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F3.1. Equitable partnerships for foresights


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F3.1. Equitable partnerships for foresights

  1. 1. Equitable partnerships for foresights Input Gine Zwart,Oxfam nd 2 Global Conference on Agricultural Research for Development (GCARD) Punta del Este, Uruguay, Tuesday 30th of November 2012“When it comes to hunger, the only acceptable number is zero” (Graziano da Silva,FAODirector in his opening speech at the CFS Rome, October 2012) . The IFAD director, mrNwanze basically said the same in his opening speech on Sunday.I guess nobody can disagree with this. Nobody wakes up in the morning and thinks today Iam going to make sure x number of people will sink further into poverty and be hungry.The reality is that many of our actions actually do have that result. The reality is that thenumber of people hungry has been stubbornly stagnant, whether it being 1 billion; 950million or more or less, is not the point as mr Nwanze said in his opening speech.Can research – can foresights play a role to make this number zero, to trigger realchange?The chance of success will greatly increase if we manage to listen to those who arehungry, the women and men who make up this figure, the many producers in the globalSouth.How to get that done? I do not have a power point to show, I wanted to use the powerpoint of the future, a prezi but that was not allowed according to the strict rules of theGCARD. So I will defy the marching orders and not use a presentation at all, and ask youto listen.My name is Gine Zwart, I work for Oxfam, an international development NGO and it is agreat honour and pleasure for me to have been offered this opportunity to pick up whathas been discussed today on equitable partnerships, share some of the practicalexperiences of Oxfam and fortunately - be allowed to give some critical remarks.There are hundreds of examples of multi stakeholder models, partnerships, participatoryresearch, etc. some more equitable than others - to share. The Global Foresight hub ofthe GFAR (Global Forum for Agricultural Research) came across s a few examples and weheard some today.The words of this session: equitable partnerships is very close to my heart.Here also many people will agree and have positive connotations with these words.Equitable – PartnershipAt the same time people start to wonder, think and shiver: Partnership - are we to getinto some kind of marital arrangements? How to organise this? It is far too expensive.With who? There are millions of small-scale poor farmers: who represents who?Equitable: why, what does that mean? What methods to use? And many more barriers orfears pop up. I will deal with them one by one. 1
  2. 2. Costs - Inclusiveness is too expensiveThen how expensive is it to sit under a tree? How expensive is it to listen?On the 18th of June this year the CGIAR presented its Global Agricultural Research Agendato Improve the lives of the Poor while Protecting the Planet1 . A research agenda worth$5 billion over five years. “CGIAR’s ambitious research agenda aims to reduce ruralpoverty, improve the food security, health and nutrition of hundreds of millions of theworld’s poorest people, and ensure sustainable management of natural resources.” Itgoes on: “Increasing the productivity of small‐scale farmers, who provide up to 80% of thefood supply in developing countries, is an essential part of the sustainable agriculturalequation and a top priority of the CGIAR.” “Everyone deserves the opportunity to haveaccess to safe, sufficient and nutritious food and economic security— as well as a healthyplanet,” these are not the words of an Oxfam CEO, it are the words of mr Rijsberman thenew CEO of CGIAR. Yesterday we heard many more of all these sweet words that breakour poor harts.So there are myriad good intentions and there is a lot of money. At the same time it doesnot cost that much to listen, to sit under a tree, to have a conversation. Money is not theissue here. It is the will, the political will to take the effort to listen.I have the chance of being part of a community, which might be called an equitablepartnership, a knowledge programme with 70 organisations working with millions offarmers and millions of hectares producing healthy food and valuable knowledge costingrelatively little. Unity for diversity.The work of these organisations is labour intensive; however it is extremely cheap if youwould be able to include all the benefits it reaps in terms of food security, assets andinstitution building and the costs of poverty it puts to a stop. Examples within thiscommunity show that interventions begin with the restoration of communitymanagement. Next is the emphasis on local knowledge generated and refined to currentuse over generations with no costs except for people talking. Modern science has provento give us some short term successes, but still needs to proof it can have success thattakes us for 1000 years to come. With this group of organisations’ we set out a futurevision of resilient communities without too much difficulty.Despite a rich biodiversity of more than 5000 edible plants in the world well over half ofour food now comes from only three plants: rice, corn, wheat. To add to that 80% of theexport of these crops come from five countries (IFPRI) and are controlled by fourcompanies. For this community described above and for many others that is NOT thefuture we want to live in. It is a very vulnerable and risky situation, much morevulnerable, risky and un sustainable than many of the farming and food systems that arenow associated with these terms.1 ref press release 18 June 2012 2
  3. 3. It is time to change the trend of the dominant narrative succeeding in attracting financialresources at the expense of alternative narratives proposing alternative futures.Smallholders are now the buzz word, also in the CGIAR. We hear it in every othersentence. We do not need a foresight study to predict that if ecological agriculture, oragricultural biodiversity or low external input sustainable agriculture is not taken up as aresearch priority, the system will loose its credibility, not only among smallholder farmers,but among the general public and eventually donors too.The Foresight working group has come with a set of actions: The first set of actions wouldnot require additional resources from stakeholders, but the willingness to actively engagesome of their existing resources in strengthening the inclusion of farmers’ voices in on-going foresight works.The other set of actions for the establishment of a regular arena for dialogue betweenforesight practitioners and farmer organizations, NGOs and CSO and a collective multi-disciplinary multi-sector foresight project on the Farmers of the Future would requireadditional resources or specific large-scale programme investment.Complex - involving more people makes everything complexDiversity is not the same as complexity.The variety of people shapes systems, shape futures, so it is only logical to ensure avariety of people is shaping foresight studies too. In fact diversity of voices being includedin any process can save us from gross mistakes and provide surprising solutions.I would like to tell a short story about heaven and hell, I heard recently from DesmondTutu. It is based on a Jewish folk tale that tells the story of a man who wanted tounderstand Heaven and Hell.First, he travelled to Hell.Here, row after row of table was piled high with platters of food yet the people seatedaround the tables were starving to death. Each person held a full spoon but the spoon wasvery long, so they could not bring the food to their mouths.Next he went to Heaven.The setting was the same here as in Hell – row after row of long tables laden with food andall people had these long spoons. However the people in Heaven were happy and well fed.He couldn’t work out why things were so different so he watched for a while.As he watched, a man picked up his spoon and dug it into the dish before him. Then hestretched across the table and fed the person across from him. The recipient thanked himand returned the gesture.It is as simple as that. 3
