD) from 12 to 16 December 2016 was attended by more than 250 researchers, key development players and innovation specialists from more than 40 countries. We look back at the highlights of the discussions, which notably centred on the urgent need for radical change within agri-chains and the importance of inclusive, participatory research practices to support agri-chain and development stakeholders.
The international conference on Agri-Chains & Sustainable Development (AC&SD), organized on the initiative of CIRAD and its partners from 12 to 14 December 2016, brought together more than 250 researchers, key development players and innovation specialists from more than 40 countries. The attendees debated the role of agri-chains in relation to the new global framework resulting from the sustainable development goals (SDGs). They confirmed the vital nature of this question with a view to progressing with implementation of the new global agenda. In the light of growing global demand for agricultural products and more demanding consumers, along with increasingly significant environmental and social issues, agri-chains are changing, on an economic, environmental and social level.
"We have in front of us a veritable laboratory that research cannot afford to ignore", said Patrick Caron, for CIRAD, as he introduced the conference. "We have new players, new consumer behaviour patterns, and new objects, such as services, making up agri-chains. New models such as those resulting from the circular economy, including recycling, also raise questions as to the very nature of agri-chains."
During the debates, the importance of public-private partnerships came under particular scrutiny, as did the issue of their coordination with public policy. According to Roberto Ridolfi, Director for Sustainable Growth and Development at the EC Directorate General for Development and Cooperation, "development aid is transforming from aid to cooperation and from cooperation to investments", paving the way for win-win partnerships.
The conference enabled an explanation of and debate on current trends, and in particular served to stress the risks of excluding and marginalizing certain players, notably family farmers and farmers' organizations. Both these categories are worried whether the market will recognize their efforts as regards sustainable development issues. "Farmers are insisting on having a voice in order to work with other stakeholders to build responsible agricultural policies", Ibrahima Coulibaly, Vice-President of the Réseau des organisations paysannes et des producteurs agricoles de l’Afrique de l’Ouest (ROPPA).
According to the participants, achieving the ambitions set out in the SDGs requires a radical change in agri-chains.
Over the three days, plenary sessions, forum theatre and interactive, participatory parallel sessions enabled the range of participants to analyse numerous innovations. Science must sustain interactions with this multiplicity of players and forms of open dialogue such as those initiated by the conference. In doing so, it will help the various players make the switch to sustainability.