Friday, 2 May 2008

SALZBURG DAY 3: FARMERS IN THE DRIVING SEAT FOR AFRICA'S GREEN REVOLUTION

By JULIA DAY, STEPS Centre member

Farmers and their needs must be placed at epicentre of a uniquely African Green Revolution, conference delegates from across the board agreed on the final day in Salzburg.Photo: Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid addresses the conference / Julia Day

Much of the discussion today, running across thematic groups, focused on building alliances of farmers and their organisations at national, regional and continental levels. This was seen as absolutely key for insuring that priorities are set and funds are spent in a way that meets the needs of farmers. The direction of initiatives must all move toward that goal.

However there is an urgent requirement for substantial investment in building capacity. Delegates believe the skills that need developing go beyond the technical to ‘soft’ skills. An equitable Green Revolution requires an increased ability to facilitate inclusive approaches, organisational skills, business management skills, policy, advocacy and impact monitoring skills, delegates said. These seem to be lacking at the moment and are a potential focus for follow up efforts.

One particular proposal for directing research innovation and technology development towards farmers needs was the establishment of an African-wide, farmer-owned and farmer-driven fund. Delegates went as far as to propose a name: the African Agriculture Technology and Innovation Fund (AATIF). This would be an endowment fund supported by government, private sector, philanthropists and farmers to ensure demand-driven research with farmers in the driving seat.

Another key suggestion was that any funds or funding mechanisms to support the Green Revolution need to have independent accountability systems, operating with farmers at the centre. These would hold the delivery of key development actors to account, as well as offering a monitoring, evaluation and impact assessment function.

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