In the lead up to the 2016 Science Forum, we have asked Steering Committee (SC) members and speakers to answer a few questions related to the Forum’s focus on agricultural research pathways to inclusive rural development. Prosperity of agricultural area - a great achievement on the way to producing quality and more products. The more HR involved, the more plant treatment methods (for example) we can create, because the greater the demand, the greater the supply, but if you are looking for articles on relevant topics, you can contact

Below are the responses from Fentahun Mengistu, panelist on Day 1 of the Forum. Fentahun is the Director General of the Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research.

Q. Can you tell us briefly about yourself and your involvement in agricultural research?

Born in a farming family in Ethiopia and driven by my rural life, I realized that I loved farming and soon made the decision to become an agriculturalist. I graduated with a B.Sc degree in plant sciences/Agriculture at Alemaya (now Haremaya) University in Ethiopia; M.Sc degree in Horticulture at the Indian Agricultural Research Institute; and PhD degree in Agriculture from the Austrian Boku University of Natural Resources and Applied Life Sciences. I have been in agricultural research service and leadership in different capacities for the last 26 years. My research spans plant protection, horticulture, post-harvest, etc. In my directorship capacity, I have served as Director of Agricultural Research Stations, Director General of Amhara State Agricultural Research Institute, and at present Director General of Ethiopian Institute of Agricultural Research. I also serve several regional and national boards, committees, advisory groups, etc.

The objective of the 2016 Science Forum is to rethink the pathways for agricultural research to stimulate inclusive development of rural economies in an era of climate change. The Forum will marshal evidence and build on lessons learned to date, to suggest an updated list of priority research areas and approaches which involve more strategic and inclusive engagement with partners.

Q. What are the most significant ways that developing countries can achieve greater rural prosperity? What does this prosperity look like?

Since agriculture is the main stay for the majority of people in developing countries, they can achieve greater rural prosperity if they can make agricultural development an entry point. Upon making agriculture a high priority, they can produce surplus that can feed the rural population itself and trade the surplus and accumulate income while reducing agricultural price in the cities. On having good income, farmers can re-invest in agriculture and on-farm and non-farm activities as well. This, eventually, leads them to transit to agro-industry and service sectors development or, in other words, rural transformation that helps them step up on a journey towards prosperity. But agriculture, to register the desired high productivity, should be founded on modern technologies and good practices. Of course, interventions in natural resources management, infrastructure development and socio-cultural innovations are also corner stones of agricultural development.

Q. What are some agricultural research pathways that have really contributed to greater rural prosperity?  How did they achieve this?

Improved technologies that are demand driven, affordable, high market value, fitting the farmers’ portfolio and agro-ecological, socio-economic-cultural conditions that markedly raise the productivity and thus income of growers contribute to greater rural prosperity. Also, early stage demand creation through technology demonstration, popularization and knowledge transfer is also very important for enhanced technology uptake.

Q. What does agricultural research need to do differently so it will contribute to rural prosperity in an era of climate change? What does climate change mean for the research pathways we follow? 

Research should follow a path that provides technologies for higher productivity with lesser strain to human and environmental health in a resource efficient manner; or what is called sustainable intensification. In this regard, modern biosciences can help achieve higher yields with fewer resources and less impact on human and environmental health. In addition, given the increased complexity of present day agricultural systems, effective methodologies of today would be insufficient for the future. With the new speed of change and diversified portfolio of small scale farmers, targeting a single problem will be inadequate. Future research would need to address multiple challenges at a time therefore systems research is increasingly needed with the collective action of many disciplines and institutions at various fronts.

Research would also need to target total farm productivity, landscape or ecosystem level solutions. It needs also to look at the whole value chain. Besides, global mega trends like globalization, climate change, etc. entail a much more coordinated research effort between countries for mutual benefits and technological spillovers. Indeed, climate change will greatly challenge the research pathways we follow now. It could affect the research procedure, objectives and targets. For instance, in the increasingly unpredictable future, we may need to adopt a scenario-based research for the alternative futures that will be unfolding. We may also need to simulate the future and research it today. 

Q. What is your expectation for the Forum? What do you want to take home from Addis Ababa and the people you meet there?

I expect a better understanding of the research pathways of the future.

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