|Cultivate the future! How learning together can mean learning better and faster-speeding research into use
|30 March 2013
Below is the full transcript of the video, which public awareness staff of the International Livestock Research Institute (ILRI) helped to create with Patti Kristjanson and others working in and with the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS). The narrator is Zimbabwean food policy expert Lindiwe Sibanda, who is chief executive officer and chief of mission of the Food, Agriculture and Natural Resources Policy Analysis Network (FANRPAN) and chairs ILRI's board of trustees. The developers are artist/illustrator James Durno and videographer Dale Ballantine, both of South Africa (Indie Village Creative).
'The world is changing fast. We don't know how we're going to produce enough food to feed nine billion people and not destroy the environment in the process. So many more people to feed, escalating food and energy crises, water shortages, a changing climate, and the list goes on ....
'So here we are, a group of scientists working for a food-secure future, meeting in sunny California. We're here to rethink how we do science to make a bigger difference. We want to help transform the developing world's agriculture and food systems. (We're nothing if not ambitious!)
'People are adaptable. Farmers are adaptable. So are scientists. We're changing how we work and trying new approaches to solve the big, so-called 'wicked problems': e.g., poverty, climate change, environmental destruction and loss of species.
'This is good, but it's not good enough.
We're running out of time; our wicked problems are likely to overrun our solutions unless we learn together, better and faster.
'Here is the good news: We have evidence that we can speed things up, bring real benefits to people and bring these to scale. (Well, maybe the latter is more of a hypothesis, one that this group wants to test.)
'Here are some examples of what we're doing differently.
'And I'm sure all of us can think of many other examples. Whatever fancy terms we use, at the end of the day, it's all about people, people from different backgrounds, people with different perspectives and expertise forming partnerships to learn from each other and solve complex problems.
- Crowd-sourcing is now being tested to understand what seeds and seedlings different people want, and how to best serve those diverse needs.
- Learning alliances are bringing private-sector executives to farmers' fields to learn first-hand from farmers struggling to feed their families; they then work with the farmers and scientists to develop and release varieties that make a difference on those small farms.
- Innovative mentoring programs are speeding women's advancement in agricultural sciences and their institutions in the developing world.
- Farmer-business hubs are bringing together farmers, agri-businesses, NGOs. Farmers get training, seeds, credit and market information. They sell their milk, share their knowledge and earn money.
- Participatory selection and breeding of crops is addressing women's needs for foods that use less wood and take less time to prepare.
- Farmer-to-farmer learning videos, radio and tv programs are spreading the word of best practices based on science and speeding adoption of new technologies.
But here's the rub. We've all experienced how messy and time-consuming partnerships can be and how hard it is to take successes to scale.
'What we may not always appreciate is just how beneficial this joint learning can be. These approaches tend to level the playing field, empower individuals and communities, create benefits that endure, and truly build local capacity.
'So we can see that shifting how we do science in this way really works. What we can't see yet is how to involve more people and speed it all up so that our solutions appear to us as to be big as our problems.
'Let's focus less on the present and instead view the present through the future we want to create. Just recall the skepticism around the sequencing of the human genome, and yet now, we are in that world.
Our research suggests that what's going to be critical in the future is creating and nurturing spaces to innovate. This doesn't have to take a lot of time. What it will take is being strategic and intentional about spanning boundaries.
'Imagine a fertile safe space where diversity is embraced and where we can together grow, spread and harvest our best ideas and successes.
'We have the pieces; we don't yet have all the people. But we can create these environments that attract more people and allow us to learn together, better and faster.
Learning together transforms agriculture and lives.
'Cultivate the future!'
Note: This animated 5-minute video was produced by and for the CGIAR Research Program on Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) and launched at CCAFS' annual science meeting, held in Bodega Bay, California 18–19 Mar 2013.
For more information:
Go to CCAFS 2013 Science Meeting programme. Updates from the event were shared on the CCAFS website and on Twitter (search for #2013CCSL).
For more on the value of social learning and the March CCAFS science meeting, see these earlier posts on the ILRI News Blog:
Agricultural research, climate change and 'social learning': How did we get here? 19 Mar 2013.
The world's 'wicked problems' need wickedly good solutions: Social learning could speed their spread, 18 Mar 2013.
Climate change and agricultural experts gather in California this week to search for the holy grail of global food security, 17 Mar 2013.
And on the CCAFS Blog:
Farmers and scientists: better together in the fight against climate change, 19 Mar 2013.
Transformative partnerships for a food-secure world, 19 Mar 2013.
Read Alain de Janvry's whole paper: Agriculture for development: New paradigm and options for success, International Association of Agricultural Economists, 2010.
For more on the use of 'social learning' and related methods by the CCAFS, see the CCSL wiki and these posts on ILRI's maarifa blog.
Published on ILRI News, 30 March 2013