Covid-19 | CIRAD's Michel Eddi: "Our activities in partnership have been reorganized, but they have not stopped"

Institutional news 1 April 2020
In view of the current health crisis linked to Covid-19, CIRAD's activities with its partners have been reorganized, and in some cases rescheduled. However, they continue, showing flexibility, inventiveness and solidarity. CIRAD President Managing Director Michel Eddi wishes to assure its partners of the organization's ongoing presence and support, in metropolitan France and in countries hosting CIRAD researchers and representatives. He suggests they meet towards the end of this year to prepare for the future in the light of the emerging situation.
CIRAD President Managing Director Michel Eddi: «Research in partnership is CIRAD's main operating principle, the backbone of its activities. (...) Once we have safeguarded our health, we must press on with our joint efforts to build a future world that is more crucial than ever.» Photo: Franck Dunouau

Dear partners,

In these exceptional times, with the pandemic and lockdowns that are affecting all of us in our personal and professional lives, albeit to varying degrees depending on where we are, I am writing to you on behalf of CIRAD. We have been partners for a long time, with a shared vision of the world we want to help build through our joint research for development projects .

As things stand, I know that the disease may have directly affected certain members of our organizations. I want to assure them of our affection and support in their fight against the virus. On behalf of all my colleagues at CIRAD, I hope you and yours stay healthy and strong, and wish those directly affected a prompt recovery. I am also thinking of the CIRAD colleagues hosted by your organizations, who are currently under your protection.

As you know, research in partnership is CIRAD's main operating principle, the backbone of its activities. While the pandemic has already forced some of us – and could soon force us all – to close our doors and stay at home, once we have safeguarded our health, we must press on with our joint efforts to build a future world that is more crucial than ever. In the global context of this epidemic, our fellow citizens are placing great hopes in science. Firstly, of course, to halt the disease, but also to work within our fields of expertise to promote solutions that will enable us to cope better with such situations, which we can unfortunately expect to recur in future. We have considerable collective responsibility in this respect, and we must do all we can to meet those legitimate expectations, by pooling our ideas and resources .

How can we go about this, together? By temporarily reorganizing and rescheduling some of our activities, investing in promoting recent results (drafting publications, documents, position papers, etc), and by being flexible and inventive in terms of our working methods, in order to adapt, notably thanks to the latest digital tools.

It is likely, particularly for CIRAD, that it will not be possible to regain our capacity for geographical mobility immediately once this period of lockdown ends – and I am sure it will –, and this situation may last for several months.

As I write, there are still CIRAD researchers in various host countries, either working on site, if your premises are still open, or from home. I hope we can continue to talk, share ideas and work together to adapt our working methods and activities to the very specific context in which we find ourselves. I know that some platforms in partnership for research and training (dPs) whose field operations have obviously been curtailed, have stepped up exchanges using videoconferencing, which enables ongoing, active programming and management. This is a fine example of adaptability and of mutual confidence between partners, and it will allow us to avoid the worst-case scenario: a total halt to our activities.

If some of you wish and if possible, we can also organize videoconference meetings, to take stock of the situation on our level, but in any event, CIRAD's regional directors are by your side day to day, to find mutually acceptable solutions to the problems we are currently facing.

I am also convinced that we must now start thinking about what will happen after the current acute crisis period. There will obviously be lessons to be learned about how we work, and our objectives,in order to prepare the future and trigger, as of now, the transitions required in terms not just of agriculture and food, but also of natural resource and biodiversity management worldwide, in both North and South. At CIRAD, we are hoping to organize an initiative by the end of the year that will enable us all to come together to consolidate our working community and continue to debate the changes we will have to make in order to adapt to the new, emerging situation. I will obviously get back to you once the initiative takes shape, to involve you in its construction.

The Covid-19 pandemic is a new type of crisis, as it is truly global. Together, we have managed in the past to overcome other crises, in some cases wars, which forced us to suspend, and subsequently resume, our activities. We have done it before and I am sure we can do it again. We must work together, side by side, to overcome this virus and continue to build a new world that we, as scientists, know is more necessary than ever. Within our community, we should not hesitate to call on one another in the event of a problem; each and every one of us can be relied upon to support the others .

My very best wishes to all of you, wherever you are.

Michel Eddi, CIRAD President Managing Director