  4. 4. Us not being able to see the simple solutions and immediately looking for technicalsolutions and us not understanding certain systems we are not used to and calling thesesystems complex and difficult surely should not be the problem of people living in thesesystems.Sometimes foresight can help us see that we don’t need longer or shorter spoons but cansimply change our behaviour.Who to listen to? Who represents who?There are millions of smallholder farmers. Exactly because there are millions it is good tolisten to even one. Many weak signals in fact are strong realities to people living inpoverty. Think of biofuels, land grab, GMOs, to name a few.Europe has over 40 000 cooperatives or similar organisations, staffed by over 600 000people (FAO). In Africa this figure is probably much higher. These producer organisations,cooperatives, savings groups, labour exchange group, or women’s groups are not staffed,most is voluntary and un paid work. They do have valuable knowledge to share and havemechanisms to do so and to mobilise people. Asia surely has staggering figures as thelevel of organisation through self-help groups in e.g. India is extremely high. All this issocial capital that can be built on and listened to.Foresight is dominated by western or northern views of the future, from scientists indeveloped and emerging countries, with limited inclusion of voices from other sectorsand other regions. Boosting agricultural productivity seems to be the inevitable solutionand most foresights come to an unavoidable growth path towards the future. Yields areonly part of the range of ecological, social and economic benefits delivered by farmingsystems: so why this pre occupation with yields? The question one wonders about: towhat extent is this analysis based on an underlying world view that is not made explicit? 2A world view that is dominated by individual ownership and capital accumulation as beingthe highest achievable and desirable.If we were to take the world view of the fast majority of people who are actually non-western we might get different foresights. Cyclical as opposed to linear; abundance andtrust as opposed to scarcity and dis trust; living as a privilege that comes with certainduties instead of living as a right that comes with privileges, people as part of nature asopposed to nature to be there to serve people, deriving rights, and explaining onesexistence, from relationships and not from property are just a few fundamentaldifferences that come to mind that would influence the outcome of any foresight orresearch dominated by non-western world views.Robin said: We cannot predict the future: we can create it. The question is: WHO createsit?2 see also Erik Mathijs brief no. 01 : Sustainable food consumption and production in a resource constrainedworld. 4
  5. 5. PartnershipKey words for partnerships are respect, trust and mutually empowering. For anyknowledge intensive process trust is key while at the same time if it is not empoweringthere is not reason to be in a partnership. Small -scale producers are not form Mars, theyare not aliens, they are people like you and me and they need to be able to trust thepartner they work with. History has given them reasons enough to be careful with sharingtheir trust.Only eight out of the foresights studied by the GFAR foresight group specifically indicateforesight as a learning or capacity building process for many of the participants.The capacity to change policy and orient actions is very much linked with the demand forforesight from a decision-maker, and the ability of foresight leaders to directly interactwith decision makers in the policy setting process.3How to make it equitableFood and agriculture has become a global issue of importance to us all. That is relativelynew. It is the first time in history that the melting of a glacier in Nepal has something todo with the bread we ate at lunch. It is the first time in history that food can be put into acar; the first time in history that fuel and food prices are so clearly linked. 40% of theUSA’s maize harvest goes into the fuel tank of our cars. It has huge impact on the foodprices, yet it has very little impact on the fuel price.We seem not to be able to react to this new reality very well, despite all the rhetoric ofbusiness as usual not being good enough anymore. We are facing a number of crises atthe same time; many people are starting to agree. However most talk is as if it is somekind of accidental oversight or lack of research, rather than an outcome of historicalprocesses. At the root of the multiple crises lies a power imbalance.It is both common sense and common (economic) knowledge that money is power. So inorder to make any relationship more equitable: I would say follow the money and seewhere the changes can be made and see why it is difficult to talk about equitablepartnerships in many cases.Having said that the internet has this great potential of democratising and givingopportunities for more equity in knowledge gathering, sharing, generating, testing ideasand feeding into research and foresight agenda’s.I am taking the opportunity to advertise the Future of Agriculture on-line debate that weas Oxfam will be holding the first two weeks of December. Farmers, cso leaders, ps actorsand the directors of the FAO, IFAD and IFPRI have all been writing 1500 word essayanswering four different What if questions and these will be used to start a debate on the3 Chapter 1 of the report “the voice of Smallholders in Shaping Priorities, chapter 3 of the report on the Stateof foresight in food and agriculture and the roads toward improvement, prepared for the CGARD 2012 5
  6. 6. Future of agriculture in over 40 countries at the same time in French Spanish and English.On the internet a voice counts rather than ones position. Please feel invited to join thisconversation ( and diversity are assets and it is simple we need not to un tie the Gordianknot, we should rather look for complex and diverse - Gordian - solutions.I like to belief that if the man in Tutu’s story was a woman, she would have taken the talea step further than just to understand what was happening. She would have connectedthe people from Hell and Heaven, as making connections is one of the many corecompetences of women world-wide.Thank you for listening 6